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Constance Alexander: McCartney’s visit to former hometown brings back memories of days gone by

Teenagers in my hometown frequently declared they would “rather be dead” than stay in Metuchen, the small New Jersey borough we called home. Like so many young people everywhere, we harbored dreams of more glamorous lives. Determined to get away as soon as we had a chance, we dreamed of fleeing to places where houses were not identified by the names of long-ago owners; where no one would see you hanging out in the parking lot of the Duchess Diner and then tell your parents.

Of course, it was not until many of us grew up and moved away, that we began to appreciate where we came from. Today when I go back to visit, I do the things I once decried in others. When I jog through the familiar neighborhoods, I recall who lived in what house. Going past the old football field, I remember the games played there and the parades down Main Street when we won.

(Photo courtesy of John Manzo)

When I pass the YMCA and cross Main to Lincoln Avenue, I get to Hillside Cemetery, where my parents and my best friend, Kathy O’Connell are buried. Today when I run through, I see the names of parents of kids I went to school with, and I still picture them in their 30s, 40s and 50s, when they were young but seemed old to us.

My older sister still lives in Metuchen and she keeps me up with the news, and now that there is a monthly paper, I have a subscription so I can stay informed on my own. The current issue of The Metuchen Mirror featured articles that reflected some of the same things going on there as in Murray, Kentucky, my hometown of the past thirty-one years.

I learned that the splendid Victorian house on Lake Avenue won a spot on the National Register because Mary Wilkins Freeman, “a widely overlooked yet acclaimed writer,” had lived there. Ever-present traffic problems were also featured on the front page, the lead article declaring that “a truce has emerged in a political battle over state spending,” thus renewing hope that a long-discussed access ramp would ease downtown traffic congestion.

Other stories covered the local school budget, water line problems, and library improvements, along with the conversion of the Danish Home, a former retirement facility, into a museum. Familiar names showed up on the obituary page, and the Flynn Family is still in the funeral business on Amboy Avenue.

Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray. She can be reached at constancealexander@twc.com. Or visit www.constancealexander.com.

Real estate is the biggest change. Houses seem to start at half a million and go on up, although a tiny bungalow in the nearby community of Fords is supposedly a steal at $229,000.

All this is to say that time moves on; some things stay the same while others change. Nothing earth-shattering there. My hometown now is Murray. This month marks the beginning of my thirty-third year here, and I have no plans to move anywhere else, no dreams of retiring anywhere else.

And then on Sunday, I see a picture on Facebook that makes me wish I was back in my hometown, at least for the afternoon. Sir Paul McCartney – yes, the former Beatle – was right there on Main Street, in front of the Buttery Bake Shoppe. He was taking pictures of some of his wife’s old haunts. She was the former Nancy Shevell, who I believe was in my ninth grade English class when I was still a public school teacher in Edison, Nancy’s hometown, a couple of miles from where McCartney was spotted.

According to the news article, “The excitement and buzz took the town pretty quickly, with the mayor even spreading the word on social media.”

Mayor Jonathon Busch tweeted, ‘As Spring approaches, the Borough is getting reports of @thebeatles on Main Street. There is no reason for alarm. Everything is under control.”

Maybe it’s a good thing time travel is not possible. I probably saved myself from public humiliation had I been there to see Paul, my favorite Beatle. I would have been unable to resist shouting to him, “We love you, Paul — yeah, yeah, yeah.”

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