July 18, 2018
30 Walnut Park in the very last apartment, #20, on the very top floor of a yellow brick building is where I grew up. There I lived from when I was one until I was eight and a half. The half’s important–duh!
The neighborhood wasn’t very safe, we had X-Men (they were nothing like Wolverine and a lot more Magneto-ish) and Crack Cocaine, in the late 80s early 90s, but somehow my mom made it work. I rarely remember ever being out after dark and we never, ever, EV-ERRRR played outside alone. Between the threat of random gun fire or the ever present thought of child abductors mami was like, “Ay no!”
The building had a skylight that was covered in penny-like circles connected by silver lines. Each apartment had a porch and ours was shaded by Juniper trees.
Okay, I lied. I don’t know if they were Junipers but it sounded nice, didn’t it?
Anyway, up there from our tree house of a porch I created songs for the birds and my brother found his imaginary friend, “Papu-June”, who was really just the mechanic we could see below working on his car on the parallel yet oddly connected street behind our porch.
My mom befriended our Jamaican neighbors who lived across the hall. She spoke no English and they spoke zero Español. “Inna and Key” is what she called them and since I ain’t know no better I went along and called him Key but now I think his name was Keith. Inna, still not sure if that’s her name, worked at McDonald’s and always brought home goodies for us and her kids, Simone and Rebecca (there was a teen boy too but I don’t really remember him). YuuuuuUUUUUmmm I can taste and feel the cold vanilla ice cream melting on the warm apple pie. It seems like McDonald’s ice cream machines worked fine back then. But Inna and Key moved to San Diego and we lost touch with them. Bummer.
Though the neighborhood was dangerous, the building was not. Up on the back wing of the fourth floor we had a thing going and our wing connected to the other wings and all 20 apartments united and formed a flock.
One day we lost a bird. I’m not sure what he did but when we got home from school the police had handcuffs around his hands and were pushing him into their car. They drove him off to lock him in a cage. I thought police only took bad guys. He was not a bad guy. I think the officer sirs took the wrong guy! Our friend used to help my mommy with our groceries all the up to the last apartment of the very top floor. There were not elevators there.
On laundry day were were fortunate enough to have our own washer and dryer in our kitchen blocking the “emergency” door. Papi bought those in Lechmere for mami as a Christmas gift one year. Funny how Santa Claus doesn’t stop by with presents for grown-ups. Other adults buy other adults presents and Santa takes care of the kids. I think my dad scared him off one year because he said, “Si yo veo a ese viejo le voy a caer a palo’”. My mom laughed, then dad laughed. I shrugged because that wasn’t funny and my brother shrieked then begged for my dad to not beat up Santa Claus. That year Santa was only able to sneak in four things. Two for me, two for my brother.
At night sometimes funny smells would seep in through the blocked off emergency door. And that’s when my mom would send me and my brother to our shared bedroom. My mom said some of the neighbors used to play with cracks. That’s so silly!
One time I tried playing with the cracks in the sidewalks by sticking rocks in the cracks but that was no fun so I just pretended to be a bird instead. I flapped my wings and quack, quack, quack.