The Google Van didn't go down this street. This is the best view I can get. But this is the street where I learned to roller skate and ride a bike. It used to be cobblestone. And I think there were more trees.
Memory is a weird thing. Was that Dead End sign always there? I can't remember. But that is certainly how I felt about this place – that had I stayed, I would have never thrived.
We knew most of the neighbors. Next door there was another family with two girls (the same age). They lived upstairs from their grandparents (we lived downstairs from ours), and had a baby brother (we had a dog). When it snowed, we would go to the neighbors' yard across the street (on the end) and make snow angels in their yard because that was where the snow was the deepest.
This is the house that fell on me (well a piece anyway) while I was sitting in the yard on the slide, eating a balonie sandwich. The nail went into my head and required three stitches to repair.
This was the first school I attended. It was right across the street. I remember it being P.S. 17, but I think they renamed it to P.S. 1. I know that this school district was the first in the country to be taken over because it was so bad. I remember my mom calling me to watch the Today Show as they announced the news.
My cousins (who lived around the corner) also went to this school. Two of them decided to burn the teacher's desk when they realized they were going to fail her class. Another climbed that fence (twice) and broke his arm (twice).
I entered kindergarten able to read and write. First grade had the same books as kindergarten and required that we return after lunch. There is only so much "Fun With Dick and Jane" a girl can take. I routinely had headaches in the afternoons so I didn't have to go back. I also peed in my seat because I was afraid to ask to go to the bathroom. Once I was sent home in boy's underwear.
A few other memories before we move on:
- At an assembly, I watched a boy stick a fork in an electric outlet on the stage. Yes, he got shocked.
- We moved before the school year ended, but my parents didn't want me to tell. It was June and hot, and I showed up wearing a halter dress and got picked to bring up the attendance sheet. When the Vice Principal saw what I was wearing (my back was exposed but the dress was sown closed, not tied), he told me that I was to change at lunch. Only problem I had no clothes at my grandmother's and couldn't tell him that. When I explained to my grandmother, she sent me back with a navy blue button down sweater. I wore that sweater all afternoon, buttoned up.
- My dog, an Old English Sheepdog, got out of the house and ran up the block to his favorite park. I ran after him and into my kindergarten teacher, who taught my father and my aunt. Her name was Mrs. Dingly. My father called her Mrs. Dingaling. My aunt told me stories of how badly she treated black students.
My parents bought this house. It was in foreclosure. My mom was a real estate broker. She worked down the street. It is an attached home. Ours was the house on the right.
The previous owner was a drunk and a wife beater. When I first saw it, I cried. It was in terrible shape. I didn't want to live there. I especially didn't like the idea of moving across town to be away from my grandmother. This is the house where my parents told me they were divorcing. It is where we would all decide to escape.
My mom worked hard and transformed this house. She put in wallpaper and new carpets. She even stuccoed the ceiling by hand. I didn't recognize it when we moved in. The room I shared with my sister had Holly Hobby wallpaper. My father got us the matching bed linens after we moved across the country and weren't really into Holly Hobby anymore, but we used them anyway and over the years they were soft and comforting.
That room was where I heard my father fall off the roof after my mother yelled at him to not put the ladder like that. When he refused to go to the hospital, my mother insisted he get back up there and fix the leak. He did, but in the end, put the paper on wrong side up, and make the leak worse. When it rained we put down shower curtains and buckets.
The gate which seems to be missing, but never closed properly, is where I put the trash can against it to close it to keep the dog in. That would have been good, except I tied the dog to the trash can. When he moved the trash can moved. It scared him (he was afraid of his own shadow) and he took off. He was done for several days, during which I was inconsolable.
This is the stoop where my sister sat and cried because our insane babysitter, Anne Marie Rogan, didn't feed my sister lunch. She purposefully bought things my sister didn't like and then made her sit outside when she started crying. Our neighbor found her and took her inside and made her lunch and told my mother. But that isn't what got Anne Marie fired.
Anne Marie was in the 8th grade and the daughter of one of the people my mother worked with. Anne Marie borrowed my mother's clothes and played my parents' records and invited her friends over. She could eat a whole can of fruit cocktail by herself. When her friends came over she would send us to our room to clean. She would brag to her friends that she had us under control. She would spend the afternoons on the phone, before call waiting, and my mom would have to have the operator break in. But none of that got Anne Marie fired either.
I told my parents what was going on in their home when they weren't there. When I kept at it, they finally started to think that maybe things were not okay. And one day my Mom, who worked down the street, came home. She found Anne Marie on the couch with her boyfriend. I think they were more than kissing. She was finally fired, but then we had no babysitter and had to eat lunch at school. This required special permission and meant that we sat in a classroom and ate lunch.
This is the school. St. Anne's. It had no playground.
It had a church. We were supposed to go to the children's mass on Sunday. I had to answer questions about the sermon on Monday morning in religion class. I was going to fail. My parent's didn't get up early on Sunday. As a compromise, my father, a non-Catholic, took us to 5pm mass on Saturday.
When Anne Marie was preparing for her confirmation, she was required to attend mass on Friday morning. Since she walked us to school, this meant we went to mass too. Sometimes the priest didn't finish by 8:30am, but we knew better than to leave mass early (that was a sin). Instead we walked back to school with the 8th graders and slipped into our classrooms on the first floor. One morning the Principal, a nun, was waiting for us. She wanted to mark us tardy. It took everything to bite my tongue and not call her a hypocrite.
The window I think is the gym. We had a gym uniform which we wore under our uniforms instead of our shirts on gym day. It had matching bloomers. Seriously – bloomers. When my sister left crayons in her uniform pocket, and my dad washed and dried them, it ruined all of our (mint green) uniform shirts. We had to wear our gym uniforms that day and everyone thought we didn't know when gym was. We eventually got new shirts and I learned how to do the laundry.
That door is where my mom passed out after the Principal explained what my sister, who was in the first grade, was up to. No one will ever know because she doesn't remember. And really it doesn't matter because they are both dead.