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.