Tens of thousands of tourists have photographed or painted the iconic shack in Rockport, Massachusetts, known as Motif No. 1. But when writer Todd Balf, who grew up in Rockport, took a look inside [“The Most Famous Fish Shack in the World,” p. 20], he was able to let us in on a local secret: It’s […]
By Mel Allen
Jun 18 2018
Tens of thousands of tourists have photographed or painted the iconic shack in Rockport, Massachusetts, known as Motif No. 1. But when writer Todd Balf, who grew up in Rockport, took a look inside [“The Most Famous Fish Shack in the World,” p. 20], he was able to let us in on a local secret: It’s more than a pretty face—it still holds some (maybe) useful stuff. As he puts it, “The exterior of the building is identifiable around the world. The interior is ours.”
Last summer, Annie Graves, along with Yankee senior photographer Mark Fleming, crisscrossed a still largely undiscovered region of southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island known as the Farm Coast [“A Hidden Beauty,” p. 90]. “It is stamped with its own particular beauty,” she writes, “sudden bursts of meadow, shingled barns, blue water, and tidy rows of things green and growing.” On every page of her story, one of those “don’t tell anyone about this” secrets emerges—such as the state park beach where even on the hottest summer day you might find fewer than a dozen cars in the parking lot.
Letting readers in on New England’s secrets has always been among the most enjoyable parts of our job. (It also can stir the most angst: After all, just like anyone else, we love having a beautiful place all to ourselves.) In “Boat Magic” [p. 48], senior food editor Amy Traverso takes a windjammer cruise and discovers the secret of cooking gourmet meals for a boatload of people. Later in the issue, a farmer’s daughter reveals both the joy of growing up on America’s most celebrated family farm and the behind-the-scenes rejection she felt when, as a woman, she was passed over to inherit it [“Corn Season,” p. 110].
There’s another story here about a secret, in a way. In the U.S., suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people (teens to mid-20s), yet it’s something that people rarely bring to light, if ever. With “Searching for Alexander” [p. 122], writer Geoffrey Douglas does something difficult and rare. Difficult, because he profiles his late stepson, Alex—reading his journals, talking to family and teachers and friends—in order to piece together the life of a young man whom so many wanted to save. Rare, because he breaks the silence that too often descends like a dense cloud around families of suicide victims.
I myself lived inside this cloud when my kid brother, David, took his life at age 29. I wrote his obituary to send to the local paper, and at my mother’s emotional insistence I did not use the word “suicide.” Instead, I used the word “cancer.” And that’s how the paper ran it. Ever since, I’ve felt that my brother’s final act, expressing both who he was and his suffering, was stolen by this lie, this unspoken secret. Alex’s story just might lift the cloud for any family that knows the pain of being unable to save a loved one. It is one secret whose time to be shared has come.