My home, my home

... While my Mom and Dad were wallpapering

by Betty Rossi

While my Mom and Dad were wallpapering and painting our family home of seventy plus
years, we, my Mom, Dad and I, stayed at my Godmother and Godfather's home at 50
Vine Street in Saugus, Massachusetts. My Uncle Bob was my mother's baby brother. We
stayed with them just long enough for me to stand up in my crib and peel the wall
paper off of my Auntie Jane's upstairs bedroom wall. When my cousin Bobby, who I've
remained very close with my whole life, pulled my hair and I bit him, all parties
felt that it was time for us to go.

Home for me was and will always be Crescent Avenue in Melrose. My memories of
coasting down the hill and crashing into Mrs. Ciappini's lamp post, my Dad burning
leaves in front of the house after we'd jumped into the piles of leaves one hundred
times, climbing Elephant Rock and taking off our shoes and socks and wading in the
freezing cold waterfall. Picking blueberries in the woods so that my Mom could make
blueberry pie. Catching tadpoles in the ponds on Washington Street and putting them
into jars that we had washed out and saved. Carving igloos out of snow piles.
Playing Cowboys and Indians, One, Two, Three Red Light, Simon Says and Hide and Go
Seek. Riding down Clinton Road hill with my brother Skip on the handlebars of my
bike and him falling off and hitting the curb and getting a concussion. Playing
outside until the street lights came on. Playing marbles and Jax and skipping rope,
even Double Dutch with my roller skate key hanging from my neck as I jumped.
Bicycle Annie, Rag Man, Rag Man, the Ice Man, the Knife Grinder, Jimmy the Ice
Cream Man and us buying two-sticked Popsicles and breaking them in half to share
with someone. The Fuller Brush man, who would bring the hair brushes with the brown
handles and black bristles that you didn't want to ever get hit with if you
misbehaved, and the Air Wick refreshener with the cloth wick that my mother would
place on top of the hall bookcase and pull up to "refreshen the Hall".

I was counting the kids in the neighborhood when we were growing up. There were
four McSweeneys, three of us, three St. Claires, two Racines, three Priestleys, the
Boydens, two Grants, two Jones, a couple of Lawhornes, Donnie Moores and his
brother and sister, Richard Jensen, my first crush, his brother and sister, Walter
Ciappini and the Walsh kids. (We girls used to try to wiggle up the street like
Mary Walsh, who used to get off of the Blue and White bus after work and walk up
the street to her home). When we girls played "pretend", we all wanted to be Mary
Walsh, like on the show "Big Bang" today, and they all want to be "Spock". You
always had someone to jump rope with, or share comic books with that you had bought
at "Andys" for two cents, because the covers had been cut half way off.

In picture,Valerie Mason, Betty Rossi, Catherine and Peggy McSweeney

When Nana Gibbons, who lived across the street and was our babysitter, passed away,
she was "waked" at home. She was laid out in their parlor. I think that the dining
room table had been dragged into the living room, or parlor as it was called then,
and she was laid out on that. The shades on the windows were drawn closed and she
laid there for days and days. She was the first "dead person" we neighborhood kids
had seen and we all visited her a dozen or so times each, not so much that we were
sad, but that we were curious. Our parents made us stop going to see her because
they felt our curiosity was bordering on the disrespectful.

When I lived on Wertmann Strasse in Karlsruhe, Germany, I lived with wonderful
German people, spoke German, got my driver's license and bought a Renault R8. We
drove all over Europe, through the Alps, into Switzerland, Austria, Italy and
France. We lived right next to France, so when we weren't looking for castles in
Germany on the weekends we could hop over to France and buy champagne. It was just
like driving from Massachusetts to New Hampshire, France was that close. I went to
Octoberfest in Munich twice and probably sampled fifty different types of beer in
the different beer tents. Everyone would be in great spirits, laughing and singing
and having a grand old time. Looking back, I now know why. After drinking all of
those different types of beer, everyone was probably feeling pretty good.

Betty with snowmen in front of 7 Wertmann Strasse, Karlsruhe, Germany

I came back from Germany and didn't have anywhere to live. My girlfriend Patty's
parents had a building in the North End of Boston with upstairs bedrooms that they
said we could fix into an apartment. They gave us three months free rent and we
built a beautiful kitchen and bathroom, a living room and two bedrooms on their
third floor.  I loved it there. You could walk anywhere. Everything was within arms
reach. I had a meat man named Jerry, who knew exactly how to cut my steaks and
chops and there was fresh bread baking all of the time. The best part of living
there was when I'd start to walk up the stairs to my apartment and I'd say, "Ummm,
Carmela, that smells so good. What are you cooking?", and she'd say, "Come in, come
in, sit down. Eat. Eat", and it was always delicious. Then I'd hit the second floor
and Patty would be cooking, and I'd say, "Ummm, Patty, what are you cooking?" and
she'd say, "Come in. Sit down. Eat. Eat." By the time I reached the third floor, I
wasn't hungry anymore. My two children were born there. Well, I was pregnant there,
but came back home to Melrose to deliver them at the Melrose Wakefield Hospital. I
had a boy and a girl, so I needed three bedrooms. We had to leave the North End and
we moved back to Melrose.

North End of Boston

My brother Skip had a two family home on Vinton Street that we moved in to until we bought
our current home, where I raised my children. All of our holidays, even after all of us
kids were off and married with houses of our own, were spent on Crescent Avenue. It was
our gathering place. Our comfort zone. Our nest. After my Mom passed away after out-living
my Dad by thirty years, the family fragmented. Even though my son still lives and owns the
house, everyone retreated into their own homes and lives. We are all still close in love,
but we never seem to congregate all in the same place.

As I've grown up, I've lived and worked in Karlsruhe, the North End and my current
home, but I hold none so dear as my home on Crescent Avenue.

March 7, 2014

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