My husband and I spent the past week in Vermont, celebrating Christmas with my family. Flying back, as I watched the snow-covered Green Mountains and thin ribbons of traffic-free roads shrink away, I thought: I must be nuts.
The place where I grew up is so small that you’ve probably never heard of it—and if you have, well, we probably already know each other. Cambridge, a village of about 500 people, is marked by a few dozen houses on either side of Route 15. There are two churches (one of which was pastored by my father throughout my childhood), a post office, a drugstore, a community health center, and a pizzeria I’ve somehow never been to. There’s a general store with a couple of gas pumps and a basic selection of groceries, across the street from the skeletal remains of its competitor (hmm, maybe zoning laws wouldn’t be such a bad thing).
One of my favorite things in Cambridge is this view of Mount Mansfield, visible from a hill just beyond the village center, in what’s called Pleasant Valley. My mom gets to see it almost every day while walking their dog, Skye.
Of course, the flipside of bucolic bliss is that you have to drive at least half an hour to find a major grocery store, and almost an hour to find a shopping mall—or a job, in the case of many people who work in Burlington, the closest city. But my parents are so used to it by now that they barely blink at the notion of driving to and from the airport several times in a row, as they had to when we got bumped (twice! hooray for free flight vouchers!) from our flight back to D.C. because the airlines were playing catch-up after a blizzard snarled everyone’s schedules. Even Skye is happy to ride around in the car all afternoon.
If you ever find yourself in that neck of the woods for some reason, stop at the Boyden Valley Winery, on the outskirts of the village. Their multi-generation family farm saved itself from the fate of other struggling Vermont dairy farms a few years ago when it started milking more than cows (i.e. grapes; trees; tourists). They’ve built an impressively diverse business making and selling wine, grass-fed beef, maple syrup and ice cream, and in summer their hay barn is in hot demand as a rental space for wedding receptions.
Across the road from the Boydens, there’s a newish coffee shop called Brown & Jenkins that I haven’t had a chance to check out yet, in what used to be a snowmobile salesroom. And if you like maple treats (including creemees, the local term for soft-serve ice cream), keep going a couple miles on Route 15 toward Jeffersonville, where you’ll find the Vermont Maple Outlet.
Since journalism jobs are hard to come by back home (or anywhere, these days), I’ll stick with the city life for now. But I hope the new year brings me back often to this place where I spent so many earlier years.