Wareham, Massachusetts. The Gateway to Cape Cod. So the sign said, by the Chamber of Commerce building on Main Street heading towards down town. That is where I grew up.
More specifically, when I was 12 years old I was living with my parents and two sisters at 191 High Street in Wareham, Massachusetts. The family had moved there seven years earlier when my parents bought the house. It was a great place to grow up. A great home.
The house was white clapboard, with dark green shutters. You see a lot of that. In Wareham. Near Cape Cod. Clapboard houses, some with dark green, lots with black shutters. The kind of shutters that hooked to the clapboards, but could be unhooked and closed over the windows if really necessary. Like if a hurricane was coming. We had a bunch of hurricanes when I was growing up there. At least one when I was 12.
There was a white picket fence in front of our house, between the lawn and sidewalk. Really. There was just a little lawn in front of the house, a larger lawn to the left of the dirt and grass driveway. That part of the lawn was in front of a small barn-like building. Also white. With an incredibly wonderful tree that grew these long bean-like things, and was covered with glorious white flowers in the late spring. I had my share of adventures in that barn. My mother has irises and tulips and daffodils growing in a garden up along the fence. Just to our north, past the barn, lived an older couple who were not very friendly. To the south there was a large open yard, almost a field, with some apple trees in front of a house pushed way back from ours, actually with a Main Street address. Main Street ran parallel to High Street, down below, close to the Wareham River. The cover photo of my blog is my painting of the Wareham River. By the way, sometime right around my 12th year on the planet the land next to us was divided, and a large white house with columns that looked really out of place in our neighborhood was built. I went in that house once or twice after it was built, and I remember that the furniture was covered with plastic.
So, you went in the front door of our house and immediately on the right was a staircase to the second floor. On the left was the living room, with three big windows and a couch and a couple of large stuffed chairs,. That was the TV room, and I spent a lot of my life there. That is where I began my lifelong devotion to the Boston Red Sox. Where I saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan (a couple of years later). Where I watched Godzilla, the good one with Raymond Burr, by myself. Where I spent so many late Saturday afternoons watching college football. Oklahoma and Alabama. They were my two most favorite teams. I can’t tell you why.
Anyway, straight by the stairs into a larger room with a bay window on the right, another living room kind of room which just turned into a dining room area. My father turned a little closet into a darkroom when we were kids. He took sports photos for the local paper, and wedding photos for extra money. They were developed in that closet. Then through an open door into the kitchen. That was where the kitchen table was, where we ate almost all of our meals. Past the kitchen was a room called a breezeway – another fabulous place to play and hang out on rainy days – and then a door connecting into a back garage, which my parents used to store old stuff. Back to the front of the house, and upstairs there were three bedrooms. My parents’ on the left, a large room my sisters – one older, one younger – shared, and my room beyond, my only window facing the back yard. When it would snow, and this is certainly the case when I was 12, I would tear up pieces of bread and put them on top of the snow, then sit by my window and watch all the different kinds of birds that would show up. The bathroom, just one, was the last room upstairs.
I remember hearing that my parents paid $29,000 for that house. That was in 1954. The back yard, a piece of it anyway, ran all the way back to the Morse’s house, which sat up on a little hill over Main Street. There was a path, and implicit permission to use it, through our backyard and the Morse’s back yard and down their driveway. A short cut to the A & P across Main Street, and the jewelry store that sold records, where I worked my junior and senior years of high school. And the Wareham River, with its magic, just beyond.
I usually was the one who cut the grass in our yard – my Dad wasn’t a physical kind of guy – and I would sit out there some summer nights when my mother spent hours slowly watering the lawn. Sometimes I would take a small rubber ball and throw it way up on the roof and then catch the rebound. You could make it rebound different distances by how high you threw it. I was in the sixth grade when I was 12 and I could cross High Street onto Morse Manor and in five minutes be at the Intermediate School. Walking past the houses of my friends Butchy and Donna along the way.
It was a long time ago, when I was 12. In Wareham. On High Street. More than 50 years. But it doesn’t seem that far away. And I was oh so lucky to grow up there.