Friday, May 15, 2009

Boston, part two

On Sunday, I met my friend Cary Godbey in Back Bay. In the seventies, she lived around the corner from me and we shared our long daily journey to Park School as well as our young latch-key-kid highs and lows. She brought me my homework for two weeks when I was out of school at thirteen with shingles. She introduced me to James Taylor and Pousett-Dart Band and Dan Fogelberg. She was cool, and full of life, and a really good friend.

Before I met Cary, I went to the front steps of my own building on Marlborough St. and then went around the corner to Exeter St., to visit my tree. When I was about seven, several kids in the neighborhood were assigned a square plot of sidewalk, its concrete covered up with soil, on which to plant a small tree. Here is my tree, about 35 years later. Sunday was a beautiful day in Boston. It was Mother's Day. We couldn't imagine that anyone would be home. But we managed to get inside both buildings and into both of our old condominiums. Cary's had the same owners that had bought her place from her mother and it had most of the same wallpapers and paint on the walls, as well as her mother's 1970's avocado-green colander and green glass jars.

We got inside of my bird-cage elevator, both crying and laughing our slow way up to my old landing. There is a sky light at the top of the elevator shaft, so as you approached my floor, the 6th, you would feel, looking up through the open elevator cage, like you were going to burst right through the glass, like Willie Wonka does with Charlie, in his chocolate factory. Several friends had shared that memory with me the night before.

We left the birdcage, climbed up some new-to-me steps in my old hallway and went through a metal door that opened onto the roof. This was where my family had gathered to listen to the Boston Pops, eat our annual lobsters and watch the fireworks being set off over the Charles River, every 4th of July. In the winter, it's one of the places where I'd built snowmen with my brother.
The trees are growing past the buildings! So cool.
Here is another view of Marlborough Street, below, but this one is through my old living room's window! Due to Cary's fiesty encouragement, I knocked, waking up a very pregnant woman and her husband. They were so nice about it and invited us in to explore.
Unlike Cary's, only its shell remained the same as 28 years ago. It has been modernized, with lots of doors added between rooms and a ceiling lowered in the living room. Everything was painted a stark white and the floors were all restored, and bare. I don't have many pictures. I missed the many avocado trees growing in big pots, the long paths of of ivy winding over the fireplaces and the colorful wallpapers.
It was fun to see the old place again. But I had no longing to be back. Without my mother, Jody, Ulle, my brother Kenneth and our German Shepard, Damien, it felt warehouse-empty. It was like seeing a loved one who has died - this body, too, was nothing but an abandoned snake's skin. The life had left the building.

A few hours later, flying home, my descending plane's video screen showed an interview with players from the Atlanta Braves. On the way to Boston, they'd shown the Red Sox. I'm not a huge baseball fan, but at the sight of the Braves, a lump formed in my throat. There is a nostalgic hold that Boston may always have on me.

This week, I was surprised by just how happy I felt to be living here, in the country. In this moment, with the boys, with a farm rooster simmering in the pot and Gillen and Jesse's garden through the window, I am so glad to be here now, and now, and now, as I was never able to be back then. Hopefully, my children are having that chance now too.


Ren said...

Beautiful Madeline. You make me long to reconnect with my own past....

Cary said...

We certainly made the most of that rare opportunity to re-visit our past! I loved every second of it and now long for you to live around the corner from me again- we OWNED those sidewalks!!! What a life! Lots of love to you, Cary

Dina said...

LOVE your tree! How cool is that?