It is said that a house is just a house, that it is a family that makes it a home. And I think that is mostly true. But I have to wonder. Because a lot of living goes on in a house over the years. And that couldn’t be more true for this house, the house at 8 Franklin Street.
This quaint 2 family home is located on a quiet little street in a Boston suburb. All the homes on Franklin Street are neat and tidy, with manicured lawns but nothing pretentious about any of them. What stands out is the community on that little street. And I do mean little. There are no more than a dozen homes adorning both sides of the street. But there are dozens of lives intertwined and connected through the years that span the lifetimes of those that lived and still do live there.
In 1957 a young mother and father brought their baby son to their new home at 8 Franklin St. It was November, and their baby was not quite a year old. They occupied the first floor while the new father’s sister and her family of 4 moved upstairs. Their young sons were 10 and 7 and more than able to climb the stairs to the second floor. The 2 families purchased the home together, and embarked on a lifetime together. As a condition of the purchase, the bank required the house to have a “fresh coat of paint” applied to the exterior. Being November, and a 2 story home, all the new mother’s brothers came to help. And so started the legacy of this home, and this neighborhood.
The baby boy soon had a baby brother, and the 2 boys downstairs grew up in the shadow of the 2 boys upstairs. The families spent countless hours together in the yard, building a 2 story deck and investing in one another. Summer evenings were spent barbecuing and socializing, enjoying their yard and their neighbors. Both families were headed by hard-working men; one a plumber, the other a factory worker.
Over the years the neighbors became acquainted with one another. They all looked out for each other’s children, borrowed or loaned the cup of sugar on more than one occasion. If any neighbor was in need of anything, there was another quick to help from shoveling snow in the winter to cutting grass in the summer. Waves hello or welcome back over fences were common. There didn’t need to be signs posted on street poles; neighborhood watch was well under way on Franklin Street.
The sons all grew to be both high school and college graduates. One of the older boys headed off to Viet-Nam and became the hero to the two younger boys downstairs. All 4 boys grew into professional men with a solid understanding of family and what it means. In turn, each of the 4 boys brought their wives and children to see their childhood home, and visit their grand parents. The last to bring home a wife was that nearly one year old baby that moved in way back in 1957. He joyfully brought his children, his parents only grandchildren, to visit and play.
37 years after the 2 families moved into the house, the family upstairs lost their father. The “boys” were now men and living their own lives. But the emptiness was profound. The wife upstairs continued on, sharing birthday celebrations with her downstairs family for the next 20 years. And then quietly she passed on too.
So now the house at 8 Franklin Street will belong to someone else. Papers will be passed tomorrow to finalize the sale. The couple from down stairs, now in their 80s find themselves in unfamiliar territory. They are moving. Moving from the home where they raised their sons, made so many friends, and felt safe. This was home for them. A place to go that is familiar and comfortable.
So many memories are sewn into the walls of that house that it can’t help but be a home. Scratches on the wall where the family dog tried to get someone’s attention. Tools and parts carefully sorted and stored in the basement. The envelopes stuffed with pictures of little boys running around, revealing the changing face of the walls. But the most poignant are the neighbors who have come to help pack, dump and move. The children who grew up in the neighborhood and now reside in their parents homes on Franklin Street came to console and comfort the aged couple now having to uproot their whole lives and move.
I think, from what I’ve seen, that a house can be a home, but it takes a family to love it like a member for it to become the only home for some who lived in it.