Let the river rock you like a cradle
Climb to the treetops, child, if you’re able
Let your hands tie a knot across the table.
Come and touch the things you cannot feel.
And close your fingertips and fly where I can’t hold you
Let the sun-rain fall and let the dewy clouds enfold you
And maybe you can sing to me the words I just told you,
If all the things you feel ain’t what they seem.
Then don’t mind me 'cos I ain't nothin' but a dream.
--Richie Havens, Follow
Remarkably, it was one year ago today that I took the reins of New Milford Patch from Tracy Montgomery and began the journey of a lifetime--a journey that would take me, well...I had no idea where it would lead me, which for an eternal restless soul such as I, seemed quite attractive.
Having spent a good part of my life writing about life in and around the Hudson River, I thought writing about the people who live beside a river without Palisades, vulnerable to the raging tide, would be a change that would bring to my life new experiences from which I could tell unfamiliar stories.
I left the place my words called home, following instinct as I set out west along Route 4 while ancestral voices resounded that my words could never really leave the place to which they were so firmly rooted. But I left, and landed with little more than pen and paper in New Milford, where my words had not yet been seeded, and I was but a stranger with no past or present. Where both I and New Milford seemed nothing but a dream.
Looking back over the course of the past year I can't help but be humbled when I reflect upon all of the stories that have been entrusted to me. The triumphs, losses and matters of fact. How many tears I have shed with so many of you across kitchen tables, front lawns and park benches as you have related to me stories so deeply personal that I have never once taken for granted the trust imparted to me in being the one charged with shaping the malleable sadness of one's heart into a story that I hoped would serve to inspire others in the telling.
Over the course of a year I have learned that New Milford is not a one note town. It is a town filled with passion, fury and focus, especially in times of trial and tribulation. It is a town that passionately preserves its past even into the present.
I would be remiss if I did not thank those in town who, from my very start, have been my ambassadors--laying the foundation for trust that has opened countless doors for me.
Tracy who trusted me with her great experiment and had faith that I would do her, and the people of New Milford, proud.
Chief of Police Frank Papapietro, the first person I met in New Milford, who serves as my compass--continually navigating me through the circle of hell called Brookchester and ensuring me that New Milford's boundaries do not extend into Teaneck and has directed me out of Oradell and back into New Milford when I thought I was lost in River Edge. Who, despite my best efforts, never gets frustrated. The man about whom Fort Lee Chief of Police Tom Ripoli says, "Thank God, you're his problem now, not mine!" Special thanks to the Chief's secretary Laura, who feeds me with pretzels and laughter at times when it is most welcome.
Superintendent of Schools Michael Polizzi who shares my love of bagpipes and has been my guide in the northern section of town and has provided me with more comic relief than he will ever know.
New Milford High School Principal Eric Sheninger who is always present in the high school when I am there and whose energy is absolutely exhausting. A man whose Twitter account requires a dose of Dramamine to keep up with.
The ladies in Borough Hall who provide me with answers to all my questions and allow me to occupy the best office space in the world. And who make every election night fun while waiting for the returns.
Peggy in Records who makes sure to tell me, every Thursday, that my name is not on the arrest sheets, but says it in such a way that I need to check just to make sure. A woman who continually goes above and beyond for me, always.
A special thank you to Maria and Maureen in the Building Department who have adopted me and have taught me everything I need to know about the exciting world of land use and zoning laws. And whose laughter makes everything bearable.
Sal, because every Borough Hall needs a Sal. And to the laughter he has hand-delivered to me at times when laughter seemed just an arm's length out of reach.
Coach, who shares my love for 7-Eleven regular brew coffee and dark sarcasm.
My dear Francesca Concetta who has been my constant companion and confidante throughout every Mayor and Council work session and Zoning Board meeting, no matter how endless, and whose artistry has kept me awake and in stitches as the midnight hour approached.
And to that special person who has kept me fed in granola bars and other sundry snacks when I have not had time to eat before said endless meetings--you know who you are and I can never thank you enough. There is a special place awaiting you in the afterlife.
To my 10-year old son Jack who not only reads all my stories on Patch, but shares them with his friends and teachers, and waits up for me no matter how late, to hear the stories of my day in a town he does not know. My Jackie, who is my biggest fan and tells me repeatedly that if he has to share me, then he will only share me with New Milford. My little boy who laughs when he tells his sister Katie, "Run to the window and wave--Mom's driving by on her way to New Milford! This is your chance if you want to see her today."
And to my faithful furry four-legged companion, Bad Dog, who will wait up for me no matter how late, forego her evening walk when I'm just too tired to move and will never judge me as long as I feed her veal chops and chicken parm. Despite the fact that both she and I were asked to leave obedience school, she is the best bad dog in the whole wide world.
As we set off in the autumn light and continue on this journey together, I would like to thank all of you, not only for allowing me to embed myself into your town and your lives, but also into your hearts. For you are surely embedded in mine.
Here's to another year!
Ann, Not the Mayor