The turret in the mammoth white Victorian home on Summit Avenue, Winchester, Massachusetts was where my father lived for a time. He had his office and all his essentials in that room. It was my grandparents’ home, but they were in Florida for a season or two. Everything in that house was large, from the stairs – which i could stretch the length of my body on from railing to wall and have room – to the hallway where my sister, my brother, and I would play red light green light, to the chagrin of my grandmother who showed up from time to time.
I was ten, my sister was 7, and my brother was 5 (I guess) when we came to live with my Dad. It would be a year that would stand out in my memory, more vividly than most years, perhaps due to the fact of it being a setting different from my life before Winchester and my life after Winchester.
It was the year I often wore my bright green shorts, knee-high socks, zips sneakers, and a my hand-me-down green, white, and blue Izod shirt – from my step-sister back in New York. The gangly seventh grader, Matthew, across the street; who frequented our yard as I roller-skated in the driveway or had other adventures, decided to tell me I looked “hot” one day. I thought he was deranged, for more reasons than him finding my outfit becoming!
My first day of Fourth grade at Lincoln Elementary School, which occurred in the middle of the school year, was embarrassing. I wore my grayish corduroy Oshkosh jumper and it was a gym day. I was one who always tried to follow the rules and therefore proceeded to lay on the floor in gym as the entire class was guided in our exercises. No sooner did we start stretching our legs out and kicking them up in the air, then the boys in the class cocked their heads, looking back, to see if they could catch a glimpse of my underwear; I decided to keep my legs down, even if the gym teacher decided to scold me, it was the lesser of two evils (thankfully, I don’t remember the gym teacher saying anything – I never liked gym class though in my entire schooling life, and that experience did not help.)
Mrs. Walters was like a princess to me; a very kind and beautiful teacher with hair the color and length of Crystal Gayle. I was often lost in my lessons, having trouble understanding where we were and what to do and would ask my classmates next to me what the directions actually meant, and they would get frustrated with me. ( I still feel lost in group settings to this day and find it very stressful and uncomfortable, my mind wandering and getting distracted by so many thoughts).
Being that I was added into the class during the second half of the year, I never really made any strong attachments to the other kids. I spent many and most recesses alone, swinging on the bars with my voice inside my head. That was the year I conjured up my imaginary pet dog who would run all the way from our house on Summit Avenue, down the winding hill and roads to the Lincoln School playground. He would comfort me and keep me company and return home promptly as the recess bell rang. I would longingly watch him scamper away back up the trail that I would be walking on once school let out for the day. I was lonely.
During that time in Winchester, I suppose my Dad was suing for physical custody of my siblings and I. So, our time in the town was just for a season. Spring was beautiful there and Brigham\’s ice cream parlor brightened the day for us with their big hot fudge Sundays. I suppose it was that summer that we left for 10 Hampshire Lane, in New Hampshire – back to the very house I had lived in from the age of 1 until 7. Only this time with one less person – my Mom.
I can’t place a finger on why I have such vivid memories of Winchester, when so much of my childhood is a blur or invisible to my cognitive mind. There is a quiet, melancholy feeling when I think of it. Someday I will return for a peek and I’m certain it will be like stepping in an old river with new water flowing through it. It is almost spring here, as it is almost spring in that little town on the East Coast. At least I won’t forget that; the seasons never change.