Josna Rege

83. A Clear, Cold New England Day

In 1970s, Immigration, Stories, United States on November 14, 2010 at 11:12 am

Friday, February 6th, 1970 was a clear, cold New England day, typical of the time of year, I would later learn. My mother, my ten year-old sister Sally, and I arrived at Logan Airport and took a taxi to Brookline, where my father, who had been in America since the previous September, had moved from his Cambridge bachelor pad and rented a two-bedroom apartment. The schools were known to be good in Brookline, and the apartment, on Longwood Avenue near Coolidge Corner, was almost immediately opposite the Lawrence School, where Sally would be entering the fifth grade more than halfway through the year.

But on that February afternoon all I knew was that it was extremely cold and yet the sky was unbelievably clear. In my experience, clear sunny skies were associated with heat: blue skies and frigid temperatures did not compute (as the robot would say in Lost in Space, my favorite American television show during our long eighteen-month sojourn in England, waiting for our Green Cards). Only later would I learn that it was precisely when there was no cloud cover that it was the coldest. Until that day, when reading the phrase, “not a cloud in the sky,” I had always assumed that it was an exaggeration; but here I was witnessing for the first time a wide open sky with not a wisp of cloud in it. (Later, in 1973, studying in England for a year, I would find the close grey skies suffocating and long to return to America’s Big Sky, suddenly symbolic of an American openness that I had not appreciated before.)

We had a beautiful view of the Boston skyline from the taxi, and the cabbie cheerfully stepped into the role of a tour guide and host, welcoming immigrants to a new country. I remember him pointing with pride to the Prudential Tower; did he mention Fenway Park, too? I think so, but can’t be sure. What did we know of baseball? Strangely enough, I can’t remember whether or not my father was with us on that cab ride, even though he must have been; we had been separated from him for a year and a half. Perhaps he was sitting uncharacteristically quietly up front with the loquacious driver, waiting to show us the apartment he had picked out for us and hoping that we would approve of it.

We did approve, though we didn’t have much time to look around and get our bearings. Mum would have to start looking for work on the Monday, and Sally and I would have to venture into our respective new schools. The apartment was nearly empty when we arrived, but Dad soon built elegant and serviceable new furniture for it, as he had done every time we moved to a new place. This was to be our family’s last big move. Today, more than forty years later, we are still using some of the furniture that Dad made for our first home in America.

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  1. JoJO, the mention of Brookline, Longwood Avenue, and especially the Lawrence School, where I also went, stirred up so much. And, as always, I wonder at how clear and detailed your memory is. Lovely posting! love, s

  2. I didn’t know that you had gone to the Lawrence School, Sally, although I realize now that of course it makes sense that you did. So many interconnections in our lives.
    Glad you liked it, and hope it stirred up some good memories along with the sludge at the bottom of the Muddy River.
    Love, J xo

  3. i did not know that your dad made the furniture jo. i would love to hear which were some of the things you still have from that first appartment. jackyx

    • He made so many things, Jacky: the dining room table, the living room couch, cube seats, trolleys on wheels, a low coffee table, a desk-and bookcase unit—all out of this beautiful golden parquet-like wood. Mum and Dad still have the coffee table and one of the trolleys and Andrew and I have the other, which we use for our TV. Sally and I have the cube-shaped seats he made,which Andrew further modified to double as storage bins for LPs; the other pieces are either gone or have been partially disassembled for other uses. We are still using part of the desk-and-bookshelf unit as a bookcase, and Andrew converted the frame Dad made for the living room couch into a desk and computer table for Nikhil. I wish we still had the dining-room table, which was a brilliant design: Dad covered a hollow door with white formica, edged it with aluminium, and screwed on black wrought-iron legs.

  4. Your father sounds like an exceptional guy. Today, you can find blogs aplenty with DIY projects like the dining room table you describe. Probably these are derivative of original designs like your father’s!

    • He is, Mary. And yes, these days I can’t embark on the simplest project without doing a Google search first. He just conceived of his designs with his bare mind and executed them beautifully.

  5. I also remember moving to Boston from NYC to enter Lawrence School. My first memory of Boston was also the Prudential Tower – our father pointed it out to us as we entered the city via the Mass Pike. We wondered where the rest of the city was…I am thinking I must have seen the furniture and want to look again with new eyes.

    • There’s so much we don’t see until we look back later. I’m embarrassed to confess that I didn’t realize until recently that your family were also relative newcomers to Boston. We had this impression that everyone else was settled, owned their own house outright, knew the ropes, and had their own closed circle of friends. But ours was by no means the only family who had been recently transplanted in Brookline.

  6. Fab blog, cousin and you were all so brave – don’t know how you did it and your recall is just amazing, keep ’em coming lots of love xxxxx

    • Thank you for cheering me–and us–on, dearest cussin. You might like my latest, “Sail on Silver Girl,” , which mentions you and Auntie Angy, and tells another story from the very earliest days after our arrival in the States. x J

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