Foxboro Signby Robert Gillis
Published in the Foxboro Reporter 11/2012

Happy Thanksgiving! Back in 1997, one year into writing in this paper, I wrote a Thanksgiving piece. I came across it recently and thought it might to be fun to revisit it, and see how things have unfolded over the last 15 years. I left the 1997 sections as written and added sections called, “2012 update.” Enjoy!

1997: Thanksgiving, years ago. Mom has just moved into the new house in Quincy. Boxes are still everywhere, nothing is where it should be, and we can’t figure out how to get the new oven working. Flame comes on, flame goes out. Flame comes on, flame goes out.

“Let’s just get subs,” my sister Theresa says.

“Ugghhhh?” I protest as I continue to fiddle with the controls. “Subs? On Thanksgiving? No way — today is turkey day!”

“So we’ll get turkey subs,” Theresa rejoins, clearly unimpressed with my holiday sentiments.

“But thanksgiving should be special,” I begin, feeling a little like Linus in that Charlie Brown thanksgiving TV show. “It’s about family and –“

“Ohhhhh, God,” Theresa drones, unready for yet another long speech from her overly sentimental brother.

To make a long story short, I got the oven working and we enjoyed a (slightly) overdone turkey that day. Score one for holiday boy.

2012 Update: Theresa still makes fun of my sentimentality, but I adore her. We all still get together for the holidays and are closer than ever, and Mom thankfully bought a new oven. Theresa’s infant son is now 16, with a learner’s permit, and truly the son I never had.

1997: Even with all the cooking, Thanksgiving is pretty much a no-pressure holiday. It’s that one holiday that no presents need to be bought, minimal (if any) decorating needs to be done, and much of the day consists of eating far too much, saying to hell with the diets, watching movies and football (go BC High, beat CM!), being with friends and loved ones, and just being thankful for all we have. With being thankful in mind, think about the following:

1997: It looks like the Patriots are staying here. Let’s say thanks to our selectmen and everyone else working behind the scenes who pulled off this impressive miracle. Having the Pats in Foxboro isn’t just about team spirit and eight games a year — it’s about a tremendous amount of revenue and business for Foxboro. It’s about town services not being cut (or taxes going up) to make up for the loss of those funds. 2012 Update: Wow, what a difference 15 years make! Not only did the Pats stay, but built a beautiful new stadium, won three super bowls and established themselves as the superstars of the NFL, and created a new Patriot Place, all the while benefiting our town as well. I’m not naïve — one of the town’s biggest news items is always negotiations / dealings with our neighbors on Route One, and yeah, we have our bumps and issues (on both sides) with the Kraft organization, but I submit to you that Foxboro benefits enormously from Mr. Kraft and the Pats. Here’s hoping both sides can work things out. Oh — and a special thanks to Mr. Kraft for his generosity during town emergencies, especially the two 2011 power outages.

1997: Foxboro is a safe community. You can walk the streets at night and the only thing to watch out for is a stray skunk. 2012 Update: No change there; we are still a VERY safe community. I still walk at night and still only worry about those sneaky ninja skunks. Long may it be so.

1997: This is, for the most part, a clean community. Most people take care of their homes and you rarely see litter on the streets. We have an event on the common, and cleanup happens so fast you don’t see evidence of the event on the following day. 2012 Update: No change; if anything the town looks even better.

1997: There is a very strong sense of community and family here. We don’t all get along and we have problems — sometimes big problems. But look at the passion of the people who get involved through community projects, attending and speaking at town meetings, being involved in town government, voting, writing letters to the editor, and so on. Foxboro is a community that cares about our welfare and future. 2012 Update: If anything, that involvement and passion has increased exponentially. Voter turnouts have increased, community activism has increased, and people have become VERY involved in town business, from town meetings to letters to the editor to grassroots efforts. No matter what side anyone is on, on any issue, they have PASSION! That’s all good. On the negative side, our passion can lead to friction, to all out war (Dog Park, casino). Hopefully, over time, we heal from those heated battles.

1997: Foxboro is a generous community filled with dozens of fraternal organizations that exists solely to make our lives better. We have the Jaycees, the Knights of Columbus, Grange, Rotary, and many other excellent organizations filled with enthusiastic volunteers who give back to the community. And let’s not forget the Discretionary Fund, which not only provides assistance for needy families and runs a food pantry, but provides holiday food baskets and toys and clothes for needy children through the Adopt-a-child program. 2012 update, the bad: While most of these organizations still exist, there are two sad updates. Need has INCREASED dramatically. And membership in these organizations seems to have decreased. Many people are just too busy, and there is no shortage of people helping others in town, but would I love to see membership in the Jaycees, Rotary, Knights, and other organizations triple. 2012 update, the good, part one: Generosity and volunteerism are flourishing in our town. So many more groups and people have stepped up to help make the community better and help others. Look at the new September 11 memorial, an incredible volunteer team effort. Look at our gorgeous memorials on the common, now bathed in lovely light each evening. Look at the flags around the common, the gorgeous flowers and trees, all lovingly taken care of by volunteers. There is no shortage of people who want to help make the community better. 2012 Update, the good, part two: We don’t lack for good people who want to serve this town in higher government. No matter what your opinion of them or their policies / actions you MUST applaud them for their community service and I believe each of them has the best interest of the town foremost in their mind. They take a lot of heat and criticism, but no matter what, they are out there, getting elected, doing the job, making the effort. I thank them for that. 2012 Update, the good, part three: The incredible response of neighbors helping neighbors during various emergencies over the years — wow! Whenever people need help, there are other people lining up to help them. And this past weekend, Kris Long, her husband Bill and Lynda Walsh organized an incredible relief effort for New York and New Jersey victims of Hurricane Sandy. The turnout on Foxboro Common was incredible as dozens of volunteers sorted clothes, toiletries and other needed supplies and loaded a huge truck bound for our southern neighbors. The enthusiasm, the energy, the efficiency — and the joy — was tangible. If you were on Foxboro Common last Saturday you saw a textbook example of COMMUNITY and GENEROSITY. When there is a need, Foxboro steps up! I love that.

1997: The senior center is finally a reality! Thanks to the tireless work of the Council on Aging, Friends of Foxboro Seniors, and a host of volunteers, there’ll be a new senior center on Carpenter Street next spring. 2012 Update: A textbook story of success, the senior center not only was an immediate hit but flourished well beyond even the Garland’s and Gerry Rodman’s dream. The senior center and Foxboro Human services combined, and have done such an incredible job with the amazing Vicki Loew at the helm, that the senior center’s biggest concern is that they have outgrown the center and need to expand! Long may it serve the community so well!

1997: Foxboro has a great variety of beautiful churches serving many faiths. And let’s not forget that this year saw the unprecedented Ecumenical service on the common. So many religions and beliefs gathered in one place. So many people representing that we all truly belong to a community family. Such a positive sign of hope in a sometimes troubled community. 2012 Update: I see Ecumenical services and church cooperation across denominations each year, and my own Saint Mary’s is usually standing room only. We are a community of faith, but welcome everyone to worship (or not) as they choose.

1997: We have an excellent library with resources available to all. 2012 Update: While the library occupies a temporary space at the old state hospital grounds, a new, state of the art library is under construction and will serve the needs of our community well. In this digital era I have heard many people say we don’t need libraries, and I say emphatically, that is not true. Friends, we need them more than ever. With so many brick-and-mortar bookstores closing as we go digital, libraries still offer all the modern technology AND the sheer joy of holding a REAL book, and a place of quiet for work and thinking. May the new library be a jewel of the community and be well-patronized! (Just don’t bring back the Dewey decimal system, everyone hated that and none of us are THAT nostalgic.)

1997: We’re getting a new post office. Great care was put into the design to assure that it would be both modern yet fit into the existing community motif. 2012 Update: Sadly, our post office, with its excellent and friendly staff, is in danger of closing. While the internet/web age has rendered many mail services unnecessary, I argue that our community of 17,000+ NEEDS a good post office. Here’s hoping it stays right where it is.

1997: The new Orpheum theater offers top Quality Theater — right here in town. 2012 Update: In danger of closing in the early 2000’s, the Orpheum now flourishes with Broadway-quality shows, dozens of educational programs for kids and young adults, and a great haunted house. Kudos to Bay Colony productions, Bill Cunningham and the staff for their great work keeping the arts alive.

1997: There has been much interest and activity into improving the downtown area. 2012 Update: The good: Between renovations of the Boch building, so many new businesses, major construction improvements around the common, our downtown looks fantastic. The Jaycees did a great job on the new Foxboro sign. We have a new YMCA. We have Chestnut Green. 2012 Update: The bad: The storefront area around the common proper is so barren. Yes, the new Public Safety building and new stores were required, but their moves left gaps that make the area look like a ghost town. And we really didn’t need the nine hundred and eleventy-two street and traffic signs around the common. Here’s hoping more businesses grow around the common. Speaking of which…

1997: We have beautiful Foxboro Common — a rarity in today’s strip-mall-town times. We gather together there to enjoy concerts, Foxboro First Night celebrations, and just to relax. 2012 Update: It’s as beautiful as ever; the events run on the common have only increased, and people love it.

1997: Let’s not forget Founder’s Day! Our town’s birthday is one of the most anticipated and enjoyable events of the year. The Founder’s Day committee always does an excellent job, and the party just keeps getting bigger, louder and better every year. 2012 Update: Founders Day celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2013 and is bigger and better than ever. It is incredible that a small team of dedicated volunteers throws the town one hell of a birthday party every year. If you can help them, please do so.

2012 Update: When I made this list in 1997 I had no idea that 15 years later I could fill another ten pages with reasons I am thankful for Foxboro. The town has changed a lot in 15 years in uncountable ways, good and bad, as all towns do, but I can think of no better summary of those changes except to say: Foxboro is my home. This is a great place to live.

You’ve heard it all before. But sometimes it’s necessary to remind us again just how lucky we really are. As you gather with friends and family over turkey, ham (or subs?) take just a moment to be thankful for the people around you. We’re all missing at least one person from the holiday table — but Thanksgiving is not a day for mourning. For every one of us, our lives could be better in some way, but just for a moment, be thankful for what you DO have, both at home and in this marvelous community.

After all, it’s what Thanksgiving is all about.

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