I grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts, in a large “Bungalow”-style house (so my mom called it) at 25 Bridge Street. When we purchased it around 1961, I was only a wee toddler and my new baby brother was barely born. The house was old a run-down, but my dad said he could fix it up. The front porch had these beat-up screens in it. He took them out and rebuilt the porch, expanding our living room so now, we had a smaller porch and no more yucky screens. He replaced all the windows in the house and put in a large attic fan. We never needed air conditioning.
The house was brown when we purchased it, but he had it painted brick red. At first, my brother and I shared a room but then, Dad rebuilt the attic. Now, my brother and i had our own rooms. Mom had a new baby so now, I had two kid brothers. The new baby, when he was old enough, had his own bedroom downstairs. My parents had their bedroom downstairs, too. That’s where we also had our TV. The kitchen was in the back. Behind everything was an enclosed back porch. it wasn’t really a porch, just a long room that wasn’t insulated. It could get hot out there in summer.
The living room, since it had been expanded, accommodated our grand piano. Yes, it was grand. I hear it was a gift from my mom’s parents, but I’m not really sure. I believe it was a three-quarters grand. We had a second piano which my parents had purchased for themselves when they got married. This was an upright piano that they kept in the basement. Our basement wasn’t all drippy the way some tend to be. I enjoyed playing both pianos whenever I wanted, but not both at once.
Our yard was slanted, that is, on a hill, so if you rolled a ball down it, that ball might just keep on rolling and rolling into the woods beyond. Then, of course, we kids had a lot of trouble finding it. The yard was an entire one-third of an acre. I asked my dad what an acre was and he said it was a measurement, just like something you might measure with a ruler, only it was a measurement of area of land. He said such measurements were done usually to figure out the land’s value or to calculate what to farm on the land. Many times I watched Dad mow the lawn and I wondered about the big lawn mower he pushed around.
Dad had an office upstairs, and there, he and my mom both had large, professional-looking desks. I remember Dad’s desk well. He had all kinds of slide rules, protractors, measuring tools, rulers, precision pencils, and erasers. Some of these tools were the coolest-looking things, but honestly I had no clue what they were for. Both Mom and Dad had real ink blotters on their desks. Mom was the only mom on the block who had her own typewriter, and I swear she could type as fast as any secretary you’ve ever met. Wanna bet? They kept a phone up there, too, on Dad’s desk. We kids finally convinced them to replace the rotary phones with push-button ones. I think I was in high school then.
Their office was L-shaped. Guess what was off to the side of the L? On the floor we had these sheepskin rugs. Yes, I did play with that rug. I admit I think I pulled out the hairs in secret, but don’t tell anyone. I’m sure Mom was furious. We had two complete sets of Encyclopedia Britanica, thanks to a sweet-talking sales dude who showed up at house and convinced Mom that we really did need both the regular and junior versions. I think it was another door-to-door guy who sold my mom our vacuum. That vacuum must have lasted a good 20 years, not bad considering the amount of dog hair it picked up.
Yes, we did have a dog. Of course! No home is complete without one. Joffa dug holes in the yard, making dad frustrated of course. We tried all the tricks but Joffa outsmarted us. I was secretly proud of her. I think all of us were, even Dad.
In our den we had a real fireplace. Dad said when you make a fire in it you had to “prime” the chimney. He did that with a “Lincoln log.” That was nothing but rolled up newspaper that he lit with a match and stuck up the chimney for a bit. He said there was a science behind it. Dad was very scientifically-minded, but somehow, Mom was wiser because she was a dancer. She had eyes in the back of her head, she said. When you think about it, and not too hard, you’ll understand.
In summer we enjoyed playing croquet and badminton in our yard. We invited the other kids in the neighborhood to join us. Sometimes we had cookouts, too. My mom made Kool aid and gave it to everyone. I loved doing somersaults and handstands, and goofing off all summer long.
My parents took us kids to the mountains in nearby New Hampshire and Vermont on weekends. We enjoyed hiking up the mountains and looking out at the view. My parents taught me to carry a backpack and put all my things in it. My mom said it was an efficient way to transport my belongings.
Today I am on the verge of my 59th birthday. I took a peek at the old house on 25 Bridge Street and I see it has been repainted. It is now valued (on Zillow) at close to a million dollars. I am not surprised. My mom was getting old and practically gave it away in 2006, as anyone can see by peeking at the public listing. I feel sad seeing it, but I laugh at the irony. I guess that comes with age.
I am lucky to be alive. It has been ages since I have been to Lexington and I must say it feels odd seeing those pictures. Nonetheless, Mom and Dad taught me so many valuable lessons that I carry with me to this day. My dog sleeps beside me every night, and is my companion. I don’t have a vacuum but my mom taught me to make do, so my red broom serves me fine. Today I am on the verge of turning 59 years old. I am capable of carrying 50 pounds in a knapsack. That’s about half of me. Not bad for an old lady! Dear Mom and Dad, I think you would be proud.