Posted tagged ‘duplexes’

“First a voice; then an echo. Then nothing.”

July 10, 2016

Today is yesterday continued. It is cloudy, damp and still a bit chilly. The one difference is the sky looks a tad lighter so maybe there is hope for a better afternoon. Today I will finally pot those plants. I drag the soil bag from my car to the front walk then I nursed my back all last night. Such effort must not go to waste.

This morning my breakfast hardened back to my childhood. I had a bowl of Rice Krispies to which I added a cut banana. That cereal still snaps, crackles and pops. I remember putting my ear close to the bowl so I could hear the sound.

When I was a kid, there were so many different sounds I don’t hear much anymore. The pop of the toaster is one I remember well. Our toaster was noisy. It was also usually covered with crumbs. Two slots meant only two pieces of toast at a time. There were four of us so two of us had to practice patience. We didn’t do well with that.

The slamming of screen doors all summer long drove my mother crazy. She’d yell at us not to slam the door. We always did anyway. It was the quickest way to get out of the house. Screen doors now shut on their own.

My neighborhood was filled with kids. We all lived in a sea of duplexes. The ones at the top of the hill had their back doors facing our back doors at the bottom of the hill. Mothers always yelled out the back doors at lunch time and at dinner time. They always yelled names so the kids playing in the yards would know who had to go inside. By supper time the yards were empty, the kids all gone inside. My neighborhood here has a lot of kids: nine of them. They stay close to home so no yelling is necessary. I never hear a screen door slamming or a mother yelling.

Roller skates on sidewalks made a distinctive sound, a clacking sound. Those were the four wheel skates that fit over my shoes. They had a leather strap across the top of my foot and a front grip I tightened to my shoes using a key. Many times the skate fell off but only the  front part. Losing the key was the worst of all. There wasn’t any way to tighten the skates. I just had to hope someone else’s key worked.

So many other sounds are gone mostly without us noticing. Our world is quieter now. The phone makes little noise, no more dialing. The fridge hums. No snow appears on the TV. I can’t remember the last time I heard baseball cards attached to the spokes of bicycle wheels. How about olly olly oxen free? Where did that go?

“Don’t try to make me grow up before my time…”

July 26, 2015

Today is overcast and dark and the air has a damp chill. It feels as if rain is pending. I hope so. It has been too long since the last rain fell.

Last night was perfect for movie night. It wasn’t too hot or too cold. Goldilocks would have found it just right. The crowd liked Breaking Away and they clapped when the Cutters won.

I lived in a project from the time I was five until I was sixteen. It was in my small town and back then the word project had no stigma attached. We never thought twice about calling it the project when we talked about where we lived. Even now, when my sisters and I remember growing up, we start our memories with, “In the project…” The houses were all duplexes made of wood. The front yards had lawns, bushes and flower gardens. We lived in a corner duplex so we had a huge front yard with a small hill leading to the sidewalk and the street. All the backyards had clotheslines, and each side of the duplex had two of those clotheslines. In the middle of the backyards, between the sets of duplexes and behind the clotheslines, was a grass-covered hill, perfect for little kids to sled on in winter and to slip ‘n slide on in summer. The project was loaded with kids of all ages. My best friend lived up above from where I lived, and she even lived in the same duplex where we had first lived. Everyone in the project was a neighbor. One of our favorite neighbors lived in the house next door and another favorite lived right beside us in the same duplex. Their side was a mirror image of ours. A few neighbors were not so friendly, but only a few.

When I talk about my childhood with someone, I usually have to explain the project, defend it somehow, as most people tend to think of projects as block after block of brick high-risers in the poorest part of any city. They never think of them as I do: a place filled with kids, ready playmates, with a grassy field of grasshoppers which jumped in front of you when you walked, an old tree for climbing, blueberries for picking, woods for exploring and a swamp perfect for catching pollywogs in spring and for ice skating on in winter. It was the best place in which to grow up. My sisters and I agree on that.

“A knife wound heals, but a tongue wound festers.”

March 24, 2015

No weather report today. Day after day is always the same. It’s depressing. The only bright spots are the large numbers of green shoots in my front garden. They give me a bit of hope.

When I was a kid, we lived in what we called the project. The houses were all duplexes, one side the mirror image of the other. Living there was only open to veterans and their families. Kids were everywhere. We first lived around the small rotary which the last of the duplexes circled. Below those duplexes was the field surrounded by woods. A long fence in the backyards separated our houses from the privately owned houses behind us. I used to climb the gate by the parking lot as it was a shortcut to my aunt’s house. I never once, in all the year’s we lived there, see the gate opened. No car ever used it. No car ever really used the parking lot either. Most cars were in front of the houses. My dad always parked his on the side road as our house was on a corner with the hill on one side.

Most times nothing much happened in the project. In the summer you could, now and then, hear people yelling at each other through the opened windows. We always listened. At supper time, mothers yelled out the doors for their kids. Once there was a fight between two men who were neighbors. I remember one man was a photographer who took pictures for the local newspaper. I don’t remember who the other man was. I do know the fight started because the wife of the photographer was German. He had met her while he was in the service on duty in Germany. This was in the mid 1950’s, and most of the men in the neighborhood had served in World War II. The guy I don’t remember called the wife a Nazi and a few more choice names and then the fight started. They rolled and wrestled on the grassy hill, and I remember the photographer’s sweater vest was pulled over his head so he couldn’t see to defend himself. Everybody was out watching. I don’t remember how the fight was ended. I figure neighbors must have grabbed the fighters and separated them as I would have remembered the police coming.

That fight was the talk of the neighborhood for the longest time. The men never spoke to each other again. The photographer and his wife and son eventually moved. That is the only time in my life I have seen adults physically attacking one another. Burned in my memory is the image of the two men rolling down the hill trying to punch one another. I remember the sweater vest had the argyle pattern popular in the 50’s. The son of the photographer wore glasses.

It is strange what our memories hold on to and what is lost over time.

“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination.”

August 26, 2014

Today and the rest of the week will be summer warm. It is like a curse of sorts. Every day is cool until school starts then the heat comes. The temperature will hit the 80’s off-Cape.

Growing up I never noticed we didn’t have much money. To me we had what everyone else in the neighborhood seemed to have. I wore a uniform to school so I didn’t need a lot of dress clothes. I had one or two church dresses. That was more than enough. I had school shoes and play shoes. I always put my play clothes on as soon as I got home from school. I never needed prodding to get out of my uniform. We had one car, but that’s all we needed. My mother didn’t drive. We either walked everywhere or took the bus. I remember the trek to visit my aunt and uncle in East Boston. We walked up town, took the bus to Sullivan Square where we took the first of two subway trains. We had to switch lines at a station I don’t remember, but the second train brought us to Maverick Station in East Boston, and we walked just a bit to my aunt and uncle’s. My mother always told us to go to the next station if we got separated. She was hauling the four of us with her and had to watch my younger sisters so my brother and I had to keep our eyes on her. I remember kneeling, looking out the train window and watching everything whiz by us. I liked being underground and seeing all the pipes and hearing the squealing of the wheels at each turn. As the train lurched so did the people.

We lived in the project. It was all duplexes with front lawns, trees and backyards. Our house, as that’s how we thought of it, had three bedrooms, a living room and a smallish kitchen. We never felt in any way stigmatized by living in a project. Most of the adults were around my parents’ ages and there were tons of kids. We were never wanting for a playmate or someone to walk to school with or go see a movie. We lived there until the move to the cape. When I visit my sister who still lives in that town, I sometimes drive by our house. The trees and bushes are huge now, but it looks the same from the outside. Once when I drove by the house was empty but I didn’t get out to look. I should have. I’d have seen the living room through the picture window in front and the kitchen from the back steps. The cellar door was below a flight of stairs and I would have seen the sink for the washing machine from the door window.

We didn’t go away much or out to eat, but we never cared. We had woods and the swamp, the zoo, train tracks to walk, the dairy and a whole town to explore on our bikes. Life for us was rich.