Ridgewood, NJ, a close neighbor of my own town, has a wonderful Fourth of July tradition. Beginning on July first, in anticipation of the parade on the fourth, people begin setting chairs by the roadside of the parade route. They mark their spot with molded plastic seats, beach chairs, wooden ones... anything you can imagine. But here's the thing: Nobody touches them. I drive by every day, and see the same chairs in the same places. Nothing gets moved, nothing gets stolen or vandalized. It is remarkable.
I do not want to be cynical, and I really hate it when I find myself tending to it. Even so, we're not so far from urban areas here. Expectations of small-town neighborliness and respect are fairly low. Yet every year, in this lovely (and, admittedly, wealthy) town, the chairs are set out in advance. It reminds me of my childhood, and makes me wonder what this country must have been like years and years ago... Perhaps this is silly, but I really wish that I could know what it was live in a more innocent time. I realize there have always been terrible things and unscrupulous and horrible people. I know. But I will allow I am looking at this through the golden gauze of nostalgia, and it makes everything soft and lovely.