415

It’s finally done!

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This took so much longer than I thought it would. First I had to CLEAN it. Ugh. Steel wool to get dirt out of all the little crevasses of which there were many. Then I had to paint the whole thing white so I’d get true color.

After that I just kinda dove in on color. I had no plan. I bought a bunch of colors I liked and started with the ice blue on the front. From there, I picked a color that looked good next to it, then another, and so on and so on!

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I didn’t get vary far before I recognized definite “blocks” for the colors where the concrete broke, so no color patch just starts or stops randomly. And getting into all the little cracks was such a pain!

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Finally: the gold leaf. Man I thought that stuff stuck to ANYTHING but not true! I had to do layers and layers to make sure no white was showing but I still have little places where it just won’t stick. So I gave up.

What do you think? Cool right? Oh wait, did you want to know what this is??

Here’s the shortest version I could manage: way back in the day, my grandfather came over from Greece and ran a nightclub over by South Station in Boston and built for himself and his family, a huge ranch style house in Newton, a ritzy suburb of Boston. The house was sprawling and the empty lot next to it was landscaped into a fairytale garden. At least that’s what it felt like for me as a little kid. When my grandparents passed, the house was left to my parents and we lived there until I was 12.

The yard was protected by 15-foot high bushes to protect the view out the livingroom windows from the highway that was built much after the house, and to prevent me from running out onto said highway (even though I still tried once and got one of my only spankings for it. Oops.) A small stone staircase led to a strip of yard bordered on all sides by my dad’s tulips and at one end, a stone bench sat in front of a smoke tree. On either side of the tree were huge rhododendron bushes where I once built a fort for me and my Barbies. As you do.

Beyond this was the empty lot. Just a huge field with a large trellis upon which white grapevines twisted and twirled. A break in the bushes revealed a massive pine tree in the center of the field. To the left, a sweeping willow with pink blossoms, and between them, a tiny tree that was planted when I was born.

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Cool things I remember about that house; the giant, I mean GIANT wisteria that knarled its way up another huge pine in the driveway and when it bloomed, the tree it clung to was swallowed by purple blossoms. The basement, where I spent a lot of time, had a pantry for some impending apocalypse. God knows. I just remember it was full of Tab! There was a bar down there. And a fireplace. It was like, half-apartment, half basement. There was a bathroom that was never used and boxes of stuff that belonged to my uncle that I loved rifling through. There was also a door under the staircase that I was always too afraid to open. I don’t know if it went down or if it was just a closet. But I never opened it.

There was the time we had our blue front door painted and the guy bought the wrong paint and it ended up orange. And the relative who knocked on that door, randomly dropping by bearing donuts from the Dunkies he owned. We had a red rotary phone in the hall that we used all the time. The number was 617-527-0883.  The house was built into a hill so my window was two floors up but on the other side, the windows from which my brother and sister found a source of egress, were on the ground level.

When we put the house up for sale, the open houses were always packed because people wanted to see inside this monster of a house that sat beside Route 9 for 50 years. A nice family finally bought it and one day, while driving by, I saw a tiny swing hanging from a tree where my tire swing once was.

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It was maybe sophomore year of college? Freshman possibly. I got a call from my mom that a friend was driving along Route 9 in Newton and they told her it looked as if the house was gone. That night, I got on the Red line from Quincy and took it all the way to the Newton Center stop on the Green. Those two stops are about as far away from each other as they can get. Rob and I, only dating at the time, walked the large hill I used to take to get to and from Newton Center almost every day. Even in elementary school I just walked the mile or two back and forth all the time, alone.

When we got to Langley Rd, I cut through the yard of our neighbor, as I did every day from school, to my house. Which was gone.

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Suddenly the land felt much smaller without the house there. The trees and bushes were mostly still there. Mostly. The details of the night are foggy now. It was dark when we got there. The only thing I remember was that the smoke tree was still standing. But it wouldn’t be for long. So I sat in front of it and said sorry to my Papu for not being able to protect his house. The only thing I had on me was the token I needed to get back to school. I shoved it into the dirt.

There was nothing I could do. The house was gone. So Rob and I went to leave. On the way, we came across the only thing that was left: this piece of concrete. Seven condos now stand where my house once was, with my T token under their foundations.

For a long time, it was at my parent’s house, in the garden. It bore the house numbers, 415. When my mom sold that house, and I had a house of my own, the piece went into my garden. And when I moved, I LEFT IT.

A couple months ago I remembered with a jolt that it was still in my front garden in Ashland, behind my peonies. Luckily, the new owner thought nothing of it and hadn’t moved it, and then put it on the porch for me to grab. It sat in my trunk for a couple weeks while I decided what to do with it. When I tentatively started adding color, to my relief, it looked just how I wanted. It reminds me of my childhood, and my favorite place in the world, that house, and of a heritage I know very little about but of which I am very proud. It reminds me of dreams – the American one, which allowed my immigrant Papu to become so successful – and my own, to follow his footsteps as an entrepreneur.

I’m so grateful I was able to rescue a piece of the house. Now home is wherever I go.

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