One by one leaving the house…
Flying off into our second incarnations in this land of dreams which blossomed every time we touched upon an idea to venture into our wills to become more than our past. An aunt and an uncle moving off to Freeport back in the days when they were still burning crosses in Long Island towns with barks of No Niggers Allowed. Another aunt moving off to the East Village with her painter husband who one day turned out to be a painter of noble sons on canvases of pre blackboy casts of immortal gold. Mama moving off with her oldest daughter deep into the vast lands on the other side of the sunrise highway. Moving off with her blackest child, which turned the tables of time, for that daughter to care for her mother, as Mama grew weaker from her lack of memory which lead to a lack of living, for that daughter to bathe her and feed her and love her and love her and lover her, when all the time this daughter was thinking, my aunt was thinking, about her for years she thought her mother didn’t love her the way she loved the others, the lighter others. My mom and I moving off to the Lower East Side of the world where jazz was still alive on cracked out street corners and where the neighborhood still had some Italian boys in it, around by Veneiro’s and De Roberti’s way, long lean olive-white Italian boys who could crack knuckles the way I cracked walnuts, though I never did crack walnuts, because I hate walnuts the way they hated cracking knuckles, on account they were were really just cool kids who loved to play stickball and blow up M80s in the East River.
And pretty soon we had all moved off…. So that pretty soon that house off of Church Avenue.. around the corner from Buster Browns and Walbaums and a patty shop or two, became the past. Which is a hard thing to imagine until it happens to you, the sadness of seeing a house you grew up in, with all the voices that once filled it with chaos, with all the reggae songs and calypso beats and disco tunes no longer playing on the radio, with the smoke from your grandfather’s pipes no longer in the air, with the sound of dominos slamming-crashing on the table downstairs gone, with the shipping barrels always filled to the top with supplies your grandmother hunted down herself in the shops on Atlantic Avenue no longer crowding up the basement, with the smell of black cake and easter bun and ginger beer and sorrel and bread pudding and curry goat and ackee and saltfish, no longer coming from the kitchen, with the memories of your first steps in American snow almost a forgotten dream….
To see that house become a faded memory, in faded conversations that are by now so old as to be unknown by the more recent crops of children, who now have children of their own, is a thing most felt, or perhaps only felt, by those of us old enough to remember, how it used to be, before we all moved off and away,
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