It’s a shame I can’t remember the sound of the electric trolley transit buses that rolled up and down either side of Aberdeen Ave. They were yellow and white with black trim, and had rear doors that opened on the driver’s side to accommodate loading on one-way streets and off the boulevard under the maple trees.
Aberdeen was a rather short street, T’ing off on either end. To the North was Fresh Pond, an urban oasis surrounded by running trails and off-leash areas for cocker-spaniels wearing knitted garments from Huron Village. To the South, Mt. Auburn and the entrance to a dauntingly large cemetery that I always wanted to visit but could never find a good enough excuse to enter. It was located on top of a hill overlooking the Charles River that wound through the area like a coiled spring. I love the Charles even though it always turned me about when navigating the streets. One minute it was on my left, then I’d soon catch a glimpse of rowing clubs and kayakers passing by on my right.
The house on Aberdeen, even with its lack of a yard, was pleasant, as were its twins up and down the street. Front steps, shrubs, porches, and that one house on the corner that perpetually displayed an “Impeach Bush” sign in the window. We were on the top floor, including access to the finished attic which was Jay’s room, so it seemed like two levels. You would open the front door to find a wooden staircase that creaked and as you ascended into the living room. The wallpapered ceiling in the stairwell seemed to get lower the higher you went but it soon opened up to a sitting room. The dining room was to the right and was separated by French doors that we never closed. From there, heading straight to the back of the house was my territory. Just off the kitchen, next to the bathroom.
My room alone was probably about 400 square feet – I had too much space and I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I went to Target and bought some modular furniture including two side tables, a laundry basket, and this big drawer that looked out of place in any setting. Gazing out my back window I saw a canopy of Maple and Oak. Just past a small span of grass, there was a parking lot for a modest four-storey office complex. I didn’t buy curtains for a few days so I’m certain the workers got to know me very well, although I never peered back at them. In the evenings I’d walk through that parking lot on my way to Shaw to buy pasta, crackers and other depressing foods that couldn’t be combined to make a complete meal by any means.
Shaw was great, aside from the 4-litre jugs of wine available down aisle 12 they also had self-serve checkouts so I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone if I was having a down-day.
There were leaves, chestnuts and foliage everywhere, except on pathways. Being how wet autumn leaves on cement are conducive to slipping I’m not sure if everyone was just extremely considerate, or because I was in a nation obsessed with law suits, but every sidewalk was always cleared. Walking home from the grocery store I’d usually call my sister or mom with my one free hand as I huffed back up Aberdeen with my goods.
The hardwood floors were sturdy, polished and cold. I did buy a small rug for my room, which helped somewhat with making it less echoey but it still didn’t feel like home for quite a while. Jay gave me an old TV set that, when plugged straight into the wall, still received 3 channels. I bent a metal coat hanger MacGuyver-style and stuck it in the cable input to get about 5 more stations, crystal clear. On top of that, I had my laptop, candles and wi-fi, what else could a lonely girl in a new country and city ask for?
There I would sleep, wake, dress, do my nails and lounge for the next few months between trips to work and back. It started to feel comfortable, and like my very own space, even if the room was too big and insufficiently furnished. One afternoon I headed out to Harvard Square where I ended up in that Curious George Store on the corner and bought books for my niece and nephew. Then I had a brilliant idea. I called my mom.
Are you walking? I can hear your heels,’ she’d always say. I told her I was window shopping, avoiding towering snowbanks on the side of the road, and that I was returning home for the holidays.
I held my phone away from my face. I think everyone from the Cambridge Common down to Peet’s Coffee heard her squeal and utter numerous sugary phrases about her baby coming home. I think she was excited.
I packed up and jetted across the country, passing faces at Logan Airport that became familiar due to my frequent flying at that time. I came home for Christmas and New Years and I wouldn’t have been able to fathom not doing so. Thanksgiving was tough enough, and I suppose a stronger person might have embraced the distance and the new adventure – but this was Christmas. I just had to be back home.
For my Homecomings blog post mini series