When I was first born, my parents lived on Cortelyou Road in Brooklyn, but in 1964 they moved to 155 East 35th Street (also Brooklyn), which is where we lived until we all moved, in 1967, to the house in Englishtown where my brothers and I grew up. I was four when we moved from Brooklyn, but there are a few things I remember about East 35th Street. I happened to look up the address the other day in Google Maps, and here are a few memories it triggered:
- If you went out the front door and turned left, there was a much busier road (Church Avenue, according to Google), and on the corner was a small deli or general store, with a small group of older kids typically hanging around outside. Maybe the place/kids had a disreputable nature, or maybe it was just what a mom would tell a 3-year-old, but I was instructed not to go up to the corner.
- There was a small, somewhat grassy backyard, longer than it was wide. Looking from the back of the house, the far back left corner was a bit of a jungle, and the next door or rear neighbor may have used his part of the corner as a yard-waste pile. There were sometimes fallen blossoms on the ground (purplish, like maybe rose-of-Sharon) from a bush right there, and sometimes a rotting-vegetation smell, not your typical one but one I’ve smelled, rarely, on other occasions, and I have associated it ever since those backyard days with “silkworms.” I was fascinated by that section of the yard.
- Looking at the house from the backyard, there was a small, cement stairway on the right, down to a basement entrance. The building superintendent or maintenance guy lived down there. He was Italian, I’d guess now, maybe in his late 30’s or early 40’s, but thin and a bit sickly looking, with thinning hair or maybe a widow’s peak, and dark or sunken eyes. I guess he freaked me out a little, like how a little kid would be nonplussed about a stranger. I remember making eye contact with him once as he came up the stairs — the shocked recognition in his eyes as he saw me being freaked, and the air of defeat in his face and body as he averted his eyes.
- I remember Kevin and I once playing on those stairs — maybe I was down a step or two and he was in the grass, on a hobby horse or something — and we were arguing about whether I was still older, even though we were now both three.
- I remember the kitchen. (Just the other day I saw the same chair with built-in step stool we used to have.) I remember being in the kitchen when my dad got home from work, and sometimes he’d have little toys for us.
- I remember my mom was giving my brothers and I a bath — this may have been Englishtown — and I remember our questions, and I remember her trying to explain the Vietnam War to us.
Looking back, it seems that my memories were mostly visual. I remember what people may have said, but I have no real auditory memory, or maybe just the vaguest hint of any sounds. I also remember a lot of thoughts of my own, or at least having those thoughts, which internally expressed were semi-verbal, but they never came out of my mouth.