My Cartographic Stories: Gothic Street, Northampton, Mass

Last post I wrote about cartographic stories, the stories that irrevocably connect us to places on this planet. So I thought I'd start writing some of mine. Northampton will always feel like home to me. As a tiny city, it left a huge impression on me and a huge hole in my life when I moved to the woods at age nine. Everywhere I go I see resemblances of Northampton in other towns, but other places alway lack that magical essence that makes Northampton my imaginative childhood land. The place where I became the creative girl I still have inside me.

For me, Northampton is a library of cartographic stories. The epicenter of the stories is my childhood house, close to downtown, and they ripple out from there based on the day's adventure. Some of my earliest stories come from walking down Gothic Street, our old street, that ends at the middle of Main Street. Walking that path to downtown was always filled with adventures. There was "Slide Rock" which as a small child seemed like a giant bolder. Scientifically speaking, it is about 2 feet tall. My brother and I would climb up one side and slide down the other.

Northampton/Hadley, 16x20" in encaustic. Painted in 2014 before I moved away.

Northampton/Hadley, 16x20" in encaustic. Painted in 2014 before I moved away.

Down the road a little farther there used to grow a row of hedges. After our slide down the rock, we'd run to the hedges and climb up in them pretending our parents couldn't see us. We'd disappear into the bushes and into our own little adventure. It felt like we had climbed a hundred feet, battled the jungle to get there, and were just swaying in the wind.

The next stop on the journey to Main Street was a stop to say hello to our nail and our rock. Jack the Nail was found on the street one day and given a home stuck in the tar at the base of a telephone pole. Fred the Rock lived wedged up behind the old backlit bank sign attached to the large, stone former-bank. I think it might have still been a bank when I was very small, but it is now an Urban Outfitters.

Once the personified, inanimate objects were paid their respects, we should take a slight turn and run up and down the ramps/drainage channels that sloped alongside the stairs in the alleyway between the old bank and First Church. First Church is built from large, rough-hewn, dark stone in the Gothic style. The stone side facing the alleyway has many great crevices in the rock where we would hide pocket change, just in case. I once retrieved 11 cents and bought 11 cents worth of coconut jellybeans at Ben & Bill's Chocolate Emporium around the corner, because I could.

Those are the stories of the street I grew up on. There are more stories of our house. Even more stories of the city as a whole and all the streets and buildings. More stories for another time.  

My challenge to you: walk down your childhood street in your mind. See what you remember.