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Tuesday, 09 November 2010

When I Was Six

By Mimi Torchia Boothby of Watercolors

When I was six I lived on a tiny street in the city of Orange, about half a mile from Newark, New Jersey.

Life on Berwyn Street in the 1950’s was not too bad. We ran with a pack of other kids with very little adult supervision. We went out in all weather, it was such fun to go out in our raincoats and rubber boots and splash in the puddles, or kick through the leaves, or go out into the summer sun practically naked.

We also went back into the house a lot; I can remember terrorizing my mother by bringing large dogs and various insects into the house with me.

I walked to Saint Venantius school with my big brother Tom. I started kindergarten when he was in the eighth grade and we walked the seven blocks every day to school and back. There were usually about six or eight of us - the Rehyanskys, my brother, me and the O’Haras.

Later, when I got to first grade, I demanded to be able to walk home by myself because I didn’t like having to wait for the older kids to be dismissed and my older brother was no longer attending that school anyway. They let me.

In the apartment building next door lived Michael O’Hara and his older brother Joe. His mother was divorced; I never saw their father. I can remember counting the spines on each of their backs to their delight as they sat shirtless in the shade on a hot summer day.

Michael O’Hara was my first true love - he had brown eyes and brown hair and freckles. We kissed once and we were going to be married.

I also remember finding a half of a mouse that my cat had left us and making a funeral bower for it. My poor mother discovered me (probably one of the neighbor kids snitched on me) and she grabbed me and carried me into the house (she didn’t let me finish) to wash me clean of whatever horrible germs I might have picked up from the mouse carcass.

We played stick ball, we harassed chained up dogs, we climbed through fences, we ate berries. I remember tasting the pokeweed growing along the side of the house, and we always ate mulberries when we could find them.

We teased other kids, got teased, we raced, we played cowboys and Indians. The girls had to be the Indians, we had braids. The boys were amazingly good at throwing rocks at us with accuracy. It hurt!

We rode our tricycles around on the pink flagstones and paths, and practiced “driving.” In the summertime, we bought popsicles for six cents from the candy store around the corner. We also made countless trips to that same store to buy cigarettes for our parents.

Two of the boys we played with were black. One, named Grey, was lighter skinned and my sister and I were scandalized because he was allowed to go to our birthday parties when the other darker boy didn’t. Our mother said it was because she worked with Grey’s mom but the other boy was conspicuously absent, the only neighbor kid not at the party.

One of our favorite pastimes in the backyard was playing with little rocks and pebbles, We’d dip them in water and watch them turn colors.

Another time we were “refinishing” the basement landing by laying stones down. I eventually got tired of carrying the bricks down the five or so steps and dropped one which landed on my sister’s head. That game ended there abruptly. I learned that scalp wounds bleed a lot.

My last memory of Berwyn Street was right after we had moved away. We were driving somewhere and I saw the familiar backs of Michael and Joe O’Hara walking to school. I was filled with such longing for my old friend, whom I never did see again.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


What an absolutely gorgeous remembrance story. Thank you so much.

Mimi - Bei recordi!

You revealed your youthfulness by referring to six-cent popsicles. When I was a kid they only cost a nickel. - Sandy

Sandy, maybe it was because we lived in high priced neighborhood! (NOT!!!)

Lovely memories, Mimi! I especially liked being reminded of the corner store and being send down there to pick something up occasionally for the household. (Not often because things were "dear" there compared to the supermarkets.) Thank you!

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