The Light Box

From the light box in front of Southgate, you could see Hyde Square to the left, to the right you could follow the trolley tracks all the way to Forest Hills; Boylston Street was straight ahead and Moraine Street was at your back. Sitting on the light box was like being in the middle of EVERYWHERE! ~ Melissa Brady

The light box ruled my life. Of all the places from my teenage years, this is where many adventures began. Whether we ended up at Daisy Field, the Pond, or Parley Vale, the Connelly Library, or Kelly’s Rink, we generally started out at the light box.

Southgate is gone, so is Greasey’s. Ditto Kelly’s Rink. Different people live in our homes. Yet, the light box remains, waiting. It stands as the guardian of our youth, a witness to our hopes and fears, our triumphs and failures. It was our gathering space, the hub of our universe.

Jamaica Plain (JP) back in the 70s and 80s was starting to change. It, like many Boston neighborhoods went through a difficult, turbulent metamorphosis. Busing altered the schools and the communities. Many families moved their kids to Catholic schools while still others left entirely. There was a lot of turbulence and violence, poverty and addiction.

But it was always beautiful, even with urban blight. There was, and remains, an incredible array of natural landscape to serve as our backyards: The Emerald Necklace, which includes Daisy Field and Jamaica Pond. Of course we had the Arboretum and other, smaller, urban oases.We also had rooftops and blacktop. Nothing was missing. We had hopes and dreams. We had each other. We are dangerously close to devolving into a bad 80s song!

I had great friends and outrageous sleepovers (at my house and others). Boyfriends and favorite “private” spots, underage drinking and teen pregnancy, and friends lost to accidents and drugs. My memories are filled with living and longing and a little regret.

Every now and then, I wish I could go back. Not because I want to reclaim my youth or have a last hurrah; no, I’d like to take a trip in the way-back machine just so I can tell my teenage self to slow down, to not be in such a rush to experience all the grown-up things. To enjoy the carefree and uncomplicated few years we get. But, like every other lesson in my life, the lesson to slow down finally arrived, panting and out of breath after a 20 year sprint through poor decisions and questionable choices.

I don’t want to change where I am in my life. Not even a little but I would like to alter the path that got me here, especially now that I have teenagers of my own. I would like to be able to hold up my past as an example rather than a warning. But if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

So fellow light box survivors, join me in a toast: “Here’s to us and those like us, for when we pass the world will never see the likes of us again!”

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