[The Bridgeport, Connecticut train station* through a dirty window]
Okay, I admit it: I only really clean house when company’s coming—and then I go crazy! (Although this Sunday, I did make peace with spiders. Or, rather, I found inner peace when I finally admitted that Spiders Will Always Win! NO Matter What!) So after the (temporary) cobweb removal and the dusting and vacuuming and scrubbing the floor but not yet exhausted, I gave my surroundings a critical, queenly inspection—and noticed late afternoon sunlight shining through a filthy front window. Quelle horreur! So grabbed the Windex and some paper towels and went onto my front porch to spritz.
Such greasy, black grime! It reminded me of childhood visits to my Bridgeport, CT grandmother and how within minutes of playing outside her house I’d look like I’d been rolling around in soot.
When I told my granddaughter about my filthy Bridgeport visits recently, she’d looked at me blankly. “Why was it so dirty outside?” “Because in those days, Bridgeport had big factories with big smokestacks that let out lots of pollution into the air.” Another blank look! (Maybe if I’d used the word “belched” instead of “let out” she would have gotten it. But maybe not.)
Sunday I gave some thought to the source of that grime and had to acknowledge—not for the first time but somehow freshly Real— that much of it comes from Somerville’s car-exhaust-filled air. I had to again acknowledge my home town’s obscene asthma and cancer rates (which, when all the other variables are accounted for, like smoking, can only be explained by Somerville’s proximity to Interstate 93 and its busy, congested streets.). And, yeah, even spent a moment or two contemplating the closed, rusting factories of Bridgeport and what happened to that community and its families when all those belching factories padlocked their gates. (It’s complicated, right?)
My Bridgeport grandmother, Lil, died from lung cancer. (She also smoked like Bridgeport factory.) Her great-great granddaughter, Lilian, is two. Anchored by these two, precious Lils, acknowledging the Bridgeport factory workers and their families and the present-day Somerville families struggling with health issues related to air quality I ask, “What am I called to do?”
* My mother and father met in another/earlier Bridgeport, CT train station in 1941.