I was sitting at the bar in Choate Bridge Pub when I met a married couple I’ll call Chauncey and Clementine, who recently moved to Ipswich from someplace out West — Billerica, I think.
As it turns out, Chauncey and Clementine are neighbors of mine, sort of: fellow residents of outer Linebrook. In fact, they live further out than I do. I wasn’t surprised to learn this, because of that telltale dazed look on their faces. They’re still trying to get their bearings here in our marvelous, terrifying wilderness, where Ipswich, Topsfield, and Boxford all mash together. Chauncey and Clementine are in the process of making adjustments that most Ipswich residents will never have to make, because the vast majority of Ipswich residents live east of Route 1, where there be no dragons.
You can imagine how unsettling it must be for them. No matter how comfortable and contented they try to seem — Welcome to our home! We love it here!— a stomach-churning miasma of disturbing questions swirls sickeningly in the murky backrooms of their minds: How does one live here, on the frontier, in “the sticks,” in the neighborhoods where folks once settled their differences by accusing each other of being witches? How do you survive in a place where there are more groundhogs than people, a strange netherworld where the four seasons are leaf blower, snow blower, lawnmower, and Weber grill?
Actually, however, as I explored the matter with Chauncey and Clementine, I discovered that the look of bewilderment on their faces was related mostly to the fact that they have found themselves living on the Mysteriously Disappearing Street — which is also the MysteriouslyReappearingStreet — also known as outer Linebrook Road.
It’s true. (I offer the following simply as a public service — so if you’re ever heading from “Ipswich proper” out to, say, Tractor Supply, and you decide to take a detour into Cumberland Farms for a cup of iced coffee, and then while pulling back out of the parking lot you get confused and turn the wrong way, you ultimately find yourself passing Hood Pond on the left and wondering where the heck you are, and how long it will be before a Sasquatch descends upon you and defiles your Volkswagen.)
In order to properly orient you to your new outer Linebrook reality, let me provide you this primer:
If you’re driving west on Linebrook Road, about 4 minutes west of the Route 1 Cumberland Farms, you’ll pass Pillowlace Lane on the right, and that’s the moment to start paying close attention, because you’re about to arrive at the Mysterious Point of Linebrook Road Disappearance. In a few hundred feet, you’ll be invited to take a left. The street sign says you’re turning left on “Linebrook Road.” In other words, if you keep going straight on Linebrook Road, you’re no longer on Linebrook Road. You’re still in Ipswich, but now you’re on Boxford Road.
And as you keep going on Boxford Road, things get even weirder — because about 500 feet before you arrive at Route 97, you cross the invisible line into Topsfield — and what do they call those last 500 feet of Boxford Road? They call it “Linebrook Road.” Why? I think they just did it to mess with us.
They also decided to give Route 97 the most confusing possible name. What do they call it? Ipswich Road.Thank you very much.
All of this means that when Chauncey and Clementine visit Mawmaw in Billerica and then return to their new home here in Ipswich, they drive up something called Ipswich Road, turn left on something called Linebrook Road, then it’s no longer Linebrook Road, then it’s Linebrook Road again, and then — well, let me just put it this way: I think Chauncey and Clementine are very brave to move here from Billerica.
Doug Brendel is grateful to live on east outer Linebrook, because it’s so much simpler than west outer Linebrook. Follow him by clicking “Follow.”