I’ve been looking for Brigadoon most of my life.
I first became aware of the legend in that old MGM musical by the same name. It’s about an enchanted Scots village that disappeared and travelled through time when everyone in town went to sleep. They’d wake up, and a hundred years had gone by.
They hadn’t changed a bit, and no one ever found them. Until Gene Kelly showed up. It’s romantic and it’s ridiculous. I wanted to live there.
It’s the same appeal that the movies “Local Hero” and “The Secret of Roan Inish” tap into; that wild, free, beautiful place that’s separate from the stresses and harshness of the modern world.
I actually went to Scotland, just to see the land I’d fantasized about. It looked a lot like the Catskills. Loch Ness, in fact, could easily be the Ashokan Reservoir, but with a better accent.
It’s taken me decades, but I now see the common thread in my search for home.
That hunt brought me back to Woodstock, the town where I grew up. But it turned out not to be my Brigadoon. I think it fits that need very well for others. But I’m different, and not in a way that felt like a fit in my home town.
It led me to Cherry Valley, the sleepy little Otsego County village that certainly seems to fit the description. But it was the Cherry Valley of my childhood that I loved, when Mr. Mackey still had a local pharmacy in the stone storefront on Main Street, when Rury’s Market and the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company both were able to make it as local groceries, when the Friendly Corner Store sold penny candy, comic books, balsa airplanes and bug spray to the local visitors. Today’s Cherry Valley still has charm, but it’s not my village any more.
It appears my Brigadoon was in Delaware County, just waiting for me to wander by. I remember driving down Main Street and wondering why it was so pretty, so well-cared for, when so many neighboring towns look like they’re hanging on by their fingernails.
“Who lives here?” I wondered, not suspecting that, in a year or so, the answer would be, “I do.”
New Old Franklin Days, an oddly named annual event that is a small street fair celebrating local businesses and crafters, sealed the deal. The school hosted a big band concert that day, and as we sat in a gymnasium that hadn’t appeared to have changed since 1950, I watched a little girl twirl on the dance floor with her father and I knew this was where I wanted to live.
This town has characters I was looking for: the friendly philosopher mayor, the welcoming shopkeeper who knows everything and tells it all, the sweet artist with the spectacular gardens, the world’s most entertaining healthcare provider. Then there are the natives, the elderly plumber who’ll happily chat for hours if he’s offered a cup of coffee, the gruff neighbor who’s my political enemy and has done us more kindnesses than I can count, the defiantly progressive couple who left town and moved back to retire.
The young couples from New York City who are moving here are as enchanted with this place as I am. I can’t explain why. It’s probably something to do with an enchantment.
Read more installments of Village Voices by Susan Barnett.