When we moved to Millbrook, it was to live in the former St. Andrew’s United Church. On our last of many inspections of the place before the sale went firm, the seller – unable to call his solicitor to waive our final conditions because of the spotty telecommunications in the building – finally stuffed his cell phone into his pocket and ascended a rickety extension ladder to the top of the bell tower. Only from there, could he make the fateful call that would seal our deal. When he climbed back down, he was still red-faced and out of breath. “Congratulations,” he heaved, not without a hint of frustration. “Welcome to Brigadoon!”
That reference might have been lost on most people, but it wasn’t on me. I had actually starred in a stage production of Brigadoon when I was a kid, so I immediately recognized his uncanny parallel between Millbrook and that mythical village of Lerner & Loewe’s that rose out of the mist only for one day every hundred years.
In Brigadoon, time had slowed down, leaving its people to lead a simple, easy life oddly removed from the turmoil of modern society. And so it was, as I sat on the front steps of the church on those early days in Millbrook, sipping my morning coffee with the occasional passing tractor as my only memento of morning rush hour.
A few weeks after our move, we took a stroll by Needler’s Mill and found hundreds of villagers and their children carving zucchinis into boats, adorning them with leaves and wild flowers and racing them down Baxter Creek. After the regatta, the kids lined up with zucchinis single-file and skipped on the heels of a lone bagpiper to the edge of the mill pond, where they launched the squash to smithereens using a giant slingshot. The Millbrook Zucchini Festival was quite probably the most wonderful madness I had ever seen. But more than that: it offered irrefutable proof that we had stumbled on an alternate reality.
As charming as Millbrook was, my new troubles with telecommunications were at first incredibly disconcerting. Sometimes emails would fail for days without explanation. Phone calls, likewise. After trying half a dozen different telecommunications providers, I came to the conclusion that no one was any better or worse than the rest. The problem – if it could be called that – was the place. When contact would eventually resume with clients, family or friends, I could offer only one explanation: “Sorry, I’ve been Brigadooning.”
The fortunate thing about Brigadooning is that once you settle into it, you realize how highly efficient it is. It’s as if the whole village is surrounded by some kind of selectively permeable membrane, like a paramecium or an amoeba: only the good stuff gets in. The things that get filtered out often weren’t that important, anyway. The Millbrook airwaves function as your very own personal assistant: Regretfully, they convey tactfully but firmly, no one will be getting back to you today. That is because no one will have any idea that you were trying to reach them in the first place.
All the time that we don’t spend communicating with the outside world is freed up for enjoying our village – for instance, by taking our children over to Millbrook Valley Chocolates for the universe’s most generous kiddie ice cream cone. The folks on the benches along King Street will hold your dog’s leash while you dash into the Peddler for a cappuccino. They watch over the village like sentries and you get the feeling that if they weren’t here, somehow the whole place would fall apart.
There’s always time for some friendly grocery shopping at Foodland, where in spite of the store getting a recent facelift that could compete with Whole Foods in Yorkville, the staff still greets you like family, knows what you like to eat and tries their best to stock it for you. The check-out has two Lane 3s and no Express Lane. There’s a reason for that: Millbrook doesn’t do express.
The village is teeming with intellectuals, but you won’t find a bookstore here to fill your time. That’s because our public library is brilliantly stocked by librarians with an almost supernatural zeal for their work. “Anita, it’s the library calling,” one of them said over the phone on a day when Millbrook’s airwaves were letting my calls through. “We have your book.”
“What book?” I asked, perplexed. Then they gave me the title. It was a book that my son and I had been considering reading because it bears his name. “But I didn’t order that book,” I protested, “I only thought about maybe someday possibly reading that book …”
“Well, we have it for you.”
HOLY SUBLIMINAL LIBRARIANS! I gratefully picked up the book and enjoyed it with my children.
Millbrook is growing quickly now, and by all appearances, our village is rising out of the mist. On a recent walk with my son, we found ourselves in the midst of an actual traffic jam as disgruntled motorists were trapped between construction and one of our downtown movie shoots (a frequent confirmation of the picturesque beauty of our community). Drivers were laying on their horns impatiently. My son shook his head. “They’re in Millbrook now, Mom,” he observed. “They need to slow down.”
“Don’t worry, sweetheart, they will.”
It’s involuntary. Welcome to Brigadoon.
Babble by Anita Odessa