Even in winter CHARLENE SMITH’s love for her new life in Cambridge blossoms
I love Cambridge (Massachusetts). I got this apartment off the Internet and scored big time. It is open plan, spacious and light-filled. I got it at a really good rent as the previous tenants broke the lease. It’s in walking distance to the bus stop. I love public transport and often use it.
I am about 500 yards from Fresh Pond, where I walk alone or with my writer friend Judith. I love the sparrows at nesting box 15, which have now migrated for winter. Tiny copper-colored bunnies live beneath it. Nearby is a bench in a grove of cypress with words from Virginia Woolf’s Orlando inscribed on it. One spring morning I walked past a woman sitting cross-legged on the bench singing an aria. Another time I saw a tiny screech owl, its tufted ears all fluffy, peering at me from a large tree. Fresh Pond (the lake-sized Cambridge Reservoir) was filled with migrating ducks and geese of so many types that I bought a bird book and binoculars. Red tailed hawks nest here in spring too.
In the 19th century Fresh Pond saw a vigorous trade in ice. The mansion of one of the ice barons is now an old age home, but this would have been a bad year for the ice barons. It is the second warmest winter in recorded history and the pond has yet to ice over.
One day last year after Thanksgiving and just before Christmas I woke up one morning to find four large turkeys prancing around my garden. Wild turkeys are unimaginably beautiful with multi-colored lustrous wings. I did not go outside because they were almost as tall as me. I imagined they were emigrating because of the annual turkey slaughter that happens here around Thanksgiving – some 34-million turkeys sold for that.
There are no feral cats in my community because coyotes and foxes come into the yards. There are occasionally deer and even squirrels stay above ground.
Another friend lives near Concord where the American Revolutionary War began and I’ve been to that beautiful little town for delectable meals or just to wander its streets and museums. Lexington is equally famed for the ARW and its fantastic farmers market.
In Cambridge I stopped at one of my favourite little restaurants in Huron Village to order pizza and dolmades. A guy behind the counter told me he was Algerian. I was thrilled.
“Oh, you are from my continent, I am South African,” I said.
I asked if he liked Enrico Macias, an Algerian singer. He did. We got chatting. He clambered up a pillar to an old CD player, retrieved three CDs of Algerian music and gave them to me. I will return them with a CD of South African music. I love how music brings people together.
The next morning at 11 my doorbell rang – the Cambridge Police, according to the voice on the speakerphone. I felt guilty – it’s a childhood thing – but went downstairs and found a woman cop holding my number plate.
It must have fallen off, she said. Someone had left it next to the ATM at a bank about 6kms away. The bank had called the police and she had looked up my name and address and returned it to me.
“Do you have a mechanic?” she asked.
Me: “No, I will take it up the road to the Honda dealers.”
She: “Don’t do that, I’ll put it back on. Give me a screwdriver.”
Me: “You can’t do that.”
“You’re a cop…”
“That’s what we’re here for. To serve.”
And with that she knelt on the driveway and started screwing my number plate back on. I kept offering her tea/coffee/something to eat/a book. No thanks, “just a hug” would be fine, she said. I asked her name and she simply said Katy.
After the hug she left.