Settling into the neighborhood

Casandra Hotaling Hahn photo

Origianlly published in the Rutland County Express on Sept. 29, 2011.

I’ve been living in my new apartment in the Kendall-Lincoln-North Main Street area for around two months now, but only recently am I starting to settle in. (That might have to do in part with the fact that my post-Irene schedule has reduced my home life to sleeping and two-minute water-conserving showers.)

On the inside, my place is coming together slowly. Last week, saw the arrival of a nice set of coffee/end tables (thanks to Aunt Char and Uncle Bill for the generous contribution). And even more recently, I am happy to report that I am no longer sleeping on a mattress on the floor.

Elsewhere, my war with the spiders that have been moving inward as the weather cools is now at a fever pitch. The body count on their side is steadily increasing, though, unfortunately, so too is their size.

An uneasy truce was reached last week, however, when one of their webs near the radiator managed to snare a nasty looking centipede (or was it a millipede? I didn’t count) long enough for me to finish the job.

Meanwhile, my porch is now home for my new roommate, a particularly tenacious gray squirrel, who seems to think that the ceiling above my porch will make for ideal winter lodging.

His name is Darryld (my niece named him), and as far, as squirrels go, he’s kind of a layabout.

Case in point, the other day when I was working from home, I noticed Darryld’s tail hanging down through an opening in the ceiling. Here it is one o’clock in the afternoon — prime nut-collecting hours, I would assume — and this guy is lounging around like it’s a bank holiday.

Wildlife not withstanding, my apartment is great. The neighborhood it sits in has always been one of my favorites in the city.

Now, that I have the time to take a breath, I’ve begun to feel at home here. I’ve been going for runs here lately — refining a route that is both challenging and lined with quick escape routes for lazier days.

While the neighborhood is familiar to me, being physically on the streets brings a focus that riding in a car does not afford. Streets I have driven all my life now look fresh and interesting.

Nichols Street, for example, has a stretch of houses that have become some of my favorite in the city.

Likewise, Seabury Street presents a fascinating, expansive view of the Rutland Intermediate and Middle School campus.

The building, which looks so photo-ready two-dimensional from its Library Avenue front, sprawls out in layers of additions and spills onto the vast green playing fields behind it.

While many of the houses in this neighborhood have long since been converted to multi-family homes — some carved up and awkwardly expanded upon beyond recognition — many of them maintain a certain air of grandeur.

Even some of the ones that have fallen into disrepair still manage to incite your imagination, providing fleeting glimpses of their past beauty as you pass by.

The streets are lined with tall, shady trees. The yards are grassy. The sidewalks (those that a passable) are wide. There’s a deep sense of nostalgia here. You can feel the history as you walk along Lincoln Avenue, down Roberts, over Church Street to North and on to Grove.

It’s not the type of history made for books. No wars were fought here. Nor treaties signed. If anyone of note was born or died I this neighborhood, I don’t know of it.

It’s the ordinary history of a community, unfolding over time. The unremarkable quotidian lives of one generation after the next, inhabiting the same, space separated by time.

I didn’t grow up here. And I didn’t grow up then. But my mother did. This neighborhood was her home. First, on Elm Street, then, Kendall, and finally, Pearl.

When I was young, I remember the narrations my mother would give on our way to visit my grandfather on Pearl Street. Every house, every tree had a story.

I heard about Percy Woods’ and Kehoe’s. About fishing in Tenney Brook and what that old marble wall by the Middle School was.

The stories got richer when she would take me on walks through the neighborhood, rattling off with perfect clarity which family lived where. She’d show me the grassy lot on the corner of Kendall and Lincoln where she used to play stickball with her friends. Or she’d talk about her pet baby skunk, Chanel No. 5, who she kept until her mother made her give it up. And of Sammy, the crow that the neighborhood kids briefly adopted and (somewhat dubiously) trained.

It was a routine, a tradition. And despite her repetition of these stories, I never grew tired of them. I took them in gratefully. Now, when I walk these streets or when I go out for my (semi-) daily run, I note these landmarks, giving them a brief acknowledgement. I sense these memories, but they are not mine. They are secondhand. But I have heard them. And they oddly they resonate.

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