After the divorce, when I was three, Mom and I moved to a rental house in Botsford, Massachusetts. The town was neatly divided by railroad tracks, as cliché as that sounds. The other side of town was where people had two cars in the garage, maybe a higher-end Ford or Toyota, raised ranches and split-levels in a palette of blues and yellows, with an occasional splatter of red. Our neighborhood had duplexes in gray and beige with skeletal cars posed like lawn sculptures.
Our front door opened directly into the living room that was just big enough for an old couch Mom covered with a bright blue sheet, and a black-and-white TV perched on the shelf she made from two-by-fours and bricks. Up a single file staircase we each had our own room. I felt safe there.
I remember Mom hunched over the kitchen table with various envelopes, pencil, pad, and calculator figuring how to make it to the next check. When we did get a check, on the first and fifteenth, she would divide up the cash into labeled envelopes for food, electric, gas, and my favorite—sundry items. “What’s sundry Mommy?” I asked when she read it aloud to me.
“That’s for you, Sweetpea, when you need an ice cream cone or a slushy at the park.” ...