My First Home: There’s safety, and happiness, in numbers

My First Home Somerville
Wesley Bedrosian for The Boston Globe

123 Pearson Road. More than three decades later I still remember my stepfather standing in the driveway in front of our new home, pointing to the numbers and marveling at their significance.

The 1-2-3 spreadsheet was one of the most famous products sold by Massachusetts-based Lotus Development Corp. And it was Lotus, his new employer, that brought us to Boston and made it possible for my mother and stepfather to own our first home.

When I was 5, my mother and father got divorced, and after that she and I lived in a string of mobile homes and tiny apartments, including a one-bedroom where we shared sleeping quarters. My mother was studying to be a registered nurse and struggling to make ends meet. Years later, after she had gotten remarried and we arrived at 123 Pearson Road, I thought we had struck it rich. At least that was the naïve impression of a 12-year-old.

One of the only single-family properties on this Somerville street of tightly packed three-deckers, our new home had four bedrooms, which to me, seemed extraordinary.

When we first received the keys to the house, I walked around each of the empty bedrooms, counting them over and over again to myself, visually surveying and soaking in their space and imagining my new life in them. One of the bedrooms had even been converted into a small library, with bookshelves lining the wall from floor to ceiling. There were also tidy wooden shutters on the windows in this room, making it seem even more studious and special, all details I relished.

On the first floor there was a formal dining room with gleaming hardwood floors and a built-in china cabinet to store the china we didn’t yet have. At the rear of the nearby kitchen, a mudroom led outdoors and provided a place to toss our boots and wet clothes during the winter. To me, each of these ordinary details were significant, representative of new luxuries.

A train ran behind our house, and lying in bed at night, the rhythm of the rail cars clattering over the tracks became an essential part of drifting off to sleep. Later, when I moved on to quieter places, the silence was almost unsettling.

Our backyard at 123 Pearson Road was as small as any other in Somerville, but we made the most of the space we had. My stepfather put in a goldfish pond, my mother grew wildflowers, and we had a deck built so that we could sit in the sun.

We lived in the shadow of Tufts University; the school’s campus and elegant buildings surrounded and engulfed our neighborhood and home. On the streets next to Pearson Road, Tufts students lived in homes similar to ours that they used as fraternity and party houses.

I would often wander the campus, marveling at what seemed to me a huge divide between working-class Somerville and what I imagined to be the lives of the students who attended this elite institution. Those walks inspired me to dream about where I might go and what I might do with my life. And as I headed back home after each walk, 123 Pearson Road grew smaller and smaller.

Decades have gone by since my family left 123 Pearson Road behind, but I have begun to think about that first home again. As a single mother myself now, struggling to make ends meet and searching for my own first home, 123 Pearson Road seems giant again.

Mia Taylor is a freelance travel and finance journalist who lives in San Diego. Send comments to and a 550-word essay on your first home to Please note: We will not respond to submissions we won’t pursue. Subscribe to our free real estate newsletter — our weekly digest on buying, selling, and design — at