In Needham, we lived across the street from the birthplace and childhood home of one of America’s most famous illustrators, N.C. Wyeth. After moving to Chadds Ford, Pa., Wyeth missed Needham terribly. It is said that every evening for 30 years, he went outside, faced Needham, and mentally projected himself back to his far-away childhood homestead. Perhaps it was his father’s longing that prompted painter Andrew Wyeth to create “Far From Needham.”
I recently completed 25 years in the Foreign Service living as far from Needham as one can get — Bangladesh, Malawi, Kenya, Egypt, and Namibia. To give myself a sense of rootedness during our uprooted life, I too engaged in a form of mental projection and mused about life lived in our happy South Street home between 1958 and 1968. When I conjure up memories of life as a Needhamite, oddly, the first thing that comes to my mind is irregular underwear.