I received news on Friday night that Mrs. Mastrullo had passed away.
Her daughter told me only a few weeks ago that she hadn't shown her the photos I sent.
They would only confuse her she thought.  I've never met Mrs. Mastrullo
so I was a taken a little off guard when I found the news upsetting.

Photo: " Crossroads:  Stories of Central Square,"
Cambridge Historical Commission publication

Vincent James Mastrullo--"Jimmy" as he was known in the neighborhood--was the son of Italian immigrants.  He was born just around the corner from here in 1919, no more than 10 houses away.  He may have even known Mrs. Ray, the piano teacher who lived here. 

Jimmy fell in love with an old house in 1940.  The house was already 100 years old and it needed a a lot of work. He renovated the house, adding beautiful new bathrooms with clawfoot tubs and a new back porch before going off to the war.

Upon his return from WWII, he married Margaret, the sweet young woman from Nova Scotia that had been on his mind the entire time he was gone.  She was a good woman, deeply religious, and he knew she would make a good wife and mother.  They moved into the house that Jimmy had renovated and two children, Michelle and James, soon followed.  Everyone knew Jimmy Mastrullo LOVED his house but it was Mrs. Mastrullo's hands that shaped her home.

Her hands opened her pink bedroom curtains
to let in the sunlight each morning...

...and touched the pink trim that matched the
flowered wallpaper she had chosen as she
rounded the corner to her children's rooms...

...where she pulled the crystal knob on the closet
to dress her children for school. 

She opened this door each day as she
returned from the Central Square market...

...and pulled on this red crystal to light the pantry
as she prepared her family's dinner each afternoon.

Mrs. Mastrullo's hands opened this door
to the bathroom and...

...turned these knobs to draw a bath after a day
filled with cooking, cleaning, shopping and laundry...

...and grasped this newel post each evening
as she climbed the steep stairs to her bedroom.

Mrs. Mastrullo's hands embraced her daughter when she went off to nursing school.  And when her son Jim chose a career as a police officer, she prayed that he would stay safe.  But Jim's career was cut short after being diagnosed with a debilitating illness.  I imagine her hands opened this dresser drawer where she kept her most precious things...

 ....where she reached for her rosary and asked for help and strength.

Despite their adaptations to the house, there came a time
when her son could no longer stay at home.

Only a few short years later, Mrs. Mastrullo lost her husband.

It was during these most difficult times that I imagine her returning to that dresser drawer for her bible or her rosary to seek strength and comfort.

When neighbors became concerned about Mrs. Mastrullo, noticing times when she seemed confused, they contacted her daughter Michelle and Mrs. Mastrullo went to live at an assisted-living facility near her daughter's home.

It was at this time the torch was passed to me to care for this old house.

* * *

As I was finishing up the exterior project on the house, the real estate agent that sold the house stopped by to tell me I MUST send photos to Michelle.  I wasn't sure how they would feel seeing their home changed so much, but knowing the real estate agent was a friend of the family, I sent off photos just before Thanksgiving.

Just before Christmas, I received a card.

Dear Steve,  Thank you for updating me on the house.  I enjoyed seeing the transformation and am very impressed with your vision and motivation.  The house looks wonderful!  My brother also enjoyed the pictures and details you provided.  

I did not show the pictures to my mom.  Her dementia has progressed and these would only confuse her.   

My dad loved this house and when he was healthy did a lot of work on it himself.   My parents would be pleased to know you care about the house as much as they did and would be impressed with your care and commitment to it. 

Happy Holidays and Warm Regards,


* * *

Receiving news of Mrs. Mastrullo's passing so soon after my correspondence with her daughter was surprising.  It's been a solemn weekend reflecting on Mrs. Mastrullo and her time in the house.

I will admit that I've thought of her many times since moving in to the house.  

I have experienced her "hands" all over the house.  I feel them most strongly in the master bathroom where I've imagined those hands turning the creaky chrome knobs to pour baths that would wash away her dirt and disappointments.



Mrs. Mastrullo's hands touched all of these things for over 60 years, and I think I developed a little bit of a connection with her through these things.  Maybe that connection was stronger than I knew.  If you live in an old house, perhaps you know what I mean.

Mrs. Mastrullo's funeral was yesterday and, although I didn't go, I felt the need to go back up in the attic to light a candle in her honor.  I felt this was an appropriate tribute to the woman whose hands cared for this house longer than anyone else.  The candle illuminates what was most likely placed by Mrs. Mastrullo's hands, way up in the peak of the attic where it was closest to God's eyes, this prayer:

"Bless Our Home."

Bless you, Mrs. Mastrullo, and go in peace knowing the house is in good hands.