Zoe’s Happy New Year Story
Happy 2016, Everyone! Zoe the Fabulous Feline here. I hope everyone had a very enjoyable and magical Holiday Season. Mine was quite draining. Between all the activities and good food from Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, followed by a very rowdy celebration on New Year’s Eve . . . well, I am still recuperating!
My human, however, leads a more sedate (read boring) life and has nothing from which to recuperate. So I hope you don’t mind, but since she is not exhausted, I am giving her my spot this month. Emily’s story may not be as interesting as those from Yours Truly, but it’s a good story nevertheless. I’ll be back next month with a Valentine’s Day story for you. Stay tuned!
“Where’s your brother?” Ma turned to face me as I came into the kitchen, red-faced from the afternoon’s play with my best friend, Kathleen. My body went into flight or fight mode. There was no fighting my mother so I took flight, racing back up the street to Kathleen’s house on the corner and barreling into the yard I’d just left. And where I’d left my baby brother, alone in his baby carriage.
He was still there.
Pearson Ave, Grandma’s house. We lived on the second floor with Grandma and her dog, a white husky named—what else?—Whitey. I was nine at the time. My mother’s sister and her family lived downstairs. There were twice as many of us upstairs than were downstairs in my aunt’s family, which consisted of Aunt Anna, my Uncle Joe, and my cousins Diana and Joey.
Uncle Joe was in a wheelchair. Had been for as long as I could remember so I guess he was sick even before I was born. Uncle Joe couldn’t walk or maintain any coordination of his limbs or anything else. On an impossibly skinny neck, his head rolled around uncontrollably, as much as his big, round, brown eyes did when we said something silly, or when he got frustrated because we couldn’t understand his attempts to communicate with us. You see, Uncle Joe couldn’t talk either. Aunt Anna had to carry him to the bathroom and to bed; she had to feed him. It was, I imagine, a sad and lonely life for my aunt. Even with the rest of us around.
My grandmother was a loving woman, but also a very strict, old-fashioned Italian woman. One of my more vivid memories of the old girl involves a surprise slap across my butt when, one day, I dared try to enter the living room where she had just washed the floor. She’d put the coffee table across the doorway. The table was one of those styles popular in those days, solid at each end with an opening in the middle. I can see that opening as though it were before me right now, inviting me to cross through. I was not quite two years old, and there was no way I could resist the invitation. I think that, even back then, I recognized that the large piece of something standing between the two rooms . . . that thing with the big hole in the middle . . . was meant to keep me out. So, as fast as my little body could manage, I went in. I was crawling through the table’s opening when—whack! A thud I heard more than felt through the pretty, ruffled, plastic pants that hid my bulky diaper. I remember all this as if it happened yesterday. But I don’t remember her slap hurting. I don’t remember crying, although I probably did. More from hurt pride, I suppose, or frustration at being thwarted. That love tap didn’t teach me any lesson, though. To this day, unless there’s some clear danger behind a door or through an opening—I’m going in.
Pearson Ave. So many memories reside there. Cousin Diana and I once tried to dig a hole to China. We’d heard that expression, or something like it, around the house. What I clearly remember is lying on our bellies, digging in the dirt. I guess even a slow boat would have been more efficient.
Pearson Ave. Friends galore. It was the only place I’ve ever lived where we knew so many of the neighbors. Where there were lots of kids my age and a few older ones too. I remember Louie most of all. Louie was a cutie and not much older than I. My cousin and I both had a mad crush on him. I can still see his eyes, bright blue, framed by dark eyebrows that were very neatly shaped by nature. We loved him . . . he couldn’t stand us. Diana and I would hang off the fence of our front yard, or straddle the porch railing, trying to get his attention. Vying for his attention. Moving about unsteadily, pretending we were about to fall off, we’d sing to him, “Louie, Louie! I got a bullet in my heart and I’m gonna die in five seconds if you don’t save me!”
“Die,” he’d shrug. In retrospect, I agree with Louie. We were usually silly and often obnoxious in our admiration of him. It never hurt our feelings, though. What nine-year-old boy likes an eight year-old girl anyway?
Pearson Ave. Childhood games. Rover Red Rover. Dodge Ball. Softball . . . my only serious injury occurred on Pearson Ave. It was a great summer’s day and the entire neighborhood was out. Other cousins, older than Diana and I, were up from the Cape. We pulled together enough kids for a game of softball. I was about equal height to the elbow of the batter, whom I’d stood a bit too closely to. I don’t recall if I was ever really in the game. I was just a curious little girl, wanting to get in with the big kids. All I got was in the way. And a broken cheekbone. He never saw me behind him and I never saw the bat coming. They carried me, crying and bleeding, into the house.
That is when I learned to stay out of the way of big kids and their baseball bats.
Though not then, but in time, I also came to learn that, in my life, there will never be another Pearson Ave.