Mrs. Trisec and I have lived in our neighborhood now 24 years. It is the only home of our marriage thus far.
It's a western suburb of Boston, MA - located about 11 miles due west of the downtown core. It's fairly quiet these days, but at one point in time, Waltham was the epicenter of modern America. A gentleman named Francis Cabot Lowell built a mill here along the Charles River in 1814 (Still standing) and used the water power to invent something called the "Lowell Manufacturing System
". It is considered by most to be the birthplace of the American industrial revolution.
Based on that initial success, dozens of mills and other manufacturing plants sprung up along the river. Some of you may even have a Waltham Watch someplace - it was the first American-made timepiece to challenge the Swiss on equal terms. (That factory building is still standing, too.)
Waltham remained in the forefront of American manufacturing, until like most mill towns, decline set in after WWII. All of the factories are now closed, but most of the buildings still exist, re-purposed to today's needs.
And then there's the people of Waltham.
Twenty-Four years ago when we moved in, we were in one of the "elite" housing areas of this city. The vast apartment complex called "Gardencrest
" is well-placed near downtown Waltham and the transit hub, was locally owned when we moved in, and well maintained and landscaped. There was even a waiting list.
And when we moved in, it was populated with mostly older folks, some retirees....and nearly all of us from the same demographic group.
But fast-forward that quarter century. Our tidy little corner of the city is now run-down. The original owners are all passed on, and a large absentee corporation now owns the property. What was once the premiere neighborhood in the city has now been tagged with the nickname "Ghettocrest". We've been tempted to move every now and again, but we're still here.
The demographic shift has been interesting to watch. We're right across a small stream from the campus of Bentley University, so we've always had a large transient population of students from around the country. But over the years, those older, whiter, residents have passed on or moved out.
My building today is perhaps a microcosm of those shifting times. We were the youngest residents when we got here. We've since aged a bit. Of course we were the newest residents once, but now we're the ones who have been here the longest. None of the folks that were here when we moved in remain; our last, dearest neighbor retired and returned to her native Poland more than a year ago now.
But my neighborhood is alive and well. Look it up - there's a statistical curiosity here in Waltham. We're the 5th largest community of Uganda emigrees in the United States. Two doors down from me is a newly-arrived Ugandan family; We very quickly made connections, and they have two darling children that seem to have taken to me.
Two doors in the other direction are more of their extended family; it makes for an interesting backyard on most sunny days. In between is another new resident; a family from Puerto Rico, and since we share an entryway, we're forced to be good neighbors. There's the older Haitian gentleman in the building. Always calm and reserved, but he's always pleasant, and is actually a minister in the local Haitian church.
And then our oldest neighbor - the ordinary white family that we've been friends with for ages. (Mrs. Trisec and I are Asian and Hispanic, so we're not technically "white" either.)
Given the way my local demographics have shifted - I could have been "that guy". You know the sayings."This neighborhood went to hell when they let 'those people' in."
"I remember when my neighbors were quiet and kept to themselves. The new folks are so noisy."
"Why don't they keep an eye on their kids instead of letting them run around like animals?"
But what would that get me? I've written about my family history - Mrs. TriSec and I could not have met, fallen in love, or gotten married anywhere other than the USA. Her family is from Cuba - they emigrated after the revolution, and she was the first generation born here.
My family is more diverse, and I wouldn't exist outside the USA either. My father is Filipino - my grandfather came here before WWII, and pops was born in NYC. My mother is Sicilian - great grandma came here in 1909 after an earthquake destroyed her home village.
Is there something in some people's DNA that might incline them to deny opportunities to others that are following the same path that their own ancestors (and indeed, themselves) might have taken?
Or is it something more visceral - "I fear them because they don't look like me". I just cannot fathom that mindset.