Most of us have a place or two in our minds that bring us back to our childhood. You think of it and you can remember exactly how you felt there. The smells, the sounds, the scenery. Is our memory sometimes augmented? I'm sure. But that doesn't change the effect and the value of that place. This thought, feeling, memory of a particular place is truly something only we own and only we can understand.
I have two such places. One is the Little League baseball field in Bainbridge, Indiana. It's down in a little valley, shaded most of the way around with large, older trees. It was also surrounded by the homes of many of my friends and family when I was growing up. The smells of cool summer air, popcorn, wet leather, and dirt all come flooding back when I think of it. The little concession stand, the rickety bleachers, the people in those bleachers that you undoubtedly knew by name, even as a child. Your childhood home will always feel like home; but that diamond was a second home to me for a few years. Never mind the countless baseball games that were played here - those aren't important now - that little slice of heaven tucked away in a small Indiana town means so much more than the wins and losses that have become distant memories. The thing I remember the most? The comfort and sense of belonging I felt there.
The other place? The other one is Wildwood Bridge. When I was growing up in rural Putnam County, Wildwood Bridge was an old iron truss bridge crossing Big Walnut Creek. Originally built in 1920, it has since been replaced with a sterile concrete span. Neither version holds significant historical importance, just like the Bainbridge Little League diamond, but to many in the area it is a place of note because it is where they learned to swim, or fish, or drive, or kiss, or drink. To some, I'm sure, it was all of the above. To me, it is a place where the imagination could run wild. Amazingly, the possibilities seemed endless in the little swath of wilderness with trees, rocks, water, wildlife, and iron all meeting for just a few hundred feet. You could search for geodes or arrowheads. Fail time after time in a search for gold (although rumor has it that some has been found on occasion). It was an ideal place to collect leaves, or bugs, or fossils for a 4-H project. It was where my dad and aunt and uncle went swimming as children, just as I did. It's where my grandfather tells me there was a back woods dance hall in the '30s. That bridge truly was (and still is) significant in so many small ways. Big Walnut Creek cuts through farmland in northern Putnam County, winding its way southwest, eventually meeting with the Eel River, which runs into the White River near Worthington, Indiana. I knew none of that as a child, only that is was the seemingly impressive waterway we crossed to go nearly anywhere. The one that flooded and brought in a new landscape of logs and washed up tires and flattened weeds once or twice a year. It doesn't sound very romantic but it was truly a beautiful place. The rushing water, birds chirping, vivid green fields, it all is right there, tucked away in my memory.
So, when we were coming up with ideas for the name of our store, we worked through many ideas. Some generic, some paying homage to our neighborhood, some connecting to the food we wanted to bring to the neighborhood. The one that I kept coming back to was Wildwood. I realize it doesn't mean anything to most of you, our customers. It has likely become just a new word in your vocabulary (which we are SO grateful for!), but to me it means so very much. It is a place of enchantment and vivid memories; and of home. It reminds me of where I come from and the farmland and the people that grow the things that feed us. After using the word so often the past six months I will admit that the meaning and connection has worn off a bit, but if I stop to think and remember that I am in a place called Wildwood Market, the memories and joy come rushing back.
You may have noticed a random metal bridge hanging around the store. It's usually tucked into the display when you walk in the front door. To many it probably looks like it belongs in a child's train set, but to me it looks exactly like Wildwood Bridge. In what my memory of it is, at least. The bridge will move around the shop, it may go away eventually, but I doubt it. I hope that on occasion you will look for the bridge, and when you see it you will stop for a moment in the midst of your busy day to remember the place that brings you the comfort and joy that Wildwood Bridge brings to me.