Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Saturday, October 06, 2012

In Another America

Last Sunday morning at a Harvest Fair, far from politicians and pundits, on the lawn of a Vermont church, a 90-year-old man spent a joyful hour swinging on clarinet with his sons on guitar and drums.

The music was from the past, but the scene plumbed an American present and future beyond all the TV talking heads and attack ads.

The nonagenarian, Edwin Moore, a brother of mine by marriage and a lifelong friend of the heart, was celebrating the 60th birthday of his son Tom in a weekend alive with history and hope.

Generations crowded the senses from the happy squeals of great-grandchildren to rheumatic sighs of my own, a sensual dip into the kind of life unseen by ideologues.

As a young couple with two toddlers, Ed and Betty Moore had left behind corporate jobs and suburban life to move into an unheated cabin he had built years earlier on the unfashionable side of Mt. Mansfield, away from the ski resort of Stowe.

With his own hands, Ed started to construct a family colony outward from their big stone fireplace and earn a living restoring and building homes for others. In a community that honors honest effort, he prospered and became First Selectman, the moral center of his town.

Now, as always for me, that place and that extended family are at the heart of the American Dream. The Moores’ son John at 19, with only the help of friends to raise beams, built the home he and his wife Penny still occupy. Tom took over the family business and with Debbie has just moved into a home that keeps winning awards for “Green Building.”

Most of the birthday celebrants arrived in pickup trucks, including a tall, bearded man who single-handedly fells tall trees, while swearing a blue streak aloud. Others roasted a pig over an open-air fire and highlighted the evening with mis-aimed fireworks that almost set the parking lot aflame.

On that weekend of family love and community joy, it crossed my mind that these people have for a quarter of a century elected Bernie Sanders, a self-professed Socialist, to the U.S. Senate and next month, with his 67 percent approval rating, undoubtedly will do so again.

In Edwin Moore’s America, people’s labels don’t count. What’s in their hearts is all that matters.

In this season of discontent, it was good to be there again.

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