Thursday, December 8, 2011

Open Letter to Cambridge, MA

Mural in Central Square.

Dear Cambridge,

My husband and I have enjoyed living in your city for 10 years. My son took a little while (8 years) to come around, but he now likes it, too. My daughter was born here, so this is home to her.

We want to thank you for your efforts to keep us here when we thought we couldn’t afford it. The last few years, we’ve been looking for a bigger place. We thought a multi-family dwelling was the solution, but it turns out to have snags we hadn’t realized.

Last summer, we toyed with moving in or near Salem. We decided to give in one more year. To squeeze in a 2 bedroom condo with a porch, but no property. (Why are there nearly no 3-bedroom places in Cambridge? WHY?)

Our needs have been modest: 300-400 more square feet, 3 bedrooms, 1 ½ baths, a little property, and a driveway.

An extra bedroom? A full bath instead of a half? Garage? All of that would be beyond our wildest dreams in Cambridge.

Two weeks ago, we saw a house in our price range. On a main road and not beautiful from the outside, but still… Hopeful, we entered its halls to discover an inside dated from the middle of the last century. After we climbed the stairs, we were woeful when we eyed the ancient stove in the dining room. Set diagonally. The crumbling walls and ceilings all needed replacing. Our heart disintegrated like the plumbing within the walls.

We decided to look in Arlington, MA (one town over) the next day.

There were actually HOUSES in our price range. Not just 1, but also several. And these houses were by big parks and preserves. Some had 4 bedrooms. Some had big yards. Some were updated. Some were near town and transportation. 1 was in a ritzy part of town near golf courses.

It’s not Cambridge.

But we can see us making a life there.

With your big changes in the school system, this might be the right time to go.

We want to thank you for all that you stand for and all you try to do. Your museums are wonderful. Harvard and MIT are involved in our schools. School choice and good funding means stronger schools than in a typical city (though poverty poses many challenges, especially in the classroom). You have a liberal recycling program. I like that when I bring my compost to the recycling center, I can also swap books. You have good public transportation. (And you’re next door to Boston!) I can keep my kids entertained all summer between the libraries and summer park programs. Best of all, you don’t just accept different cultures, families, and religions, but embrace them. Sometimes you fall short of what you’re trying to achieve, but you try.

Famous authors and scientists walk around this town, along with people whose families have lived here for generations, along with immigrant families and students from all over the world.

While Arlington will offer some of this, it won’t offer all of it. But it will probably offer things I can’t imagine, and I will sing their praises once I know them.

Moving a few miles away won’t change who we are. We lived in Cambridge, which shared many of our values. But it doesn’t mean Arlington won’t. When I look at city data, it’s not all that different. Why does it feel a world away?

We’ll be here all the time, anyway. My kids will still keep their after school lessons and friends. My college is here. My husband still works here.

Besides, the coveted parking permit is still good for another year.


Theresa Milstein xo

Our Cambridge place (for now).


  1. It sounds like a positive move for you and your family.
    Wishing you every luck in your new environment, it's hard to say goodbye to a place that's been good for you:)

  2. I am excited for you Theresa--it sounds like a win-win move.

  3. I've always dreamt of living in Cambridge (or in a genuine college town), but that sounds like a wonderful move for your family. Good luck to you!

  4. Sounds like the opening of a new chapter, full of promise and potential (with all the challenges that come with it).

    Good luck "moving" on with your story! : j

  5. Cambridge will always be in your heart. It is those memories and feelings that stay with us forever. I wish you and your family all the best in creating new memories as you start a new chapter of your life.

  6. Awwww Arlington is very very lucky to be having you and your family to move there! Cambridge should weep at losing you all!

    But seriously! How exciting and hope the move will go smoothly!! Yay! Take care

  7. Hope the move goes well, ten years is a long time, and its great you found a house you like:) Take care and best of luck on your adventure x

  8. It is always hard to move to a new place even if it is only the next town over. But as you say, Arlington will reveal its lovliness and warmth to you once you settle in and start to experience it. Good luck with the move. I hope it all goes smoothly for you.

    A grand new and exciting adventure for you and your family!!!

  9. Look at all those lovely trees! How jealous am I. Well, no place you lvie will ever have everything you want. It's always a compromise. But you sound like you can make the best of things, no matter where you are.

  10. I'm jealous that you live in such a wonderful place. Famous authors, scientists, and educated people...Harvard and M.I.T. supporting your local schools. Wow...just wow. You may not feel successful Theresa but you are. You live a wonderful life just having access to that kind of community. I live in a religious community where most do not get a college degree. They think they don't need it, and the conversations out here mostly revolve around creationism (because many of the people believe the world is 7000 years old). I am envious and just want you to know that despite the lack of suitable housing, you live in a great place. I have no doubt that the perfect home shall present itself.

  11. oh. ((hugs)) Moving is hard, but at least you're close to "home"! And it's not forever. You'll make it back. Hang in there~

  12. It sounds like you've found the PERFECT solution for your family. It will be wonderful for you to have a home of your own--one that fits your needs. And it's awesome that it's close enough to Cambridge to make things still work. Yay! :-)

  13. @ Brigid, thank you. I'm sad, but I'm looking forward to having a 'real house' like so many other people.

    @ Slamdunk, I think it will be too. But it will be hard for my kids to say goodbye to their friends. Making new friends is hard at first. Or at least the idea of it.

    @ Emy, it certainly is a college town. They make me feel old!

    @ Alesa, thank you. I'm sure I'll be reporting on my story as it unfolds.

    @ Anne, thanks. Since we're just moving to the next town, I hope it will be less traumatic.

    @ Old Kitty, I think/hope Arlington will be a good fit for us. I've already shed a few tears over the idea of leaving Cambridge.

    @ Niamh, thanks. We're finding houses. Now we need to find the right one. I hope we do soon.

    @ Ann, if you can juggle Ireland and America, I can juggle Arlington and Cambridge! Thank you.

    @ Talli, that's my old place! I think everyone thinks I've bought a house in Arlington. We almost did. But we decided to take our time and find one in better shape.

    @ Michael, I can't imagine living in a place like that. There are mindsets we don't agree with everywhere. There's some of that too. But not creationism. New England does have a lot of remnants of Puritan ideals, but we feel it less in Cambridge.

  14. Hugs, Theresa. All the best on your move. ♥♥♥

  15. For a while now, Arlington has been the town that people move to when they're priced out of Cambridge and Lexington. We don't have Lexington's money, and we're not quite as diverse as Cambridge, but we're getting there. It'll feel like home in no time. And in a couple of years your son will be walking to Mass Ave and hopping on a bus to go to Cambridge all by himself. At that point you might wish you'd moved farther away!

  16. Having moved only once in my life, I think moving is especially difficult. It's an exciting and sad time all at once. At elast you aren't moving too far away

  17. Cambridge sounds like an ideal city. I'm sure you will miss it, but a house that is big enough is important. Glad you found a whole house to yourselves!

  18. I really like this. It's interesting to think of a setting as a person. Many towns and cities, especially ones we've lived in for a while, start to have their own charm and personality. I wish you the best as you move!

  19. My cousins live in the Boston area and I've heard good things about Arlington. Sounds like it'll be a good move. I know what you mean about needing just a little more space.

  20. Good luck in your new home, Theresa. There's an old custom about bringing a glowing coal from your old hearth to your new one to start the first fire in the new home. It's symbolic of bringing the warmth and love with you from one place to the next.

  21. We just moved from a 2 bedroom/1 bath condo right across the street from the beach to a 3 bedroom/1.5 bath house a bit more inland. It was hard to move from the beach, but I love it here so much because we have more space, a garage, a backyard and a porch. Space is important.

  22. What a wonderful place you live in, and I bet the one you move to will be just as wonderful :-)

    Best of luck house hunting!

  23. Aw, I love Cambridge, even though it's terribly expensive. But Arlington sounds AMAZING! Good luck!

  24. Hi Theresa .. how fantastic - just great news .. in time for Christmas and a New Year .. space is important I agree. The commute time can be spent mulling things over - I had a month of having to drive back here to see Mum and I relished every moment - because I could get into my own world for a while.

    I'm so pleased for you .. good luck with all the preparations etc .. cheers Hilary

  25. @ LTM, I know you recently moved and your daughter had a good adjustment. That gives me hope!

    @ Shannon, it will definitely be less disruptive than if we moved further away. Now they can keep in touch with activities and friends, while finding new activities and friends in our new place.

    @ Len, thank you. I know your move was a much bigger one than mine!

    @ Judy, thanks for all your help with questions. I'm sure I'll have more! Have you ever checked out the city data site? I was glad to see certain stats were similar between Cambridge and Arlington. Of all the towns around Cambridge, Arlington makes the most sense for us.

    @ Lynda, you're right. I moved once as a child and many times as an adult. The hardest ones were my mid-year move when I was 9 and move out of state as a grown up. I think it will be harder for my kids than for my husband and me. But it's always hard to find the groove of a new place.

    @ Belle, I think the space is important, especially because we promised our daughter a dog next year.

    @ Shelley, I think of the places we live as having personalities. Some places are fun for a visit, but spend too much time... just like people. Our homes should feel like best friends, I think.

  26. Nice tribute to Cambridge. :)
    I drove through Arlington while I was home. Not bad at all. ;)

  27. My wife and I ran into a similar situation 15 years ago when we first got married and merged our families into one. In the city where we wanted to find something we couldn't find anything reasonable with 4 bedrooms, which is what we needed at the time.

    We looked in the next town over, which was not as desirable, and found a gated community of brand new homes with what we needed for a far cheaper price.

    Since moving here the city has cleaned up, become a much better place to live, and property values went way up. We got what we needed and the choice turned out to be a good one.

    Things have a tendency of working out most of the time.

    Linda Hoye on adoption and writing memoir at
    Wrote By Rote

  28. All the best with your move, Theresa! Do up the old house, it'll be fun!

  29. So excited for you Theresa! Be happy!

  30. @ Natalie, once a family grows, space becomes an issue. When we moved into the place we're in now, it wasn't ideal but we thought we'd move way before now!

    @ Fiona, that's a sweet tradition. I don't have any coal lying around since we have a gas grill. Our house is so old, it still has the spot where the coal was placed to warm the house.

    @ The Golden Eagle, thanks. We looked at 5 open houses yesterday, but haven't found the perfect place yet.

    @ Missed Periods, I"m sure it was hard to move away from the beach. We just looked at a place with a lake view yesterday. There's something about seeing the water...

    @ Sarah, thank you. I appreciate it.

    @ Meredith, it has been fun to live here. Good thing it will be only a town away.

    @ Hilary, thanks. We haven't found the perfect place yet, so we'll still be here for at least a couple of more months, which is too bad because the place is drafty in the winter. Old windows!

    @ LR, Arlington is nice. It feels much more suburban than Cambridge, which is funny because it's so close to Boston. In New York, it takes longer to reach a place that feels suburban outside of Manhattan.

    @ Arlee, thanks for sharing your experience. In retrospect, this will be the right move for us. At first I was upset to leave, but now I'm getting used to the idea.

    @ Romance Reader, thanks for the advice!

    @ Nas, thank you!

  31. Hi Theresa!
    I really enjoyed this. It sounds like you've put a ton of thought into any move. Setting roots is very important, but it's always difficult to uproot them. The area sounds fab! I'm sure it will all work out.

    All the best to you!

  32. A move to a new place can be exciting, and it sounds like you're not going too far away anyway. You may find a lot of benefits being outside a college town (besides 2 bathrooms ;).

    Good luck with your move.

  33. I could have written this about the DC area! Sounds like Cambridge has a lot to offer. It's always hard to move, but oh . . . parks. Space for kids to play! Best of luck with your move!

  34. Best wishes to you and your family! I predict lots of packing and boxes in your future. : )

  35. Is the place you're moving the one I saw on FB? If so, it looks great! And like you said, the new town will offer things that Cambridge doesn't. On to new stuff! How exciting. If I were there, I'd bring a horse for you and one for me to ride at the park. *smiling*

  36. It sounds like a wonderful place to move to, Theresa. :D

  37. Just the thought of packing up and moving terrifies me. I admire anyone who can do it. Here's to a wonderful new location and a wonderful new house.

  38. Sounds like you will have the advantages of many things with this move. Wishing you all the best! :)

  39. Good luck on the house/condo search! You'll have the best of both words -- more square footage and yard space and proximity to all the wonderful museums you love.

  40. I think it sounds like you are going to enjoy your new home. It will fit your family better and you can visit Cambridge as much as you want. You aren't moving so far away that you end up losing your lives there. :)

  41. Good luck with your move! It sounds like you have a positive attitude, and like it's a good place for your family.

  42. hi miss theresa! it sounds kinda like a happy sad time for your life. but for sure youre gonna be way happy with a big house so all of you could have lots of room. i cant wait til you could do some pictures of your new house. im just way happy you found a house you want.
    ...hugs from lenny

  43. @ Salarsen, the more time I spend looking in Arlington and getting used the idea, the more I'm looking forward to it. With reservations.

    @ CD Meetens, good point. Between occasional parties nearby and a bar down the street, I think being out of a college town will be an improvement!

    @ Janet, Arlington, MA is certainly has a lot of parks. It seems that every house we look at is next to some giant green or lake.

    @ ER King, GROAN - I know! I used to move so often, I was a packing expert. Now I'm rusty.

    @ Robyn, actually we pulled out of that one after inspection. We expected some work, but not on things that were just "done". But we're seeing things that are even better in some ways. Now we're holding out for perfect for us.

    @ Stina, thanks. I hope so! I think so!

    @ Cleemckenzie, I've moved a few times. 8 to be exact - most in my adult life. I'm hoping this is the last or near-last one.

    @ Karen, thank you. I appreciate it.

    @ Vicki, that's a great way to look at it. All of things will only be 5-8 miles away. Not too bad, right?

    @ Sharon, you're right. I think the kids will be happier in their new schools in the long run. I hope 1 month into the move, we're (mostly) settled and happy.

    @ Susan, I didn't think I'd make peace with it as quickly as I have. It was surreal to think about leaving at first. But after looking for years, it's time to move on.

    @ Lenny, thanks. I can't wait to post pictures! Now I have to find the house to post them. I hope to find one soon!

  44. That definitely sounds like a step in the right direction. But from a home owner to a prospective one... start watching HGTV now. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  45. This is a touching ode to Cambridge. It can be hard moving from a place you've lived in, but there are always new things to embrace in a new town. I wish you all the best finding just that right house!

    Merry Christmas!


  46. @ Lbdiamond, thanks!

    @ Jules, thanks for the advice. I used to watch that show all the time.

    @ Denise/L'Aussie, thank you. It's strange to be looking, know that soon we'll make an offer somewhere. And the process will begin...

  47. I'm so excited for you, Theresa! Change is a good and soul-stretching thing. :o) Best of luck!

  48. @ Jackee, thanks. I appreciate it. It's scary, but I think it's going to be better for us in the long run.