I wrote this for a contest for Zip Code stories that Radio Boston co-sponsors with The Drum Literary Magazine. I read it during the open mic portion of an evening that celebrated the February stories. The winner was my friend, Lisa Rogers. You can hear a snippet of the evening, and a few of my sentences, here.
I moved to Arlington because I wanted a house that was close to the city, in a town I could afford. I didn’t check out the school system or compare MCAS scores to surrounding towns. I didn’t inquire about the town’s tax base, or whether or not they were responsible for plowing sidewalks. When I moved in I was single. I didn’t get the local paper and I didn’t vote in local elections. I only knew my immediate neighbors by sight, and I couldn’t name a single person on the Board of Selectman.
About a year after I bought my house, I met a man. He moved in, we got married and had a baby. I started pushing the baby carriage around the neighborhood. I met other people pushing strollers, walking dogs, working in their gardens.
I subscribed to the local paper, and joined a town email list. I discovered that while I wasn’t paying attention, Arlington had become sought after by people being priced out of Lexington and Cambridge. I volunteered for a “Vote Yes for the Override” campaign. More time passed. I joined the Board of Directors of our pre-school, and then moved on to the PTO at my daughter’s elementary school. I went to School Committee meetings and worked on another override campaign.
After vigorous debate, liquor stores came to town, and restaurants began to serve alcohol. Arlington became a dining destination. We rebuilt several of our elementary schools. My work on the overrides helped make that happen. Recently, several small, boutique shops have moved into town. I worry about whether they’ll be able to make a go of it in our still shaky economy, but if everyone shops locally, they should be okay.
My daughter takes a town bus down Mass Ave to the high school and my husband takes the bus to work. When I have meetings in Boston, I catch a bus around the corner from my house that takes me to Alewife where I can hop on the T. Our Subaru is over a year old and it has less than four thousand miles on it. I applaud the plan to make Mass Ave more bicycle-friendly, and intend to lobby the MBTA to preserve our bus routes.
I’ve lived in Arlington for over twenty years now and I’m fully invested in it. My roots have grown deep. Today, when I meet someone who is thinking about moving to Arlington, I tell them about the bike path, the restaurants, our schools and yes, our MCAS scores. I explain that we don’t have much industry in town so our tax base is limited, but that our population has a very high percentage of people who work in non-profit sectors so we have a lot of heart. I tell them that Arlington is a wonderful place to raise a child and that if they move to town, I guarantee, it will grow on them.