I moved back to the old neighborhood recently and I have to say I love being back. Really just love it. I’m a city girl all the way through. I love the smells. I love the sounds. I love the flavor of the city. In particular, I love Jamaica Plain. I was born on Walden Street and moved to Sheridan Street when I was just a toddler. At 19, I cried when we moved out of JP. Even though we only moved one neighborhood over to Roslindale. Roslindale is nice but it’s not JP. Not my place. Not even close.
No insult intended to the good people of Roslindale but home is home. It’s hard to describe to non-Bostonians some of the absolute tribalism that the neighborhoods engender in their inhabitants. It’s your identity, your family, your place. I’m a JPer. Period. End of story. I swear I can feel it on a cellular level when I cross the boundary. I stand a little taller. I walk a little looser. I’m home. I think I may even develop some swag. Not a lot. I don’t think my heart could take too much swag. Or the kids. They wouldn’t like it either.
Being back has also been a bit of a disorienting experience. It’s as if I’ve been dropped in the dimension next door to the dimension I’m supposed to inhabit. On the surface, everything looks the same. The street names are right and I recognize the major landmarks but if I look a little deeper the subtle differences start to emerge. A TON more people live here. Seriously, I’ll bet it’s like a million! No really. They’re everywhere and they walk and ride bikes. When I first got back I kept wondering where everyone was going when it finally dawned on me, “Duh, they are going home or to work or to shop.” They’re living their lives. The entirety of JP is thriving. And that’s a good thing.
Most of the buildings are the same. The shapes are familiar but the names are weird. Hi-Lo is Whole Foods. Triple D’s is some fancy restaurant with plants outside. Plants! Tommy John’s is Brendan Behan’s. Greasy’s is gone. (Hey 80’s-era JPers, anyone ever know the real name of Greasy’s?). The Chicken Place is a Cuban restaurant (which, yum!). Even the streets are a little wonky. Sheridan Street’s a one way! Finally. Although watching the stand-offs was pretty entertaining back when we only had 4 reliable TV channels.
The trolley’s are gone (yeah) but so is the Arborway (the station not the road). I miss the elevated trains and the squeal at Dudley. The awful sound system at Kelly’s Rink and the muffled acoustics of the bowling alley. I like progress and I have to say I’m happy with the way that JP is growing up. What used to be clearly defined areas (Hyde Square, the Monument, Rossmore Road, Chestnut Ave, South Street, and so many others) are being woven together to create a new and vibrant whole.
I’m glad that once again I get to contribute a thread to this amazing neighborhood.
Barbara Mulvey-Welsh is a mother, writer and blogger raising kids and a husband in Plymouth. Check out her blog at "Did I Say That Out Loud?" Use caution when reading around the family, there is some strong language.