I grew up in Southampton, Massachusetts near Hampton Ponds. The kids in my neighborhood were called “Pond Scum” by others, and eventually we decided that it was a term of endearment. I walked to Mahoney’s package store to buy candy with babysitting money, attended the Primary School before it was the town hall, and William E. Norris until sixth grade. After that, I went with all the other Southampton kids to Hampshire Regional High School, and graduated in 1992. After I turned twenty-one, I fell in love and married a marine, Roger Adams, and we moved to North Carolina. He was from Greenfield.
My husband, Roger, was born in Montague, Massachusetts, and lived in that area until after his graduation at Franklin Technical High School. His trade was carpentry. After high school, he decided to move to Kentucky to spend time with his mom and siblings down there. It didn’t take him long to realize he wanted to serve his country, so he joined the marines at the closest recruiting center that happened to be in Tennessee.
Roger and I lived for years in North Carolina, near his duty station which was Camp Lejeune. After he was killed in Iraq in 2009, the boys and I remained in North Carolina, stunned and confused. In 2016, we moved back to my hometown of Southampton, Massachusetts to be close to family.
After we settled a bit and did some home repairs, I turned in my application for a survivor’s tax exclusion. The law is explained in this link: https://www.sec.state.ma.us/cis/cisvet/vetprptax.htm It tells about the different benefits given by Massachusetts to veterans, their families, and other survivors. They are quite generous, and before I left North Carolina, I budgeted accordingly. With the tax break, the boys and I would be able to financially make it, so we planned and packed.
Months after I applied for the exclusion which I was sure to receive, I found a denial letter in the mailbox, laughing at me. It stated that because Roger did not enlist in Massachusetts, his family did not qualify. My life in Massachusetts, and his entire childhood in Massachusetts did not count. After months of trying again and doing research, I was advised to appeal. I paid a hundred dollars to be heard by Boston.
Mid-July I had to go to court against my hometown in Northampton, Massachusetts. It was hot, but thankfully, sunny. I had never been to the courthouse so I put the address in my GPS and was on my way. It was only minutes from my house. I found a parking spot close to the entrance of the grand building, and used the ParkMobile app to pay. I gulped down the butterflies, channeled my inner imitation strength, and walked into the building. I waited in line to go through the metal detectors. I took off my shoes and Roger’s dog tags I wore for luck, and gave the guard my phone and bag. Then, after a few wrong turns, found some people going to the Superior Courtroom One, so I followed them like an orphaned chick.
The room was grand with a painted ceiling and wood everywhere, and a nice man sat next to me. He was on the docket as well for what seemed like a silly waste of time. We shared our stories in condensed versions, and were each other’s cheering section. It was nice to simply have company. His turn came and went, then several others, then Southampton was called. It was my turn.
I attempted to prove Roger’s domicile which is a sensitive term in this case. I explained how Roger was born here, went to school here, and graduated here. He turned 18 in Massachusetts, got married in Massachusetts, and the boys and I were in Southampton, Massachusetts when we were notified of his death. I wrote a page to read to the court, and it was received with gentle thanks and remarks by all.
The commissioner asked if I or Southampton had anything else to say, and I was done, but the town had one more thing to add. He said how they talked to an attorney about the case, and apparently because of the way the law is worded, we do not qualify for the tax break. The commissioner took the attorney’s name.
They talked to an attorney. They really didn’t want me and the boys to have this break. I don’t know why but that part hurt the worst. They put great effort into making sure we didn’t get this break. I don’t know what the verdict will be, but I do know that we will leave as soon as we can. Even if we win, we feel unwelcome. When we leave, we will feel like we are escaping. We learned the lesson that home is not a tangible thing.
This is the last paragraph of my court statement:
In closing, I must make the most important point as far as I’m concerned. When Roger was on a naval ship after 9/11 outside of the Middle East, he fought for America, not a specific state. When he was in Iraq in 2004-2005, he was a target and woke many nights to mortar attacks on their camp. He did that for America. When Roger woke me up in the middle of the night to simply be awake with him after his first tour in Iraq, he suffered that for America. When Roger drove his Humvee over an IED in 2009, killing him and three others, he did that for America. His heart was in Massachusetts, but he died for America.