They say you can’t go home again, but you can try.
This past Saturday, T and I took a trip to visit some old friends and an old town.
When T and I left Chicago in 1989, the first place we went was Schenectady, New York, a General Electric company town, where we took a job teaching at Union College. Of course, the first thing we needed to do was to look for a place to live, so we did what people did in 1989–we used the newspaper. We found an upper flat on Hattie Street, just off campus:
This was where we lived when our second child was born, just up the hill at Ellis Hospital. It was huge compared to our Chicago apartment, and convenient to work. It was painted yellow with brown trim in those days, and 30 years have put some wear on the place. As with a lot of places in Schenectady, the upper flat had steam radiator heating.
But it was pretty cold in the winter, and when we got an assignment to supervise a 10-week “Term in Washington” (DC) for Union, we gave notice and looked for a smaller, cheaper place. We put everything in storage while we were in DC, and put a deposit down on an apartment.
That was a 2-bedroom upper in Sheriden Village, an apartment complex. It wasn’t bad, except that the downstairs neighbors smoked. A lot. We bought filters and wore them out in days; finally, when we realized T was pregnant with our third child, we broke the lease and found the first available place, on Glenwood Blvd, near Union St:
We moved in January, and Child #3 was born in July at Albany Med. Glenwood, or as we came to call it, Lake Glenwood, was a pleasant residential street, and our upper flat (notice a pattern?) was huge. Three substantial bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, and a huge kitchen. It was here that I learned Black Pipe plumbing, when the landlord gave us a washing machine, which we put in the bathroom, and we bought a gas dryer at Lechmere. I hooked that up in the Kitchen, next to the stove, which also used gas.
We called the street in front “Lake Glenwood” because the drains were useless…which meant that when it rained, or when the snow melted, we could get 2-3′ or so of water filling the road (and basements) along the street. Cars would stall trying to make a run through.
This was a nice place, and we enjoyed living there for a few years. The owner was rehabbing the first floor, which made it noisy from time to time, but it was so spacious! Our income was pretty low, then, because T had been denied tenure at Union, and I was unemployed, not having finished my dissertation, so we tried to start up a statistical consulting company, but after we made a proposal to Roger Hull, then president of Union College, Hull took our ideas and had someone else execute them, and we ended up in the red.
At that point, I felt desperate, so I made a list of skills and posted them on a BBS in the area, asking for almost any kind of job. The next day, I got a call from Power Technologies, Inc., a company that made software for the electric power industry. I started at a rather low wage, but was able to double that in about a year, and then we decided to buy a house:
This house, on Rankin Avenue. It had two bathrooms! Two upstairs bedrooms, a tiny office space, nice living and dining rooms, and two more bedrooms downstairs. The kitchen was a little tight, but it also had a multi-season room in back. And a artesian stream that ran under the basement slab. It was a nice place, and we had good neighbors, and it was while we lived here that our fourth and final child was born, just a month or so before I was hired by a software company in Wisconsin. We left with regret, but…
I look now at the steps on the Rankin Avenue house. I spent a week one summer sanding the steps and floor of the front porch to free them of red paint so that I could paint them green, in coordination with the rest of the house. We put on a new roof, and a skylight, and we had the floors refinished, and I remember pouring concrete to hold that railing on the stairs in place, and we had a swing on the front porch and.
No, you can’t go home again.