Today I’ve been on the porch much of the afternoon and evening. I had lunch with my guy, rested in the hammock, caught up on social media and pondered life, made a call, wrote e-mail, texted with teachers, and wrote progress reports at the table.

Early in the day the next door neighbors were on their porches, too, the father of a day care child upstairs, two young adults downstairs, sitting in silence on their computers, facing the yard and trees.

I can smell the barbecue of the neighbors two houses down behind me, folks I don’t know gathered in the yard of one of the new luxury condos that are creeping one by one into this old school Somerville neighborhood of two and three family houses, surprising and paining me with their wall to wall white and gray, finished basements, master suites, open floor plans, and luxury prices.

When I arrived here we were the new people. We bought the house the year we were married, moved in a month or two after the lease on our old Cambridgeport apartment ended, just as I began my first and last full time job teaching in public school a long and difficult commute away from the city we had chosen for our home.

At that time, we were outsiders. Many of the folks living around us had grown up in the houses. Many were related. Some were old. Over time the older ones died, their children lived in the houses, sometimes their children and grandchildren shared them, too. There are a few of those multi-generation households left. A few of us still live in one unit and rent the other. As far as I know I’m the only one since I’ve been in this neighborhood who’s cared for other people’s children in a family day care. I’ve felt vulnerable, criticized, and appreciated for that fact.

Even so, without the day care, I wouldn’t feel so at home here. Almost every weekday for almost twenty four years the day care kids and caregivers, including me, have walked to and from the park greeting the neighbors, which once upon a time were on their porches and in their yards greeting us, are now only rarely home during the day to say hello. Once upon a time there were many yards decorated for the holidays or full of flowers for us to admire. These days, not many of us plant flowers and very few of us decorate for the holidays.

In the early days there were also young renters who partied late at night, who lived in the more neglected houses, in groups that shifted over time. There were no condos. Most of the homes were owner occupied. Now that balance has shifted. Condos are becoming the norm. The groups of young people renting must have moved to other neighborhoods. The renters are mostly quieter, couples, young families, and single working people sharing space.

Over the years I’ve cared for a few neighborhood children. This year there are three who live in close proximity, two whose families rent, one who bought a single family where another day care family lived many years ago. I now get calls fairly regularly from neighbors looking for care for their children, whereas that used to be rare. When we moved in their were very few young children, mostly older children, teens, and their parents, young adults, and older people. I love caring for neighbors, love that there are young children and their families living here, hope that trend continues.

My neighbor just moved his trash and recycling bins to the curb. For many years he was our alderman. Then he lost to a friend of mine, a more newly arrived resident from a faction of the political scene that is less grounded in Old Somerville. When he first moved into the newly constructed house which was one of the first to be built, on a patch of ground that held a bunch of garages and open space my old neighbors used to play in when they were little, his daughter was a toddler I would watch as she and her dad listened for the ice cream truck that used to drive these streets. She lives in New York and has for several years. I haven’t seen her since she graduated high school, before that when she briefly babysat my kids.

I feel grateful my own kids come home, though my oldest, who also lives in New York, is an infrequent visitor. My younger two are here a lot. We hang out on the porch. We make dinner together. We still love this place, the porch, the house, the neighborhood, the city. In the midst of so much change, in our lives, in the neighborhood, in the city, we’ve persisted in our commitment. My middle child now lives on the other side of town, a renter with his partner, living the young adult hipster life in Somerville I think I missed. Though I was here as a young adult and loved my life, I was already married. We owned a two family house and were thinking about if and how to raise our family here. I didn’t ever feel hip, here or elsewhere. It wasn’t clear then we wanted to raise our children here, but over time we, then I, did.

It’s been hard for me to leave this place. One relationship after the other has ended and I’ve continued in my relationship to this house, to this place. Even through hard times when I was feeling pushed out of Somerville by my connection to the charter school group, when we endured hostility from the elected officials and those who opposed the charter school, I stuck it out here, committed to my home and family and day care life.

Yesterday my daughter let me know that old friends whose children I cared for and were friends of my kids, have sold their two family in another part of Somerville. She grew up here. They raised their kids, made friends, married and divorced here. Now they are selling the house I encouraged them to buy when they’d been renting just outside Davis Square from a woman whose children she had babysat as a teen. Their house is selling for a lot. They’ll start over somewhere else, with money in their pockets and memories of life here.

Everyday I get solicitations from developers and realtors who want my house. Every day I ask myself how much longer I can and should and will keep it. For now, I’m here, on my back porch, surrounded by folks who’ve been here longer and shorter than me, with someone’s boom box, a bird in the tree, and the gorgeous early summer evening light singing to me, stay, stay for awhile. If not forever, be here now.

Advertisements