We moved to Dorchester in 2006, having spent the prior three years in a small condo in Southie. I loved Southie, wasn’t quite ready to leave. But, we knew we needed more space, and we started to think about “the place our kids could grow up in.”
The first time we saw the house on Sumner St., it was a rainy spring day. We opened the door, and I saw the pooling stairs and the original hardwood floors. Ed saw the bathroom, the kitchen, and the pool of water in the backyard. We looked at about 20 more houses, but I kept on coming back to the house on Sumner St. Finally, the realtor (frustrated with our indecision) asked Ed to take a walk around the neighborhood with her. He called me that evening, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s put an offer on the Sumner St. house.”
I knew about Dorchester, my parents lived here in the 50s & 60s. I grew up hearing stories about rides on the trolley into town, walks up and down Blue Hill Ave, and triple deckers where your grandmother lived downstairs and your aunt lived upstairs. My grandfather worked in Upham’s Corner, and my uncle owned a deli in Field’s Corner. I knew what it meant to be from Boston: the Citgo sign, and Jordan Marsh, and the wicked awesome accent. Ed didn’t quite get it. He’s a New York City boy, he found Boston small, and provincial, and he hated the accent. But, now we were home owners. We needed to make it work.
The house had its challenges (more about that another day), but there was something about our new neighborhood that I loved. We were walking distance from the beach, there was an ice cream shop down the street, and a sledding hill at the end of the road. Our favorite restaurant was just around the corner; the restaurant where we used to bring Xavier when he was an infant. We’d put his car seat on the bar, and he’d sleep like a baby. And yet, we still didn’t feel like our house was quite a home.
Then our friend bought the condo around the corner, and my cousin bought one up the street. We laid down sod in the backyard, and our neighbor helped us put up a new fence. The boys started playing Dorchester youth sports, and we spent Halloween trick or treating up and down the streets. We were getting there, we were starting to find our place.
The next door neighbors had babies, the guy behind us went off to Afghanistan, the girl next door graduated college. And then, the unruly kids on the corner became a problem, and we all worked together to get them out of our neighborhood. This winter, during the hurricane and the blizzard we worked together to keep the street from flooding and keep the sidewalks shoveled. We were starting to fit in.
Two months ago Xavier transfered to the little elementary school down the street. Jalen and I can walk to his school to pick him up, sometimes with my friend’s boston terrier in tow. We can wait outside in the schoolyard with the rest of the parents and stop by the ice cream shop on the way home to get a rasberry-lime rickey. The owner of the restaurant where we used to bring Baby X , offers to pick him up and let him do his homework on the same bar he used to sleep on. And now we recognize people in the aisles of Target, and when we say we live “behind the pear”, people know what we mean.
And then, the most amazing thing happened. Ed bought a Dorchester t-shirt. The New York City boy who stopped wearing his Yankees gear because he was sick of being heckled, saw a t-shirt he loved and it was all about our neighborhood. As far as signs go, this seems like a pretty insignificant one, and yet it signaled a change. Last week, when the marathon bombings impacted our neighborhood in such horrible ways and the pride in our little city began to grow, I looked to my husband and he was right there with us. Wearing his Dorchester t-shirt, stopping at the local restaurant to check in with the regulars, and chatting with strangers in line at the store.
What once was just a house, on a street, in a neighborhood, in the city, has become our home and our community. A community that we are all intensely proud of. A community that defines us. A community that means: loyalty, responsibility, and a certain type of grittiness. One that we wear on our shirts and our hearts.