My First Home: Peaches, potatoes, and a pocketful of memories

My First Home
. —Rebecca Bradley for The Boston Globe

My first home was in Manchester, N.H. I moved there as a starry-eyed bride of 19 in 1961.

My husband was eight years older than I was, and working, so we could afford to buy a house. It cost $15,900. The mortgage payment was $125 per month, exactly what Lenny was making per week.

We were married in early March. The first dinner I prepared was roasted chicken, asparagus, and potatoes. We ate in the kitchen on a bridge table that was a wedding present. My husband was amazed at the meal because he didn’t know I knew how to cook.

My memories of living there stay with me even now, decades later. Some are painful to recall.

I vividly remember when President Kennedy was killed and the days that followed. I know when and where I was when I heard the news. I could hear church bells ringing. It was nonstop crying for four days.

Two of our children were born when we lived there. While I was pregnant with the first, my husband came home one day, ran up the stairs, and went to the linen closet to check out the medicine that I was taking to prevent morning sickness. He had heard a story about the dangers of thalidomide, and wanted to see if I was taking it. I wasn’t. Thank goodness.

I remember the first time our son, David, slept through the night. I woke up, realized that he had slept through, laid back down, and then was up like a shot, thinking that he died from SIDS. I practically went through the wall.

We were having children about the same time as our friends, so we all helped one another out with child care. Times were very different then; only one friend worked outside the home after she had children.

We knew all of our neighbors. Although I am long gone from Manchester, and my husband is also long gone (he died in 1973), I am still good friends with one of them.

Other memories revolve around our kitchen.

I remember making freshly ground horseradish with beets for Passover. I got it from the fridge, opened the jar, and took a sniff. It didn’t smell strong enough, so I took a closer sniff. I think my sinus cavity is still clear from that last sniff.

One summer, a friend and I made several varieties of jam and jelly. We were peeling peaches that kept slipping out of our hands. We laughed at our ineptness. That friend has since died. It is a sweet memory, literally and figuratively.

Another sweet memory is the day I came home and saw my dad sitting on our front steps. He lived in Western Massachusetts, but had been in Boston, so he took a detour north to see us.

These memories are from decades ago, and there are so many more. Some I haven’t thought of in years, but writing this essay made me smile. Most of our lives are made up of “small’’ memories. It’s been nice to reminisce. I wrote this at the Jewish new year, a good time to reflect.

Belle Rita Novak is a farmers’ market manager in Springfield. Send comments to and a 550-word essay on your first home to Please note: We do not respond to submissions we won’t pursue. Subscribe to our newsletter at