Prompt #4: Sense of Place Part 2

Over the break, I went back to my hometown of Mansfield, Massachusetts. Mansfield is a fairly small suburban town about 45 minutes south of Boston, where I’ve lived my entire life.

The town itself is fairly historic. There’s a train station that will take you straight to Boston, which has been taking people to work for over 100 years. In the 19th century, we had trolleys that would take you to neighboring towns. 100 years ago, Mansfield was the place to be, we had shops, movie theaters, and even a bowling alley. The story when I was growing up there was slightly different. 

The train station in Mansfield in 1912
The train station today

My Mansfield still had the train station, but the trolleys and stores and other attractions were mostly gone. It sits at an intersection between four major highways and has a fairly large concert venue five minutes away from my house, and Gillette Stadium 20 minutes in the other direction. When I was younger, none of this meant very much to me. But, as I got older, Mansfield started to evolve. 

When I was about 10 years old, an old field 5 minutes away from my house was paved over and became Mansfield Crossing, an outlet mall complete with L.L Bean, Bertuccis, Kohl’s, and several other retail stores. Suddenly, my little town that had only been known for its concert venue wasn’t so little anymore. Apartment buildings began to spring up all around and more younger people started to move in. The buildings began to get taller, and more stores started popping up. The same old hiking trails are still located nearby, but we’ve lost several local businesses in the last five years. 

When I came home this week for Thanksgiving, I got off the train in my town and the first thing I noticed was the six-story building being constructed next to the station. It had been nothing but a foundation when I left, and when I returned, it was the tallest building in Mansfield. Then, I started to notice the newly paved roads and the shiny new signs. My family filled me in about the movie theater that was being built at Mansfield Crossing, and how our favorite small chain grocery store was closing. On my way to dinner with them, we drove through a new rotary, so new that they were taking away the traffic cones as we approached. 

It’s difficult for me to watch my hometown go through these changes, especially because it’s where I lived all my life. It used to be a place where everybody knew everybody. Most of the generations before me grew up there and stayed forever. I’m part of the first generation to spread out. As the people I went to school with and I leave, it’s hard to watch new people take our place- people who come from all over just to work in Boston. I’m torn about whether or not this development in my town is a good thing. On one hand, it’s good for the economy of my town. New people will bring new resources and new ideas. One of the positive changes that has taken place since I’ve left is that when I graduated, girls had to wear white gowns and boys had to where green ones, which forced many students to conform to something they weren’t comfortable with. The class of 2020 will be the first class where everyone is going to be wearing the same green gowns, regardless of gender. But on the other hand, we’re losing a sense of our small town culture and many local businesses have been forced to close down. 

Images from the Mansfield Historical Society: