What I’ve heard would fill a kingdom
What I’ve learned would fill a home
What I’ve done would fill a cart.
What I’ve had would fill a room
What I’ve lost would fill a book
What I’ve loved would fill a heart.
What I’ve heard would fill a kingdom
What I’ve learned would fill a home
What I’ve done would fill a cart.
What I’ve had would fill a room
What I’ve lost would fill a book
What I’ve loved would fill a heart.
I never lived in a big city when I lived in New York State so any trip to the City brought me a sense of excitement, anticipation, adventure and a dash of wonder. Some of the memories are of class trips to museums and planetariums and once to the Opera. When I was 14 and a freshman in high school, a class trip took us to the NY World’s Fair. I remember the Ford exhibit, Disney’s Small World, some other exhibits and Jessie and I began hanging out because we had found a compelling reason to become good friends — we both smoked. Just when we found a cigarette machine, another couple of girls came over to us. I said to Jessica something to the effect of ‘oh, no’ and she whispered to me that one of the girls also smoked. This third person heard her name spoken and inched over closer.
“I do what?”,
“Oh. So does she,” referring to the other girl.
And so began our friendship, a happily puffing foursome, though I do remember we did our happy puffing in semi-protected spots always on watch for someone from our school, especially a teacher. My neck was achy later that night from playing a guilty turtle on her way into her shell. We hung out together for quite a while, and then something happened that rather weakened the friendship. We met a couple of boys. I think they were a year or so older than we were and pretty cute. The six of us wandered for a bit and the guys moved in on the ones they had chosen. A while later the two unpicked girls peeled off leaving the boys with Jess and me. We found Bourbon Street, every snack bar in our paths, and sweaty hand-holding. Jessie and I had a deadline for getting back to our schoolbus and we ended up running, still holding the hands of our one-day boyfriends, reaching the bus with just enough time to have a kiss and a hug in full view of our classmates. The long trip home was the time for feeling exhilarated and a little triumphant. Bad me. I did gloat a little. We neither saw nor spoke to them again, but we had our memories.
I have previously written about going to the city once with Jessica and her mother and sister. After that Jessie and I went several times on our own. A lot of things happened on our various trips, but what happened on which day gets pretty muddled in my mind. We met some really sweet guys and some really nasty ones. We were hit on frequently. If it was convenient we went with the flow just to see what would happen. We frequently had decided on our plans ahead of time, and if the guys were not going our way then we nicely but firmly bid them farewell. There is one day, though. that remains fairly intact in my memory.
We said good-bye to whichever parent had driven us to the train station in Katonah. bought our round-trip ticket, boarded our train, and headed to Grand Central Station. This day we went to the library (huge!) and found some material copy-worthy for whatever report we had to do, made our copies, crammed them into our respective purses, and headed for the nearest subway station. Jessie could read the maps. I am so directionally challenged I could never figure out which way to go or even where we were. Once I was underground, I was absolutely, entirely and utterly lost. But with my best friend by my side I knew we’d reach our goal. This day we were going to Coney Island.
Ah, Coney Island! I’d heard about it so much about it, and never been there before. The sun was shining, the sky was as blue as it could be on the east coast – smog, don’t you know – and we were young. I even remember what I was wearing! It was a dress my mother had made for me, an A-line mini-dress with a paramecium print, predominantly yellow and green with black and white adding definition and accents. I can’t quite visualize the shoes, but I remember my earrings. They were from a set of different colors of half-balls that popped onto the dangling part of the earrings (clip-ons). I did one side green and one side yellow to match my dress and felt all fashionable and stuff. We began to stroll through the amusement park trying to see everyone and everything at once. We made our way up to a stand to get something to drink, and turning away from there we came face to face with a group of boys around our age. There were four of them and two of us. Perfect! At the time we didn’t refer to them as boys, as we felt ourselves to be too sophisticated to be hanging out with “kids.” Nor did we think of them as men, not even young men. Men were those older ones who were probably married with children. Young men were people’s little brothers dressed up in a suit and tie for the first time. No, we called them “guys.”
Guys were the males of our age or maybe a few years older. Guys rode motorcycles (loved them), sometimes wore leather (loved it), sometimes wore English Leather (LOVED it), drove or had a friend who did, and could keep up with us on the dance floor (not all that easy!). We never did learn if these guys did any of those things, but it really didn’t matter. They were gorgeous! We made our introductions and made an interesting discovery. One spoke English fairly well. One spoke some English hesitantly. They all spoke Italian. They were first generation Italians who lived in an Italian neighborhood and didn’t have much need for English. As we headed to the roller-coaster, the famous Cyclone, we naturally paired off. Jessie got the English speaker, I was claimed by the one who spoke some of my language, and the other two just followed along looking for girls of their own. Makes us sound like puppies.
The first thing I saw after being seated was the sign above us directing us to remove all items from our top pockets, and warning about some items of jewelry if memory serves. I removed my dangling spheres, stashed them firmly in the bottom of my purse, and wrapped both arms around the safety bar in front of me. The cars started with a rattle and a couple of jerks (not us), and I spent the rest of the ride alternating between terror and exhilaration, between feeling sick and feeling wonderfully alive! When the ride ended it was hard to unwrap my arms from the bar and once I had let go and disembarked I found my legs were a touch wobbly. My friend asked if I was okay. I answered, “Let’s do it again!”
We spent the next couple of hours on the beach being athletic show-offs. I, in my mini-dress and bare feet, won the long jump. Mostly we admired each other with a gentle wrestling match thrown in now and then. Communication was slow, a matter of guessing what was being said and trying to simplify until we reached an understanding. My guy wrote my phone number down and we parted ways. He called me from a pay phone a few times after that day to ask when I was coming back, but when he told me he had to see me again, I asked him why. He responded with emotion, “It’s about love!” I don’t remember what I said then but I never saw nor heard from him again.
Jessie and I left the beautiful guys and headed back to Grand Central. We had a car to ourselves initially. Most of the seats are in rows perpendicular to the sides but we chose one with the back against the side of the train. With the seat at a forty-five degree angle to ours being empty, Jessica placed her coat on it, stashing her purse under the coat.. A few stops later, a nicely dressed man somewhere in the vicinity of sixty boarded the subway. With all the empty seats in the car, only one would do – the one by us. He seated himself, bowed his head in our direction and struck up a conversation with Jessie. He avoided my eye to keep both of his on my friend. After an introduction was made in which Jess included me and he did not, he invited her to dinner. Just her.
“Denise and I are here together. I don’t want to leave her alone.”
“She’s a big girl. She can take care of herself,” he replied gruffly.
“Then I have to decline your invitation, sir!”
In retrospect I am entertained by his desire for the exploitation of Jessie running head on into our desire for a free meal. Users all.
Jessica suddenly noticed his hand creeping slowly under the edge of her coat. She, appearing calm and unhurried, reached under her coat from our side and slid her purse out, casually looking in it for anything that would explain her looking in it, finally locating her chapstick. She ran the tube over her lips a few times, and put it back in her purse which she then closed up and set in the small space between us. Standing up for a few seconds, she put on her coat. Old Guy, a.k.a. Older Man, again began talking to Jess about the nice restaurants he could take her but before he could once again attempt to lure her into his lair, another person boarded the subway car. The new guy looked around at the nearly empty car and made a beeline for the empty seat next to Old Guy. Guy had to maneuver over Old Guy’s leg to get into the inner seat. Leaning forward a little, and nearly touching Jessie with his knees, he acknowledged both of us. The good thing about this was the derailing of Old Guy’s plans. The look on Old Guy’s face was priceless, causing us to clamp down on the giggles wanting to escape. The downside was, well, everything else.
Guy was somewhere around twenty, maybe. His hair was greasy, his clothes were shabby, his teeth were blackened or missing, his lips were crusted and brown, and he stank, stinked, stunk, and smelled bad besides! He began to try to engage us in conversation and the first whiff of his alcohol-soaked and rotting breath woke up my gag reflex. We couldn’t help it. A few giggles and a snort got loose. Jessica bit down a little on her index finger to try to get control.
Guy: Why do you have your finger in your mouth. Did you hurt it?
Jessie: (removes finger from mouth) No. I just like to do it. (replaces finger, bites harder)
Guy: Why do you like it?
Jessie: (around finger) Cuzsh it tashtsh good.
Guy: Let me taste it!
Okay, we let out some strangled noises despite our intentions. I spent the duration of the conversation trying to do the turtle thing, keeping the guffaws completely internal. The outward signs of them were shaking shoulders and tears running down my face
Guy: What are you laughing at?
Jessie: We just remembered something funny that happened this morning.
Guy (looking suspicious): Are you girls laughing at me?
Jessie: Um-mmm. ( grabs her purse and starts looking through it desperately)
Guy: I hope your not laughing at me. I have a knife you know. Yeah, I just got out of jail for stabbing someone who laughed at me!
That did it for us. The train had just stopped at a station. The doors next to us opened. We waited, and without any apparent communication we together jumped up and out the doors just a nanosecond before they closed. We didn’t wait to see what was happening back in the car. We just started running, laughing and running. When finally out of breath and feeling secure, we slowed down and came to a stop to light up, of course. While we stood there a vertically challenged bag lady approached us, walking bent over to one side with a slow gait that reminded me of a crab’s walk.
Bag Lady: Girls, do you have a cigarette you can spare?
Me: Sure. Do you want a Marlboro or a Salem?
BL: Marlboro, please.
I pulled one out of my purse and held it out to her,
BL: Throw it on the floor.
BL: Throw it on the floor, please, miss.
I tossed it on the sidewalk between us. Bag Lady slowly bent down while walking about halfway around the coffin nail, thereby screwing herself down close enough to the “floor” to pick up her cigarette. She straightened herself up to her normal bend.
BL: Do you have a match?
Me: (pulling a book from my purse) Sure!
Bag Lady: Throw it on the floor please, miss.
I tossed, we ran, and eventually stopped and laughed and laughed. We had left the subway long before our stop and were in heretofore unknown territory. The street had four lanes and, to our astonishment, almost no traffic. A large black man wearing what to us was flamboyant clothing was standing across the street. There was barely a breeze in this concrete canyon so when he called across the street to us we could hear him well.
Big Man: (bright smile) Hello, ladies. How might you be on this fine day?
One of us: (sounding for all the world like a foreign language dialogue) Fine, thank you. How are you?
Big Man: (huge smile) Are you girls looking for work? Need a place to stay? I can help you out with anything you need.
Us: No, we’re just visiting here today.
Bid Man: (Big Hungry Smile). But if you need anything, I’ll help you out. Just ask for N***** Chris. Anyone can tell you where to find me.
He smiled some more and waved. We were already running. We were shocked, not only because he’d said the “n” word, but also because he called himself N-word Chris, like that was his given name! Being the smart (yes) and sophisticated (NO) baby women we were it took a while for it to sink in – I think it was over dinner – that Chris Big Man was a pimp! Oh my goodness! And he was inviting us to add to his profits. If we hadn’t been really hungry we might have jumped up from the food and started running again.
Later, back on the train heading for home sweet home, Jessie and I were exhausted and all those unused giggles kept rising up and drowning us in hilarity, the hilarity of the young, the invincible, the unbelievably lucky. Ah, Jessica. I miss you so.
I know this place. I’ve been here before,
Though I can’t remember when, or who
Was my companion and what
We did or didn’t do.
I know that big old apple tree
Growing by that old stone wall
With apples gone and dropping leaves
With upraised arms it greets the fall.
I’ve seen this field in winter’s rest
And in rebirth in spring.
I’ve seen the blossoms turn to fruit
While birds return to sing.
I’ve seen this place before,
And I hope I will again.
I yearn both day and night
For a place I’ve never been.
I am sitting in my chair, laptop atop my lap, dog curled up, also on my lap, close enough to work as an armrest. The temperature has cooled down and a breeze gently comes through the screen window, for which I am very grateful. My body is like a rare and delicate flower needing a coolhouse as opposed to a hothouse where I am wilted and grumpy. I also need sunlight. I am aware of how many times I use the words “me” and “my” and “I” as “I” talk about “my” opinions, observations, and wisdom. “I” am sort of kidding. It is all about “me.”
Sometimes I feel like I’m on the outside looking in. I’m fairly certain most people have suffered that loneliness, heaviness, belief that they don’t belong. Most of the time though I am on the inside looking out. In a literal sense I sit in the living room looking out at the streets and scenery and flying things.
The street I live on starts just out of my normal view. I don’t know my neighbors but I see their cars passing, first leaving then returning later. Thanks to tinted windows and the angle of vision I don’t know the faces in the cars and only know which driveways are home to a couple of the vehicles. The cars turn right at the end of my little street to go down a few blocks on the downhill slope to another street that offers a left or right choice. In the winter I have a clear view of the hill. In the summer pieces of pavement are hidden by leafy deciduous trees in all shapes, sizes and shades of green so the cars play an involuntary game of Peek-a-Boo as they come and go.
The scenery is far better than the pavement and cars for soothing and calm and sometimes awe. Though I am unable to name the trees other than nonsense names like Griselda Mae and Jones, I am still amazed by the variety and change. I rarely tire of watching them bow and sway with the passing breeze, their changing colors both spring and fall, and the awe-inspiring storms bending the vulnerable trees to their will, breaking even the strongest, changing the shape of the weakest and leaving in their wake a testimony to the magnificence of the wind and storm.
I also, from the inside looking out, am diverted by the flying things. The birds come first on the list of things in the sky. Spring and fall the geese and ducks and many smaller birds clutter the sky in flocks and squawks, in formations and with direction, hundreds flying together with no obvious order and a few playing leap-frog as they travel from tree to tree. The sizes vary from flock to flock, the colors vary from bird to bird and season to season. Some fly smoothly, their bodies seeming to travel in a straight line. Some rise and fall with the beating of their wings and have to fly extra distance because of that rise and fall. I find them fascinating.
And clouds! Varied, ever-changing, hanging in layers above me. I have a view in my room, too, and often watch them spread across the sky, the layers moving independently, the sun playing with the colors by making some cast shadows on others revealing the separations, the heights and the depths.
There are also airplanes day and night. I enjoy watching the holding patterns of the big planes headed for the big airport on the nights where there are especially long delays. They also play peek-a-boo, first hiding in the clouds, then popping out again farther west or now heading north. Small airplanes fly immediately overhead aiming for the small airport. And then there are those various aircraft going home to JBLM (Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the local army and air force base).
Sometimes, when the family is all together here for occasions like birthdays, Super Bowl, Christmas, I get involved with the arriving guests, spending a couple of minutes talking with them until someone else demands their attention. Usually the demanding one is our youngest grand-girl, Annabelle. Then somewhere during the grandchildren’s noise and activities, the adult children’s conversations back and forth across the room, across each other, I am overwhelmed. I shut down for a few minutes. As I return to the world of people I find that – though still in my recliner – I am again on the inside looking out. I’m a watcher. It gives me time to see how people are really doing and how much the grandchildren have grown, physically, mentally, and emotionally. I see them in a different light, and it’s good for me and for the people I watch, the people I love.
Then comes the leave-taking, the parade of family saying their good-byes, with kisses and hugs. We are a hugging family! I bask in their love. They leave, it grows quiet, and I am right-side-out again.
A holiday like this should be
Boisterous and full of a melody
Of laughter and love and living sound,
And the sight of the youngest running around.
A barbecue to signal the retreat
Of the season on scurrying feet,
And the coloring leaves
Of the backyard trees.
Endings are just beginnings
But we’re hoping for extra innings
If only I’d money to buy it
I’d want just a little less
When I hear helicopters flying overhead in a westerly direction I assume they are heading back to base. Coming from the west they are probably leaving said base. Circling the area may mean a news helicopter looking at an accident or other catastrophe so that we earthlings will have a head start on knowing how to feel about it when someone in some booth cuts back to the camera in the studio.
The scariest helicopters are the ones flying back and forth, side to side, up and down as though looking for something. At night the lights focused down at the ground tell us they are indeed looking for something – or rather, someone – who is armed and dangerous and an escaped ax murderer, or perhaps a newly arisen zombie. We don’t have many of those in the area yet, but the numbers are increasing. Thanks to a totally accurate TV show we all know how to destroy them provided we know they are coming. I guess that means the helicopters are an advance warning system, giving us time to turn off our lights, lock our doors, and grab our weapon of choice. Maybe in the reverse order would be best.
One year my family worked up an emergency zombie attack plan. All the young ones had a variety of escape routes planned and a couple of different meeting places in case one had been taken over. The old bed-ridden one had a lighter, a torch and a violin to fiddle while the zombie burned. We even had my next door neighbor play the part of a zombie to give everyone the chance to practice their actions to help keep them from freezing up in the event of an “actual emergency.”
My neighbor made one huge mistake. He decided to wear ugly make-up and a ripped plaid shirt. My children were terrified. Thinking this was an actual emergency, they fended off Pseudo-Zombie with what weapons they had handy, including a rake, a bread knife and a toaster, and ran to our meeting place shrieking and cheering. My neighbor recovered after months in a catatonic state, but has never spoken to nor looked at us again.
My favorite kind of helicopter is the one I can see from my bed or recliner. They show up in the summer dancing and bobbing and hovering and darting. When they are playing in the front yard their shape, maneuvers, grace and speed provide days of delight for my eyes. My mother called them dragonflies. To my grandmother they were darning needles. I call them wonderful.
I’ve heard a story from a source who shall remain unnamed, Corbin, of two idiots — delete idiots — young men who took two dragonflies captive. Though the men were unable to get their prisoners to talk, they were able to carefully tie strings to them and fly them like kites. When through playing, the helicopters were released, physically unharmed. The good-twin-me was appropriately shocked and horrified. The flip side couldn’t stop howling with laughter.
Every summer when I see a dragonfly I also remember that story, and I can’t help wondering. Which of us (the helicopters, the young guys or me) could be most helped by therapy?
Born August 14, 1951 as first baby, later oldest daughter as 1 sister and 2 brothers joined me in the attempt to drive our mother nuts. It worked!
Played several musical instruments, some better than others. Sang. Taught piano, guitar and accordion. Many years later (before and while finally going to college) I directed adult and children’s choirs with great joy. I had great joy, and the singers sounded joyful, too.
Started college in January, 1991. Became a 40-year-old dropout about a year later, devastated.
Got weaker and weaker, all sorts of problems following until one day everything went to pieces. I had trouble seeing right, dizziness, tremors on and off, attacks of vertigo, and finally the weakness was so great I couldn’t get out of bed and to the bathroom without help. I couldn’t see to read. When I could read after a time, I had difficulty holding the book. “Animaniacs” helped to keep me sane.
Things improved a little over time. I live in pain, tire very easily and need a wheelchair to go anywhere when I have to walk very far, like to the store or the movie theater. I’ve lost making music, cooking, cleaning, gardening, and studying. My memory is not good, but I try! I read in spurts as sometimes I can’t take it in and have to read and reread and reread again to keep it in my head long enough to continue with a degree of understanding. Most days I also can do puzzles, watch TV, and every day I pet my dog.
I can always visit people, almost always my family. And I can spend time on the computer if I can sit in my recliner long enough to get to it.
I am a Christian. I tell you this because the Lord is a given in my life and does affect my perspective. If I offend you, don’t read my blog. My intention with my scribbling is to hold on to my thoughts, leave a record for me, and share stuff with anyone who wants to hear me. Good reading what I hope is good writing.
I have written a few posts lately which have, after draft saving and editing and clicking Publish, vanished into some heretofore unknown cyber realm. Does anyone know where they go?,
In the beginning my parents met, married, and had children, of which I am the oldest and the most important as I am the one that broke them. My parents, not the other children. I mean broke them in so the future children wouldn’t have to work as hard to wear them down, especially my mom. This beginning wasn’t the actual beginning of beginnings, just the beginning of my beginning. Everyone has one, and everyone pretty much believes that their beginning was the most important. They are all wrong. Mine is the absolutely most significant occurrence of the 20th century if you have the right perspective. If you doubt that, just ask me.
Along with diapers, safety pins, and plastic pants came other wondrous things. Some hung over my bed, some stayed in the play area and rattled or squeaked or caused tears to come to my eyes every time I hit myself in the face with them. I liked the live furry ones the best. They were as patient as my mom with me… up to a point. I liked to pull appendages and poke eyes. I thought the growling sounds were just loud purrs. The cat, finding itself in a grip like a vise and unable to free itself from torture by walking away, finally expressed itself in a punitive unsheathed swat. I was stunned. I cried and got no sympathy, and to this day only pull the cat’s tail with tongs while wearing a full suit of armor. I wear the armor, not the cat. Still not right. I don’t wear the cat and the cat doesn’t wear the armor.
Another wonderful thing happened right around the time I’d been alive for a year. A party! I liked the cake and the ice cream and the candles and the gift wrap and the ribbons and the boxes. They had been wrapped around some other stuff to show them off to advantage, but just a short time later the fancy stuff was gone and all that was left was the stuffing. I soon figured out the filler was fun, too. Some stayed in my bed, some rattled, some stacked, some clanged, and I hardly ever hit my face with any of them.
I’ve seen the pictures from that hot August in Walla Walla, Washington. No lie. Yes, Virginia and Margarita, there is a Walla Walla, Washington! There are pictures of me with my chunky thighs and round belly sitting on my pregnant mother with her round belly and legs of a model, both of us miserable. There’s one of me looking exceptionally wretched in a blow-up pool. The consensus was I had won the Jonathan Winters look-alike contest hands down. That, by the way, is the kind of picture one would really wish had been burned years before one began dating.
My sister put in an appearance a few months later. I was pretty curious about her, and wanted her to play, but my mother wouldn’t let me get her on the floor, or push her out of mom’s lap, so I had to just study the thing. Soon I noticed that baby was also wearing diapers with pins under plastic pants. Well, if anyone thought I was still a baby they were wrong. My mother tells me potty training went quickly. Blessed woman.
Years went by with frequent moves, hot summer birthdays often with only the family as we didn’t know anyone yet in the new place. By the time November came around, we girls had been in school for a couple of months, my sister had a few friends, and my mother knew other mothers and even imported an extra girl or two for the party. I tried to be pumped for my sister’s good fortune, really I did, but I’m thinking she remembers more about the unkind things I said and did out of, well, spite!
When the children came along I tried to give them memorable times with cake and ice cream always, and frequently had home-made pizza. (Later on it was from a pizza place and wasn’t as good as mine.) With 4 of the 5 having birthdays in November, December and January around Christmas and Thanksgiving, we couldn’t afford to give big parties every year, so they had their parties on alternate years.
The point I am heading toward along circuitous paths is this: for the last 20+ years I have hit the emotional lows on 2 particular days of the year. New Year’s Eve and my birthday are both indicators of another year passing by me at a dizzying rate leaving not much to show for it. But this year was different. This year I looked forward to seeing what might be coming my way. (It was my children making a party for me, with chocolate!) The fact that it marked a lost year was shown to be irrelevant. I turned another year older without even blinking. Sweet!
I wrote a poem a few years back. It started out as a rant against birthdays and ended up as a kind of tribute to them. Birthdays, that is. I need to remember that should I ever fall into that particular hole again.
So I have just one more thing to say and it is this:
Happy Birthdays to all, and to all a good-night!
My friend Jessica and I did some kinda sneaky things. For example, I used to put my slacks in my coat pocket when we went to weekly dances at the Firehouse. When we got there I would take off my skirt and change into the slacks until it was close to time to be picked up. What the reason for this little subterfuge was I really don’t remember unless it was a rebellion against the societal dictate demanding that ladies be ladies? (snort) I also took my socks off at the bus stop, and brushed out my teased hair on the way home.
My friend had a bedroom in what was essentially the attic. There we opened her window and smoked our Salems or Newports, blowing the smoke out the window. I forgot to mention there was a door at the bottom of the narrow stairway which helped keep the smoke contained. We had no idea that a smoking parent could smell it on us from 8 feet away, while a non-smoking parent could smell it from the neighbor’s house.
I learned two things during this short period of time. The first thing was how good chocolate kisses could be with menthols. Or how good menthols could be with chocolate kisses. I’m not sure which is more accurate, but I’m thinking it’s the latter statement. The second thing I discovered was just how cat-footed Jessica’s mother could be. She was more than half-way up those creaky steps to the attic when Jessica thought she heard something and got up to check. We (internally) freaked out, but her mom just stood there laughing at us. “I knew you were smoking up here! Who do you think you are fooling?” She was laughing and wagging her finger at us. “You stupid girls.Go ahead and smoke yourselves to death.” There were a few Yiddish and Polish words thrown in that I am glad I didn’t understand. The posture and context were enough to give me a rough idea.
Now, what does all this have to do with New York? I’m getting there, I’m getting there. Don’t rush me! I don’t do all that well under pressure. Jessie’s mom as a widowed woman in the 60’s worked hard to enough money to supplement what her husband had left the family. She did temp jobs in office positions, and for a time sold jewelry. She made periodic visits to the City to buy jewelry which she brought home to sell. I have no idea how or where she sold it. That didn’t matter to me in those egocentric years. What did matter was going with her on a buying trip. We drove most of the way and then took a train or an el or a subway or all three – yeah, yeah, an el and a subway are both trains – into Manhattan. The mother would take her younger daughter into the shop with her, and Jessica and I hung out on the street doing some mild flirting with almost any young guy on the street. I say ‘mild’ flirting because we were just practicing for when we knew more about what to do when we caught one of those fish. Of course the fishing netted mostly eels and piranhas three times our age. Some were sleek and slimy, some were dirty old predators, all were scary to us.
We rejoined Jessie’s mother and sister for dinner. Afterward, we split up again. They went to see a movie – It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World – while we, having already forgotten how scary it could be out there, went to dance at a place called The Cheetah. Oh, heaven! What a wonderful place to be! Music and dancing, dancing, dancing, a breather and then some more. I remember the cushioned sofas or some kind of seating and small round tables set in front of them. When it was time to leave to meet the rest of the family out front we hurried from the far side toward the front door. The strobe lights chose that moment to expose us to blinding, pulsating light which caused my to lose most of my vision and most of my ability to walk a straight line. The next thing I knew I had run into one of those little tables and gone ass end over teakettle and was on the floor on the other side and trying to be a big girl and not cry. The people around me who had seen this happen in brief flashes, one of whom was Jessica, were looking concerned as they laughed their butts off. I would have done the same thing if I had seen it happen to someone else, but this was ME, MY dignity, MY leg, and after we had hobbled and hopped to the women’s room where we could see, MY blood and MY stockings.
Meanwhile, back on the street, impatience was growing, temper was rising, as we were late meeting the movie-goers. By the time I was able to walk and the bleeding was slowed down, Jessie’s mother was steaming. Even the torn and still bleeding shin were not enough to stop the steam cloud from forming. And so we left to catch a train. Jessie’s sister gloated as she walked beside her mother. After all, she wasn’t the one in trouble, we were, and the stream of vituperative and unknown words flowing from that little woman was down-right embarrassing. Jess and I walked slowly, partly because of my leg, and partly to distance ourselves from the crazy babbling lady with a bag. By the time we got to the train station, the crazy lady had run out of steam so we were able to sit with her on the train. When we reached the car she was even sympathetic about my injury. Soon afterward we were back to as much peace as can be found between mothers and teen-age daughters.
I still have a pitted scar on my from over forty-five years ago, and I still smile when I think of that day.