December 2013 Issue
Editor's Note: Main Street Matters
Near the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Jimmy Stewart’s character, George Bailey, goes racing through the snow-covered streets of Bedford Falls, rejoicing that the world he has just been shown — one in which he had never been born — was only a passing specter; a wake-up call for a man unable to recognize the lives he has touched.
As George slips and slides through the fluffy, white snow, he finds further confirmation of his righted reality in the familiar facades of his town’s main street: “The Bells of St. Mary’s” is playing at the Bijou movie house, the neon sign outside the Bedford Falls Emporium blinks through the darkness, and a glowing orb illuminates the Bailey Bros. Building & Loan.
Director Frank Capra’s 1946 film shows up on our televisions this time of year with other shots of nostalgia, such as the Vince Guaraldi Trio’s soundtrack to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (still the best and most repeatedly playable holiday album one can own) and 24 hours of “A Christmas Story.”
But there’s something about “It’s a Wonderful Life” that works on a deeper level. It’s not only about nostalgia, but the truth that, as the movie tells us, “each man’s life touches so many other lives.” It reinforces that our interactions and relationships with others have meaning.
I was reminded of George Bailey’s Christmas Eve victory lap through the streets of Bedford Falls as we assembled this month’s cover story on charming downtown shopping districts. As we traveled throughout the state, we found thriving streets with beautiful buildings and remade spaces that are ties to our country’s main-street past — an era filled with friendly shop owners and glowing storefronts. These sorts of places still exist today. One only needs to know where to look.
Big-box stores and two-day shipping have allowed holiday shopping to become impersonal and anonymous. And while it may be convenient, it isn’t really all that fun.
It’s no match for the treasure hunt that unearths that perfect piece of handmade jewelry or uncovers a striking antique that has somehow made the long journey from another time to our own with its beauty still intact.
So, as you head out this month looking for gifts for the people whose lives have touched yours, consider spending an afternoon in one of the five districts we explored for this month’s issue.
And if anyone asks, tell them George Bailey sent you.