I was born and raised in New York, Brooklyn to be specific. I grew up in a middle-class neighborhood in Flatbush that was surprisingly diverse given that it was in the 1950’s and 60’s. I remember playing stickball in the street and mumbly-peg with the neighborhood kids. In the summer, the Good Humor truck would come by every evening after dinner with it’s signature bells announcing its arrival. All of us kids would run down the street chasing after it to buy ice cream on a stick for fifteen cents when our parents allowed it. We would marvel at the lightening bugs flashing in front of our eyes and catch them, put them in jars.
In winter, when there was a snowstorm, my father and I would go out with our shovels and start clearing the sidewalk around our house. We would bring Reggie, our English Bulldog. It was one of the few times he was allowed out without a leash. I always told my father I thought it was pretty dumb to shovel since the snow would continue to fall all night and we’d just have to do it again in the morning. He responded that there would be less to shovel in the morning if we started when it did. What I think is that he just loved being outdoors in the beauty, in the hush, in the still of the night. And I loved being right there with him.
November 22,1963 is seared in my memory as it undoubtedly is for everyone who is old enough to remember that horrifying day. I was a freshman in high school. A classmate came running into homeroom and announced that President Kennedy had been assassinated. We were sent home. No one on the subway train was talking. Everyone seemed turned inward. Most of us were crying. My first experience with tragedy, I still grapple with feelings of loss and thoughts of how things might have been different had this awful thing never happened.
There was a famous (or maybe it was infamous) black-out in 1965. I was in the subway, the BMT line, (sadly now just a line with a number or a letter), coming home from school. A train was coming into the station when suddenly, all the lights went out, the train stopped. The sea of people formed a human chain, holding onto one another, the only safe way to climb the stairs and exit into the outside. A few if us friends from school gathered at the house of an acquaintance where her mother allowed us to roast tiny marshmallows over lighted candles. Later that night, my father came and drove me and a few friends home through the pitch-black streets lit softly by candles shining dimly in windows. It was magic.
My father bought an old wooden boat, a Chris-Craft. He named it the Del-Nor after me and my brother. How he loved that boat. In the winter, it was taken out of the water in Sheepshead Bay, and put in dry-dock. One year, my father determined it was too much work to strip and sand the mahogany and then stain and varnish it every year. So he decided to fiberglass and paint it instead. I was his assistant. What a chore that was. It took many weekends to accomplish. I had fiberglass particles embedded in my fingers for months after. And truth be told, the old boat never looked as good again.