Passing Through the Same House
I grew up in a yellow house at 133 Tudor Road, in Needham, MA. I visited there last week with Eric Shwartz, who also grew up in that same house. I met Eric for the first time when he picked me up to drive over there, although we had been emailing. I liked this guy even before we met. I mean, he was really into going back to Needham for a tour. His mom still lives in the house.
Eric currently lives on the same street that we used to live on in north Wayland, and my wife met him at our high school recently. (Funny thing about that street: there is a guy who I met in a men’s group a few years ago, who lives in the same yellow house we used to live in, but that’s another story.) After Barb shared that I grew up in Needham, she and Eric quickly figured out that he and I grew up in the exact same house in Needham. Eric got into Brown early decision. So did our son Sammy. I was struck by that funny little coincidence.
Eric drove the long way into Needham, going by our old middle school and then by Broadmeadow, our elementary school. We remembered our principal Mr. Jenkins and his pencil thin mustache, and we shared some of the same teachers as I’m just a few years older than Eric.
Sitting in the kitchen or our old house where I used to watch my mom making chocolate frosting in her brushed steel mixer, waiting so I could lick the bowl, brought back a flood of memories of course. Sitting at the table where we used to eat together as a family, the five of us, mom and dad and my two older brothers, a different table now, but in the same location, the only possible place for the table in this compact kitchen, opened up a big window. And Eric was doing the same thing. Same place, different set of memories.
Sitting at that kitchen table, I shared how I used to walk home from school and first stop across the street to visit with Twinkie, a big basset hound I simply adored. Then I showed Eric a pic of my dogs. I’ll show anybody that is willing to look a photo of my dogs from my phone! “Here is my older black lab Moses.” With that Eric jerked his head back a little, and said, “Moses! That’s a pretty unusual name for a dog. You see this picture here on the refrigerator. That’s a photo of our old family dog, when I lived here. He is long gone. And his name was Moses!”
Eric was definitely into our little tour. He really wanted to go slowly, to meander in each room, and share our separate memories, and, as we came to see, the shared patterns of coincidence. We had different families, different stories, united only by the same walls. His parents bought the house from my mom in 1969. That was our bridge. The upstairs bathroom that he and I both used still had that same old 60’s yellow tile on the floor and walls. I realized it was the same tile as when I had been there. We stood in front of the mirror and brushed our teeth with Crest on the same floor.
Here was his bedroom. Yes, the same room was my brother Steven’s. I remember Steven had a flag from a confederate state on the door, announcing to the world, “Don’t Tread on Me.” Steven still waves that flag from time to time! Eric shared how he used to build forts in the closet and I remember making massive forts from blankets and pillows in those rooms.
The little den on the first floor is where we each spent a lot of time. I remember getting our first color tv back in 1965 and watching the Flintstones in color! And Batman! Wow! I asked Eric what happened to his father, and he told me that one Sunday morning, his dad called him and his little brother into this den and told them he and their mom were splitting up, and his dad left that day. Very traumatic for him.
I then shared with him that in that same room one Sunday morning, our mom and her boyfriend Charlie called me and my two big brothers into that den and sat us down to tell us they were getting married. Boom to the chest! I remember asking my mom if she were ever going to get married again shortly after our father died a couple of years earlier, and she (unwisely) assured me she would never wed again. Betrayal is all I could feel. Very traumatic.
Later we walked around the woods behind the house, remembering, forts and fires, and trees climbed and the adventures of boys.
I don’t really know what all this means, but I pay attention to experiences that bend time a little, that resonate on a deeper level. I wonder if any family that lived there would have similar experiences. Does every dad that passes through that house have a higher chance of leaving? I’m ok to sit with the uncertainty and not have it all figured out, all arranged into “this is what it means”. I don’t know. But I understand that being there with Eric made me feel more alive, more connected, and for that I’m grateful.