Monday, December 28, 2015

"Other Friends," from HOME IS WHERE...

         In the summer, Nancy and I would go to the Y. M. C. A. playground each day; there were crafts, pet shows, and swimming trips. We loved it, and we were there each day all summer, as were other kids.

         We also played with the kids across the street; there was Roseanne, daughter of Mary and Sam DelSanto; Linda and brother Paul; Mary and Sam's eldest daughter. We were together a lot: sledding, ice skating, playing dolls’ games, and just going hiking in the woods.  We had much land to play on, both at home and across the street; behind Linda's  home there was a big field with a pond known as “Blake's Pond” and woods; we played there many times.

         We would call each other at Christmas, asking, "What did you get?" and then we would go to see each other's stuff.

         One summer, Roseanne got a horse, and right afterwards so did Linda; Linda’s horse was Bucky and Roseanne's was Champ. Everyone rode the horses but me. I was scared to death; one day unknown to me, Roseanne, Linda, Nancy, and Doreen hatched a plan to get me on that horse; so, over they came with Champ and Bucky.

         They said, "Get on Bucky, and he'll follow Champ. We’ll go slow."

         I did, and once, twice around the house, the horses went until the third time; then someone hit Bucky with a stick, and off we went through a clothes line, until I fell off with a rope burn around my neck, torn lip and gums, and Nancy screaming, "She's dead! She's dead!"

         No one has ever confessed to the crime.

         That was the end of the pranks; however, we did talk Roseanne into jumping off the garage roof using an umbrella as a parachute. All she got was a sprained wrist. We are all still friends to this day.

         Mary, Roseanne's mom, was Italian, as was her father. Mary always had a huge pot of home-made sauce on the stove. Mary also made home-made pizza, and this was our first taste of pizza until a couple from New Jersey bought the bar next door to us. Before they purchased the Rainbow Bar, a friend of Mom and Dad, Curly, owned it, and Dad had beaten the path through the side yard to the Rainbow. He would go over once or twice a week for a beer. Sometimes, Nancy and I would go over to the bar when Dad was there and get an orange soda, a special treat.

         This friend of our parents, Curly, also decided to open a barbershop next to the Rainbow Bar. He had never owned one before. For whatever reason, Mom decided Nancy and I were going to be the first customers. He gave us short haircuts and bangs that were way too short. He wasn't in the barber business long.

         There was another family, the Babbitts, with whom we also became friends. They lived across the street from us for two years.

         I had a girlfriend in sixth grade, Paula Miller, who lived down the street with her brother and mom. We were always together and stayed over at each other's house often. They moved away about one year later, and we never heard from her again.

         One of my constant girlfriends was Gail Evans, from third grade up to the present. She had a brother, Jeff, and they lived in the village of Campbell Hall. Her dad also worked on the railroad, as did both her grandfathers. I would go to Gail's house to stay over, and she would stay at ours. I was scared to death of her father. He was over 6 feet tall and hardly ever talked.

         Gail would love to come to our house because we could do anything and we had snacks. Not at her house: there were only three meals and no snacks. Her dad built this big pool, dug in the ground, in his backyard, done by hand. It was 3 feet to 12 feet deep and filled by a stream. It was huge, and we would go swimming there often. Gail is married to a doctor and lives in Virginia now.

         When I started Valley Central High School, I had two friends, and we were always together: Donna Irving and Terry Nusspickle, both from Walden. As it turned out, my first serious boyfriend was Donna's cousin, Kenny.

         My favorite time is when I go back home from South Carolina and we get together for dining out. We have many laughs and share great memories. Roseanne still lives in her childhood home with her husband. Her sister, Margie, lives up the hill with her husband, Calvin; everyone else has since moved away.

         Whenever I visit up North, we go through Maybrook, but it's not the same. Once in a while you'll see a familiar face or two walking in town or at the local grocery stores. Sometimes you'll hear, “Oh! You are one of the Blake girls." This is how we were known, "the three Blake girls."


We are serializing Kathleen Blake Shields's book, HOME IS WHERE THE STORY BEGINS: Memoir of a Happy Childhood, published this fall by Outskirts Press and available from OP as well as from other on-line booksellers like and I am proud to have coached Kathy and edited her book. 

You are invited to see my site

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