Woog’s World / Thankful for our suburban haven
It’s a Thanksgiving tradition. On the last Thursday in November every year, I join my sisters, their families and a few random hangers-on. The turkey, stuffing, cranberry, sweet potatoes and more sit tantalizingly on the table. I can almost taste the feast.
But first we go all the way around. Each of us describes what we are thankful for. We speak gratefully of loved ones, passions we follow, goals we strive for, material goods we possess. There is a bit of humor, a bit of repetition. By the time the last person is finished, we are thankful we can finally eat.
I’m sure my family is not the only one that half-grudgingly, half-happily honors that tradition. I’m sure there are others that barely nod at the reason for this uniquely American holiday (“Hey, the football game is on soon. Let’s eat!”).
But families are not the only ones with much to be grateful for at Thanksgiving. I have been blessed to grow up in Westport, and to have lived nearly all of my adult life here. It’s easy to throw stones at this place — and as a newspaper columnist, I get paid to. But as wildfires burn in California, refugees flee war and there’s oppression around the world, and the entire planet seems to teeter on the brink of scary change, it’s important to acknowledge all that we have in our little suburban haven.
Westport is a place of tremendous beauty. It’s not spectacular, like Yellowstone or the coast of Maine. But you’d have to look hard to find another town that combines beach views, a town-owned country club, a good-sized river, hills, trees and four wildly different seasons the way ours does.
To me, there’s no place better than Loeffler Field. That’s the soccer field behind Staples High School. I spend my fall afternoons on the sideline — my side gig is coach of the boys’ varsity team — so I don’t get a chance to stand on the terrace at the top and look out at the gorgeous trees behind us. But I am grateful that for 60 years the field has been home to our program. This memorable season, I was privileged to work with one of the finest group of young men I’ve ever coached. I am thankful to their parents for sharing them with us, to my fellow coaches for their astonishing talents and efforts, to the alumni and fans who supported us, and to the Parks and Recreation crew who kept our field in shape, despite a fall in which (it seemed) it rained every day.
There’s more to our town than sports, of course. We are so lucky to have so many cultural institutions here. The Westport Country Playhouse has been here so long — nearly 90 years — that we sometimes forget how special it is. Walking through its handsome lobby, sitting in its historic seats the other, watching a powerful world premiere play, I was reminded again not to take this gem for granted.
The Westport Library is in the final phases of its Transformation Project. Soon, it will all be open again. It’s hard to be better than it was, but it will be. We will finally have a true community center — a gathering place for all ages, all senses and sensibilities, and all kinds of programs and ideas. The new library will anchor an ever-changing downtown (it will be a great complement too to its recently renovated neighbor, the always-underappreciated Levitt Pavilion).
Thanksgiving is not a time for bashing, so I won’t mention the empty storefronts in town. Instead, I will give thanks for local merchants like Savvy + Grace and The Brownstone on Main Street, and Indulge By Mersene, The Flat and Quentin Row (formerly Suited.co) in Saugatuck. It’s not easy to be a small businessperson in this large, hectic, online world. But the men and women who own those stores, and others like them, love Westport. They are doing their best to make a mark. But we should all be glad they’re here and show our appreciation by spending our holiday shopping dollars there.
Ultimately, of course, Westport is a community of people. We have so many who deserve so much of our thanks. The volunteers who devote their time and energy to organizations like A Better Chance, Project Return, Homes With Hope, Food Rescue, Staples Tuition Grants, Al’s Angels and so many more. The men and women who run for political office, and spend countless hours in thankless meetings. The educators who inspire our students, and the kids who give me hope that the next generation is a great one.
Westport is truly a great place. Happy Thanksgiving! Now please, pass the apple pie.