Lily Barrett

110 Fayerweather Street

“What is remembered is what becomes reality.” - Patricia Hampl, “Memory and Imagination”

The space under one of our bookshelves is crowded with photo albums.  Red, blue, green.  Some are leather-bound, simple and elegant.  Others have prettier patterns, such as those of flowers, rainbows, or stars.  The spine of each is labeled with a sticker: “A,” “B,” “C,” and so on, resulting from my mother’s painstaking efforts to organize our lives according to the alphabet.  Open the red album labeled “B” to the first page.  You will see the photograph of an old-fashioned house painted the color of a summer sky.  If you know its story, perhaps it will open up to you the world where I used to live: one of narrow streets, splinters, and rescued spiders; one of remarkable beauty, laughter, and magic.  I hail from 110 Fayerweather Street, Cambridge.

I spent my early childhood in the tall, three-story house on a long, eccentric street near the Charles River and Harvard Square.  If you enter the house today, I bet you’ll able to see the Kix cereal stuck in the old-fashioned, curlicued heating vent; the circular living room where we had the striped orange-and-gold loveseats, engraved with the claw marks of our two white cats; and the wooden dowels on the windows, half of them removed due to my twin sister Hannah’s aspirations to be a firefighter.  The house, although it now echoes to the voices of strangers, is still ours in essence. 

Rewind about twelve years.  Watch my face melt into innocence, my stature shrink, and my hair lighten and thicken.  The room is the same, only packed with toys. The walls are draped with long sheets of paper to write on with magic markers. A row of Barbies, half-dressed, half-not, hang from the dowels.  Good, sugary smells waft in from the flour-dusted kitchen.  On the kitchen table is a plate, emblazoned with a picture of Big Bird, on which sit three warm, half-eaten chocolate-chip cookies.  Half the batch will go to our neighbors.  Flowers in a vase absorb the sunlight coming in through a window.  A black spider named Charlotte after the elegant arachnid in Charlotte’s Web, my mother’s favorite book, tirelessly spins her silver webs in a plastic tank on the table.  They glint in the sunshine.  Nobody notices that there is no television.

The long wooden hallway between my parents’ room and the room I share with my sister is chock-full of splinters, something I am accustomed to.  I often wake up in the middle of the night to find my parents trying to tweeze the bark out of my foot as I sleep, a sort of pseudo-anesthesia.  At the other end of the hall is a window looking down on the small backyard with its crumbling concrete pavement.  Our uncle built the blue playhouse in the corner, with its white shutters and shingled roof, where we like to sit and lick home-made popsicles.  On the third floor, a fan hums, creating white noise.  In his office, my dad works at his big, bulky computer, making calls for his state senate campaign.

Our parents read to us at night when my mom comes home from work.  After we finish The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Hannah and I convince ourselves and a friend that a magical closet near our parents’ room leads to Disneyland.  We build sailing ships out of cardboard bricks and draw multiple maps showing our path to Disneyland.  Sometimes we plan to navigate a long, winding river.  Other times we fashion wings to fly there.  We always intend to try out our route, but become interested in more important things, like playing dress-up and having tea parties.

People drift in and out of our house, casually, like afternoon shadows.  Charlie, a tall, skinny teenager, lives across the street from us.  To him, every day is his birthday, so whenever we see him, we get to say, “Happy Birthday!”  He sucks on his knuckles, something Hannah and I wonder at and attempt to emulate.  The Murrays - a close-knit family of six - live on the corner.  Their three daughters have all been home-schooled.  The family is a well-known cycling troupe that is busy in weekend parades around the state.  Freddy and Margie, from next door, are seventy years old and are boyfriend and girlfriend.  We bring them chocolate chip cookies once a month.

In Cambridge, we have so little space that we see no reason not to share it with one another.  Through celebrated summer thunderstorms, icy winters, conversations and laughter on cracked concrete, play-dates at Tobin playground, and free boxes of raisins from Fresh Pond Market down the street, we of 110 Fayerweather Street have found a way to live.   

The doorbell rings.  My dog barks.  It is twelve years later. 

Swirling back to the present, I sit, momentarily lost.  Gone is the long wooden hall; gone are the narrow streets.  I sigh, closing the album.  I miss the days of chaotic harmony.  As I absently stroke the creased leather of Photo Album “B,” I can almost touch the years.  I recall the smell of chocolate-chip cookies, hear the happy echoes of my former neighbors, and feel the sunshine move, a giant pinwheel, across the lemon-drop palette of my childhood. 






Copyright 2002-2006 Student Publishing Program (SPP). Poetry and prose 2002-2006 by individual authors. Reprinted with permission. SPP developed and designed by Strong Bat Productions.