It’s funny how a simple sound can take you all the way back to a place and time long forgotten. This morning I heard a sound that reminded me of glass against the post of a cyclone fence and was immediately back on my block, 95th Street, in Astoria, Queens. I was able to see it from an entirely different perspective – three views at once, actually. I was on the corner of the small 4×4 square yard Mrs. Samms kept that was separated from the same plot of neglected earth in Foogie and Windy’s folks’ yard by our shared driveway. I was upstairs in my parents’ bedroom window, looking down, from the chair in which my grandmother used to sit waiting for me to round the library corner coming home from school when I grew old enough to walk home myself. She must have been in her mid 70s by then. I was also on the carpeted stairs in the next door neighbor’s house on the other side, body facing upward, head looking down and back over my left shoulder. It was rare that I climbed those stairs to visit the elderly women who lived there and tended the rose garden Mr. Wernham, Dora’s dad, allowed. If I remember correctly, they gave piano lessons but I would not take such lessons until I’d moved away from that block foreever, beginning with a shortish trip to the long journey that became boarding school and its aftermath – a trip from which I have yet to entirely return.
I was then also, instantly across the street or, in the middle of it, noticing as if for the first time, the difference between our yard and theirs. The choice in fencing said it all. Their roses poked through well-maintained black wrought iron while our clumps of grass and the occasional plastic to-go cup cover with straw sticking through was protected by the nation’s best, that is to say most common, Cyclone fencing. Mr. Wernham, a limousine driver, owned his brick-front home, and the ladies upstairs who grew the roses in his yard were his tenants. Our family were the Samms’ tenants and likewise lived upstairs. I imagine Keitha’s mother, Mrs. Samms, had been overwhelmed long before her fourth and fifth children were born and somewhat before we moved in and eased the strain of so many mouths to feed.
I capture this and other memories to admit and admonish myself as much as anyone in gratitude for everything that has been called to my remembrance. To remind myself of precisely how very long a way the Lord has brought me, through the trials and through the tears, through the triumphs and the years, He has brought me yes, a mighty long way.