Saturday, November 21, 2015

Sister Doreen from HOME IS WHERE

         Next is my older sister, Doreen. She is two years older than I, and she did not really play too much with younger sister Nancy and me. She had her own set of friends and her own room. She and her friends would go skating at Jewel’s Pond in the winter and go to the canteen every Wednesday night at the Y.M.C.A., carrying a box of 45-rpm records with her.

         Doreen and I were on the C.Y.O. (Catholic Youth Organization) cheerleading squad together.

         I remember that in October 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis, Doreen didn't leave her room for days. She was scared to death. The stand-off between the U.S. and Russia had time ticking away at the threat of a war. Everyone held his breath waiting for Russia to back down, and thank heaven they did. It was the closest, since World War II and the Korean War, that we had come to going to war. I was 14, and I remember how frightening it was. We even had bomb drills in school. We would have to put our hands on our heads and get under the desks.

         There was even a family across the street from us (the Stores) whose father had them convinced that the end of the world was coming. One evening they were by the highway waiting for a bus that was coming to take them God-knows-where. We never found out, and soon they were gone.

         I remember Doreen sitting in the chair in the living room with a coffee cup, cigarette, and hairspray, getting ready for school. Going uptown to the custard stand with her friends was something else she did often. Every day after school we watched American Bandstand at 4 p.m. I was Doreen's dance partner.

         When I was in third grade, we went on a class trip to Monroe Museum Village. I got three dollars for whatever I wanted, so I looked for something for Doreen, Nancy, Grandma, Mom and Dad. I was so excited to give something to everyone. Doreen was up in her room, and I brought my gift to her. When I got back downstairs and outside, the window opened, and she threw the hatchet out, yelling, "Just what I always wanted." I was brokenhearted.

              Doreen married a few years after I did, to her childhood sweetheart, Bucky, and they have two children and three grandchildren. Bucky and Doreen have been married for 48 year

         One day Doreen and I made mud pies. We got pieces of boards and made mud cakes. This is the only memory I have of playing with Doreen as a child. She also had a pet squirrel that would hang around us, for the peanuts we had.

              The phone was in our parents’ room, with a short cord. This made talking to your boyfriend, or to your friend about your boyfriend, kind of tricky. Oh, my! As we got older, Doreen and I would make that race to the ringing phone, often knocking into each other. I was often the winner, because Doreen was upstairs in her room mostly.

         When one of us sisters would start school, the older sister would watch out for her: Doreen for me and I for Nancy.

                As I grew older and reached my teens, Doreen and I grew closer, sharing boy stories, clothes, and secrets. The boy that lived across the street had a cousin from Brooklyn that Doreen had a crush on, so one day, prearranged, we took the bus to Brooklyn and rode the subway by ourselves. We had lunch and then went off to the Brooklyn Fox theatre to see a few rock 'n roll acts, then back to catch the bus home.

                It never turned into the romance Doreen wanted. I was 13 and Doreen 15. There were a few crushes, hers and theirs afterwards, and then the lasting romance she had with Bucky. It took a while to catch him, and the influence of the interest of another suitor, before they ran away to get married. The other party was crushed to find, when he came to get her for their date, that she had eloped. He cried, and Mommy cried with him.

         To this day Doreen and I are great friends and secret-holders. We talk on the phone every day, like talking about when she got her license, and we would drive to Newburgh, up and down Broadway or shopping for those special shoes or getting our hair done at the popular salon, Fred and George's, the place to be. We still talk about the old days: walking to the custard stand, listening to the radio, and hanging out with others. I was excited to be part of the in-crowd and be accepted by her friends. Then along came Kenny, with Friday night movies at the Didsbury Theater in Walden and parties and dances. Kenny was much taller than I. He was 6'2" and I, only 5’2”. He was very handsome. I've seen him a few times when I go up North.

              I cannot tell any other stories of Doreen, as she has sworn me to locked lips. We’ll take one big story to our graves…or until I need it!


         We are serializing here Kathleen Blake Shields's memoir, Home Is Where the Story Begins: Memoir of a Happy Childhood,  published this summer by  Outskirts Press and available in paperback from OP, as well as,, and other on-line booksellers. I am proud to have served as her writing coach and editor; my site is

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