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This I Believe
Virginia Lawrence | Caminito Del Rocio

 

On my swing. The house, typical for the neighborhood,
belonged to the Smiths next door. A family photo.

 

I grew up in Lexington, Massachusetts, but after high school I never lived there again. Nevertheless, with friends and family outside of Boston, I went back every chance I got - from Manhattan, from Paris, from Geneva, Switzerland, and after 2006, from Del Mar. On each visit I would drive past all the houses where I or my friends had grown up.

Our house was on Follen Hill, on a paved road which looped around the house to join an unpaved road behind. The houses were modest in size, and we all had big yards. On my street were many plots of wooded land.

From the first day of school in the 6th grade, I walked down the hill to Adams School on Mass Ave, along which Paul Revere had galloped to spread the alarm in 1775. For lunch I would walk back up the hill, returning to school for the afternoon. When I got into high school, the walk became longer - 2 miles each way, and I carried all my books, and twice a week my violin, no matter what the weather.

Every year on the 19th of April I joined the Girl Scouts in front of Adams School for the parade up Mass Ave to Lexington Green, where in 1775 the British Redcoats fired the shots which precipitated the Revolutionary War. Concord wrongly claims the War began in Concord. It did not! Of the 70 Minute Men gathered on the Green, ten were wounded, and eight died. The Patriots were galvanized!

Sometimes there were snow days and the town whistle would blow. The snow was deeper in those days, as I recall, and my brothers and I used to climb on the roof of the summer house (a screened-in patio in the back yard) and jump off into the drifts.

The milkman delivered the milk every morning. Fish and meat trucks came around once a week. Doctors made house calls, even at night.

My father had a workshop in the cellar where he spun pewter in his free time. Under the cellar stairs was a closet full of every Life Magazine ever published. Beyond the stairwell stood a furnace and a huge bin for coal. Next to the coal bin was a laundry room with a clothes washer, a wringer, and drying racks.

As the years went by I used to fantasize about reacquiring this house and moving back to Lexington. But during the ‘80s and ‘90s I began to notice changes. With the creation of all the tech companies on route 128, the rim road around Boston, people had begun building mansions in Lexington. As beautiful as they can be, they are too big alongside Lexington’s traditional small town houses, and grossly inappropriate next to the colonial buildings along Mass Ave. Worse, these mansions fill the plots right up to the side edges, leaving the houses chock-a-block. The town center has lost every small shop I remember and come to look like a modern mall. The traffic along Mass Ave, especially around Lexington Green, is horrific!

 

Mr. O’Malley, the mailman, on our back walk. Across the street
behind a picket fence is the Crouts’ house. Today the picket fence is
gone, and the house has been replaced by a mansion. The wooded
plot behind Mr. O.Malley’s head has today, likewise,
been mansionized. The road at least remains as it was.
It is still unpaved. family photo from the ‘40s or ‘50s

 

Nevertheless, I still wanted my house back. That is, I wanted it back until about 2 summers ago. A huge mansion had finally taken over the wooded plot accross the street (seen behind Mr. O’Malley’s head above). It was too big for the plot, incongruous in the neighborhood. Suddenly, I realized that I would never want to live there again. The dream died hard!

Lexington didn’t have an ocean view to protect. But its aura as a traditional small New England colonial town has been compromised. For me, my street has been ruined.

The Lexington I remember - gone! Such a pity the town had lacked a Community Plan!

This article is the 5th in a series presented by the Sandpiper editors.
Previous pieces: Sam Borgese, October 2011;
Art Olson, November 2011; Sherryl Parks, December 2011; and Ann Gardner, February 2012.


 

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