Last July I wrote about my mother-in-law, who died at the age of 96. We went back to her house after the funeral, family members came together, and old wounds were healed. This is a sequel to that story.
It goes back to 1991, or maybe back to 1961, which was when I first saw the nondescript house at 27 Maxwell Street in Albany and met my in-laws to be. Their daughter, my first wife, died in 1983, and I met the pianist the next year. A few years later my mother-in-law said, “I hope you marry her.” I asked why, and she replied, “Because I don’t think you’ll find anyone who will be as nice to me.” I guess that’s what’s called having your priorities straight.
I took her advice, and after we got married in 1991 we came up to Jaffrey. One day we were clearing brush (not the sort of thing one associates with a honeymoon), and I stepped in the wrong place and got stung by several bees. Within minutes I was in anaphylactic shock, and only due to the quick action of my new wife, a shot of epinephrine and the attention of Dr. Ross Ramey am I here to tell the story. Ever since then, I have gone to the allergist every two months for desensitization shots. It has become part of my regular routine.
Meanwhile, my in-laws continued to live in the house on Maxwell Street. At a certain point in the history of Albany they must have had a sale on bricks, because everywhere you look, you see these brick houses. They look exactly alike, as if they were all designed and built by the same person on the same day. Never much of a house to begin with, the house on Maxwell Street deteriorated with age, along with its occupants. It sits on a small patch of land, with one small tree between the house and the street. When my widowed mother-in-law died early in 2007, we worried that no one would buy it. The broker knew better, suggested an asking price that seemed much too high, and within a day or two the house was sold. I assumed that would be the last I would hear about the house.
On one of my recent visits to the allergist’s office, a new nurse appeared to administer my shots. We started to chat, and she told me she had recently moved to Boston from Albany, New York. I asked whether she knew Hackett Boulevard. She said she did. I then said, “Maxwell Street runs off Hackett.” “I know Maxwell Street,” she replied.
“That’s amazing,” I said. “It is a very small street.” She explained that she knows the street because a dear friend of hers recently bought a “lovely” house there. That aroused my curiosity, and she told me that the old woman who lived there had died. I knew, immediately, that it was number 27. “That old woman was my mother-in-law.”
“Then you know the house,” she said. “It’s a great house,” she went on, “and I just love the tree out front.”