My first memories of Rochester are really just snapshots of small, hazy details. A wood-paneled wall, a crowded bookshelf, a squeaky pull-out couch. In my mind, I see a window facing a quiet street covered in snow, and then some time later, covered by bright green leaves. As I get older, the snapshots become more and more faded, but what lingers is that warm, recognizable feeling that can only be described as home.
Home, in 1993, was a cozy, one-bedroom apartment in an old house on Oxford Street. Tucked behind another one-story brick house, you’d probably miss it if you passed by. To be honest, I don’t remember much about the exterior, but the details of the interior are still pretty vivid. I remember heavy doors with black iron knobs, and spacious, never-ending closets. The dining room had a large bookshelf that lined the entire back wall. I attribute these strong memories to my parents, who upon arriving in the dead of winter from southern California, hid inside the apartment with all their belongings, and sought refuge from the freezing temperatures. My sister and I spent our afternoons watching our favorite movies. The winter was particularly hard on my sister, who had spent the majority of her childhood where temperatures never dropped below 70 degrees. She lay buried under blankets on the pull-out couch in the living room, with a general air of melancholy. However, as any true Rochesterian knows, winter doesn’t last forever.
Springtime revealed to us the beauty of the Park Ave area, and particularly Oxford. The towering trees that lined the street began to produce luscious, green leaves. The surrounding houses were stately, full of character, and often contained extremely cute dogs. My mother, feeling emboldened, dragged me on long, exploratory walks of the area. To my delight, the planetarium was only a short walk away. I distinctly remember going to the planetarium an absurd number of times, and it fostered in me a continuing love for space. Around the corner and to the right, we passed the grand houses of East Ave, a reminder of Rochester’s historic past. I remember wondering if anyone actually lived in them, and had a hunch that they were probably the best houses to play hide-n-seek in. Once we’d exhausted ourselves from walking, I’d nap happily in the sunny spot on a beaten up old armchair by the window.
Eventually, we outgrew our cozy little space, and after a year, moved to Spencerport where I really grew up. But the feelings of fondness that grew on Oxford never went away. After graduating college, I felt a strong pull back to the Park Ave area. I moved into an airy apartment on Cambridge Street, and spent two years going on countless exploratory walks, just like my mother and I used to. Every so often, I’d walk down Oxford and stop in front of that familiar old house. I’d wonder about who lived there now, and if they ever took naps in the sunny spot by the window.