Sunday, October 30, 2011

Homecoming on Atwood Street: Excerpt #3

Homecoming on Atwood Street. Excerpt #3: Follow the Dog Home Book

Just before Thanksgiving, I slipped a note inside the
mail slot at the old family home on Atwood Street. I
explained our family history there and asked if we could
visit and re-create the family photo on the stoop, with
new family additions and new dogs. A few days later, a
nice email landed in my mailbox that said, “Sure.”
Two weeks after the 2011 New Year, Dad and my
stepmother Mary drove up to Massachusetts from
Connecticut. They brought their Corgi Annie with them.
Jean and I brought our dog Beverly along with the girls to
the house on Atwood Street. We shared bagels, blueberry
breakfast cake, coffee, and warm conversation with our
hosts. They couldn’t have been more kind welcoming us
in and sharing details of who lived in the house long after
Dad’s family left during World War II.

Bob Walsh, welcomed back to his childhood home on Atwood Street, 2011

Before leaving, we plunked ourselves down on the
stoop, trying our best to get the positioning of people and
the angle of the shot just right. It wasn’t easy. A blizzard
had dumped almost two feet of snow on New England
the day before, and temperatures that morning were in
the single digits. Despite chattering teeth we tried to look
happy and comfortable.
Just before we took the picture, the sun lifted over the
oak trees lining the street, producing brilliant light, and
bumping the temperature up just a smidge. It was perfect
timing. The natural light, the glow in our hearts, and our
gratitude for being welcomed home produced a warm,
cheerful picture on the coldest of days. It was a magical
way to bring my father back to his old home on Atwood
Street seventy years later.

The Walsh family gathered on the stoop of the house on
Atwood Street in January 2011, seventy years after Bob and
his family lived there. From left: Beverly, Kevin, Bob holding
Annie, Amanda, Jean, and Samantha.

I find it serendipitous that my family ended up in the
same town where my father’s family had earlier roots. Dad
has no memory of it. Not because he’s too old, but because
he was too young. Jean and I had never been to Wellesley
previously and had no preconceived desire to live there.
We backed into the deal simply because Wellesley was the
only town where we could find a rental home that would
allow a dog as big as ours. Now that we’re here, we love it
and hope to stay forever.

When I look at the pictures of my dad sitting on the
stoop of his Atwood Street home seventy years apart, I see
a young boy who grew to become a distinguished, elderly
man. I see the changing seasons and changing fashions.
I see those who have left us and those who have joined
us. But more than anything, I see a constant, a common
ground—dogs linking the generations together like
nothing else can.

Our dogs have given us so much: lessons to learn,
challenges to face, pain to bear, and joy to share. If they
hadn’t come in the order that they did, with the timing
of their arrivals and departures what they were, what’s
become of our lives might be very different. Looking back,
without our need for a rental home that allowed a big
dog, and without Beverly’s curious nose, there would have
been no Wellesley for us, no return to Atwood Street for
Dad, and no story to be told. It’s that simple: we followed
the dog home.

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