The Harvard home

A couple of summers ago the kids and I went to Cambridge, because my son had decided he wanted to go to Harvard.

My biological father went there. He, my mom and I road tripped to Massachusetts in someone’s Mustang when I was 3 weeks old, and moved into what my mom calls a four-story walkup in the school’s married-student housing. A little more than a year later, my mom packed me up and flew back to California. The marriage was done.

Via the Internet, I made reservations at a bed and breakfast walking distance from the campus. It was called Irving House.

We took the train east and settled into our top-floor room.

The place was heaven. It was a huge old house. The owner bought used books at yard sales to fill the rooms’ bookshelves. Guests were welcome to take a book home, and asked to leave a book if they finished one while there. I spent a whole afternoon scoping the bookshelves of every vacant room (and one I was in only because housekeeping was cleaning the bathroom, and I’m stealth) for books on my wish list.

In early evening our first night I called my mom. It occurred to me that somewhere around the Square was the only place the three of us had ever lived as a family.

She gave me the address. It was on Irving Street! Hey, I was on Irving Street.

The road was named for author Washington Irving, of Sleepy Hollow fame. I figured we were staying in his house. Turns out, no.

The kids were busy with something, so I went alone on up the few short blocks of Irving. I walked the length of it twice. The numbers didn’t go as high as the address Mom gave me. I gave up.

The next day I found it. Because it’s technically part of the campus, it has its own, nonsequential address. It was next door.

I went running over and found the entry in the garden courtyard with the right number on it. The door was old, and mostly glass.

A guy was coming out and I slipped in. I stood at the bottom of the stairway, and stories came rushing back to my memory I’d forgotten my mom had told.

I remembered that she had had to carry the pram up to the apartment, a baby under her arm, and sometimes tottering groceries or laundry. She told me my dad had bought a grand piano and disassembled it to take it up piece by piece in paper bags.

I walked over and put my hand on the rail. It made me cry. This ancient iron stair rail is the one my parents used almost 40 years ago. They gripped it with infant me in the other arm.

I went up the stairs and found the right door.

Now what?

There was music or TV on behind it. Young people were there. I didn’t want anything to do with any young people. I went back to my room.

That night I was looking out the window, and I realized our entire view was the very apartment I had gone looking for — four stories in the air, but straight across.

On the last day of our stay I went over there with my camera. I had fixed my mind to knock on the young people’s door.

Wouldn’t you know? There was no guy leaving the building, and I couldn’t get in.

All I got was a sorry photo through the glass of the bottom of the stair.

click for photos

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3 Responses to “The Harvard home”

  1. My cousin « Stories O’ Mine Says:

    […] kids and I took advantage of the available few days for an impromptu trip to Harvard, where my son intended to […]

  2. The piano in paper bag story « Stories O' Mine Says:

    […] remembered my mom said that when they lived in that fourth-floor walkup at Harvard, he carried a piano up in pieces, using paper […]

  3. The piano in a paper bag story « Stories O' Mine Says:

    […] remembered my mom said that when they lived in that fourth-floor walkup at Harvard, he carried a piano up in pieces, using paper […]

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