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Am I My Mother?

The Old Neighborhood

Thirteen years ago my husband Peter and I left our Ridge Road home in Newton, where we raised our kids, and moved to Cambridge to “recapture” our early married life. This morning, we returned to Ridge Road for Sunday brunch at a former neighbor’s.

As we drove up the street we saw that “our” house no longer has black shutters, and that there is a different side entrance. There are new garage doors (we should have done that), a couple of new decks and who knows what else? The house next door has new owners who have MacMansioned it to the point of non-recognition.

Our friend Barbara, our brunch hostess, has lived on Ridge Road for 35 years, raising her children and a succession of black or yellow labs there. Now there is only Barbara and Sammy, the latest black lab. Her husband died a year ago and her kids have married and moved away.  When Peter and I commented on the changes to our old house, Barbara offered to call the occupants so that we could drop in to see them, but we demurred, preferring to remember our home the way it was when we lived there.

There are nine houses on Ridge Road. Only four of the nine are now occupied by the people we shared the street with. Visiting today was bittersweet, and somehow I felt it viscerally. Gone are the nightly four-square games with young and not-so-young kids. Gone are the pothole-fixing parties that were a yearly ritual when the street was private. Gone is the time our family traded our older son for the eldest daughter across the street for a week. (They had three girls and we had two boys.) We loved parenting a “daughter” for a change, and they loved their first “son.” Our “daughter’s” family moved out of town six years before we left, but for the last eighteen years her mom and I have talked on the phone almost every Sunday. It doesn’t replace our twice-weekly Jane Fonda exercise talkathon, but it helps

But mostly, gone are those years of child-raising. We were young then, and seventy seemed so far away. I had a very empty feeling in the pit of my stomach as we drove back to Cambridge.

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