Gina Vivinetto’s Greatest Hits

Returning home to Western Massachusetts

I’m having a good time revisiting Western Massachusetts, the area where I grew up. I cried like a baby when we got off Mass Pike and drove into tiny Palmer, where I lived and went to school. I deliberately came here in October because that’s my favorite time in New England, when autumn has set it and the leaves are bursting with color. This is the view of the woods at the end of my old street, Holbrook Street (I suggest clicking on these pictures to enlarge them):

Amazing, isn’t it? All the houses in Palmer are colonials, one or two hundred years old apiece. Most residents know their houses’ histories, who lived there before them, who had it built, etc. History is vital in New England and respect for it is passed down to the kids.

Here is my old house as it looks today:

Here is the famous fire hydrant that my friends and I sat on to play “toll man” (a game wherein we all rode our bikes past the toll man and handed him crisp leaves to pay the toll and drive on):

This was our favorite tree in Palmer, proof that nature outdoes artists when it comes to color:

Here is a picture of my old school Thorndike Street School, now an office building. I got tearful when I saw it because it made me think of Sophie. She was the white-haired lunch lady I loved so much. Yes, one woman made lunch for the whole school:

There used to be a chain link safety fence around the school. At recess, we kids would run to the fence when big trucks drove past the school, motioning with our little arms for the driver to pull his horn. We screamed so loud whenever a driver did it for us.

It was amazing to me that I could recollect every inch of the neighborhood where I lived. I have been remembering it for decades exactly as it exists. How does something like that happen? I can’t even find the apartment I used to live in during college when I drive around the NE side of St. Petersburg, Florida, but I can travel back to the place I lived so happily as a child and remember the names of everyone who lived in every house on my street.

I bet some of you have this kind of recall when it comes to childhood places. Feel free to share stories like this.

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5 thoughts on “Returning home to Western Massachusetts

  1. I was in Northampton over Columbus Day weekend and the colors were gorgeous then. Looks like they’re still quite pretty!

  2. conner on said:

    i really liked this entry. i have bittersweet memories of growing up in the northeast (in south jersey) but a couple of your pictures, especially the one of your favorite tree, brought back some of the better memories. i’ve been to northhampton once & it was beautiful… maybe it’s time to get out of florida?!

  3. Kevin Croitz on said:

    I love the pics, I’d like to paint some of them, I grew up in the Catskills and miss this time of year up there very much, helping my friend Sean and his grandfather Dutch tap the Maple trees to make the maple syrup,raking leaves and jumping in them, biking around our hill and through the woods, smelling the woodsmoke through the trees, tag football. Growing up in the Northeast was special and everyone should at least experience it. Halloweens we would go out to the big town of Liberty, change into our costumes, trick or treat till 9ish, play tag or hide and go seek around the neighborhoods till midnight, the parents would be bobbing for apples or sinking drinks, and we would all end up sleeping in some cousins livingroom, the seventies rocked, Kevin

  4. I’m originally from Chelmsford, MA and I get the same feeling everytime I drive up route 3 after getting off the plane from DC.

  5. Pingback: Scholastic book orders: win « Gina Vivinetto’s Greatest Hits

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