It was just a small town when I was growing up, less touristy, less suburban than it is now. The City Dock was just that – there was no Ego involved – and its marine residents were not yachts or fancy sailboats then, but working boats in from fishing and oystering, their wares sold at the Market House by local folks, to local folks.
Our local paper was called the Evening Capital, and it was delivered to our house – and just about everyone else’s, even the folks who took the morning Sunpapers or Washington Post – in the afternoon. This was how you learned what had happened during the day.
At my house, and I suspect at many others, one of us kids would be asked, in the late afternoon, to go to the box at the end of the driveway to retrieve the paper for my mother. My brother and I would race each other there, though he almost always won. Sometimes in the summer, I teetered across the oyster shells, and then later the gravel, in bare feet, trying to build up the calluses on the bottom of my feet so that I might look less pained – and therefore perhaps cooler – while going barefoot.
There is simply no way to separate memories of our family’s evenings from our memories of the Evening Capital masthead facing out, hiding my mother’s face but not the hard-earned cup of instant coffee at her side. And a little later, after we’d heard our dad’s car grind into the driveway, we’d find that masthead above his black stockinged feet that, we complained, smelled from a long day spent in wingtips. We thought it was funny to punch the paper to say hello, and if it had been a good day, he might laugh and sweep us into his arms. If it had been a hard day, he would ask if he might just read his paper in peace. Either way, we all waited for my mom to declare that dinner was ready, and then we ate together.
It is no longer so much a small town, and I hear the paper comes in the morning now. It is owned by a big-city company, so I’d guess the paper is a little less small-town, too. I don’t know for sure because I don’t live there anymore, and I would imagine that because it’s hard to keep a small-town paper going, they charge you to read the stories online. I realize with regret that I ought to have subscribed, instead of just paying on occasion, if there was something I really wanted to know, instead of scanning the headlines and piecing things together from what I know about the place.
Anyway, today there was a shooting in a town which was the little town where I grew up, at the offices of the paper which was our small-town paper. Five people died and their families’ memories will also be inseparable from the paper, and I am just thinking, sadly, about how very much the world has changed.