Maybe it was because I was born there, or maybe it was because my paternal family had lived there since the 1920s, or maybe it was because I just understood the natural energy of the city, but Malden will forever be my city of firsts.
I was born in Malden Hospital, on a steamy July day in 1980. I am told that my mother was in labor with me for 36 looooong, grueling hours. I tell myself that I was worth the wait. I looked like my Grandpa Ralphie in my baby pictures, and was celebrated as the first grandchild on my father’s side of the family.
We lived in a house just down the street from the hospital on the second floor of a two-family home on a fairly busy street. It is there that I celebrated my first holiday season, endured my first snowstorm, and became a sister for the first time.
It is also the place I had my first brush with fame.
I was a mere 6 months old when my parents decided they wanted to take me for a sled ride in the frosty New England winter, but didn’t have a sled proper enough to hold an infant. That didn’t stop them! They devised their own Jaime-friendly, baby-friendly sled from a box, a trash bag, and lots and lots of blankets! They bundled me up and strode me down to the park where a local photographer, inspired by their ingenuity and obvious adorableness of their child, asked if he could photograph me for the newspaper. They concurred, and the rest is history!
Although we moved out of Malden in 1983, I was far from done with it as my place of residence.
After college, I secured a job at Brandeis University, and decided that it was time for me to live out on my own. I looked at apartments in local cities, but something drew me back to Malden. I found a little apartment with a roommate literally around the corner, and on the same block, as the house in which Eric and I were born. I knew it was kismet! And I soon moved back to the neighborhood where my life began.
It was all so comforting and familiar. My great aunt still lived in the house she grew up in on Franklin Street, which was just a couple of miles away. I’d visit her, have lunch with her, and take her out for meals and to her doctors appointments whenever I could. She was my familial connection to my childhood, having partially grown up in that house and on that street. My dad grew up in a house further up on Franklin, and that is where I knew my grandparents to live for many years of my life. But my aunt’s house was where our Malden family first began. It was where my great grandfather and great grandmother first lived together, and raised their three daughters, the oldest being my grandmother. It was where family gatherings were held. And it was where I got my first taste of Andes Mints, because my great grandfather (Zada, we called him) always had them and shared them with his great grandchildren. I still love those candies to this day, and always think of him when I eat them.
I didn’t stay long in the apartment, but my family continued living on Franklin Street for quite a few more years.
By 2007, I was in the market for a condo. I narrowed down my search by proximity to Boston and affordability. Malden made the short list.
As chance would have it, I found just what I was looking for, again on the same block as the house in which I was born, and where my first apartment was located. Something kept drawing me back into that neighborhood, and I know now that it was likely my way of completing a full circle that needed to close, but at the time, I just saw it as another great initial opportunity Malden afforded me. It didn’t take me long to sign papers and renovate my first equitable condo and make it my first adult home.
I spent five memorable years in that condo. I had parties of all kinds there: gatherings with friends, dinner parties, holidays, birthdays, Sunday football parties, tree decorating parties… my place was the gathering spot for all of my friends and family. It was home, and I couldn’t have asked for a better place to hang my hat and learn about homeownership than my Maple Street condo. It truly gave me every first I could imagine from renovating a kitchen, to refinancing, to understanding (kind of) escrow, to discovering why you need an inspection before buying a place, to the pitfalls of condo living, and finally, to living alone for the first time.
I knew that my condo was my third and last hurrah in Malden. It had been 30 years in the city of firsts, and it was time to move beyond having firsts.
Whatever comes next, at least I know that Malden prepared me for so much, and gave me so much firsthand knowledge that I can use to find my seconds, thirds and fourths.
Thank you, Malden, for being my city of firsts.