Friday, December 19, 2008

With Apologies To Marcy

Lorraine Avenue was around the corner from our house on 27th street. The part I knew was only a city block long. There is another part, but as it happens in cities, the road gets bifurcated by streets that cross it. If it's not the part closest to you, the rest is non-existent so far as you're concerned.

Lorraine was the best place because that's where the majority of kids in the neighborhood lived. On the porch fronted row homes that were wide and welcoming, people sat out in the evening and talked over low railings to their neighbors. They'd watch us kids as we raced about and yelled and carried on.

What I remember the most about Lorraine Avenue was its huge sycamore trees that leaned across the narrow street to entwine with its partner on the other side, creating a tunnel. In the summer, the trees kept us shaded and about ten degrees cooler than anywhere else. Wonderful! But, even then, the mighty trees were dying from smog and what was probably the beginnings of Dutch Elm Disease. "When the trees go, there goes the neighborhood," Dad said quietly as we watched the city workers bring one down.

His point being, as all the green and beauty of nature evaporated, so did the energy and interest of the inhabitants to keep it looking good. We aren't meant to live separate from nature; it takes a toll on the psyche'. If you look at inner-city neighborhoods barren of trees and the crumbling state of most, you'll have to agree that he was certainly on the mark. Very sad.

I always hoped to play with the kids on Lorraine. I say hoped, because I wasn't always 'allowed' to play with them. "Go home, Holly. You're not allowed to play with us today. We don't want you on the team." Or, I'd hear, "You can be on my side today. We're going to play hop-scotch. You can go last."

Kids in their own element can be so bossy. And, I'm a rules girl. So, I'd play when 'allowed,'; I went home when I wasn't. Once, I went to the Arduin's house to see if Karen would play. When Mrs. Arduin answered the door, I could hear all the Lorraine girls inside playing dress up. She looked at me with a bit of discomfort mixed with sadness, "I'm sorry, Holly. The girls don't want to play with you today." That day, as I walked home, I remember crying. These are the moments that begin to form a little person and they're necessary. Painful, but necessary.

When I started school at SS.P.J. I got to know girls from the neighboring streets. That's how Marcy and I met. She lived in the really large row homes on Maryland Avenue. Architecturally, it was a lot cooler than our house with a fire place, stained glass over the front door and a huge bay window. It was close to Wyman Park and Seton High School. A very pretty those days.

Marcy had a loud, really messy, loving family. They weren't wealthy. Her Dad drove a Tastykake truck; there was always day old cupcakes, Tandykakes, you name it, to be had! Yum! How fabulous was that? The house always looked like a bomb had gone off in it. Stuff everywhere. Books, paper, crayons, jackets, skates, records, piano music, unidentified objects. There was always room for me at the dinner table. Most often when I called to ask if I could stay, Daddy would say, "It's time to come home, now." Mrs. Jones would jump on the phone and say, "Really, Mr. Dietor, it's no trouble. The kids will walk her home after."

Marcy was round and pleasant. She wore her chestnut hair in two long braids. Her skin was milky white and she had a moon face with pretty brown eyes. She laughed easily. We spent hours together. She had an older sister who 'was the boss of us,' and found us absolutely annoying. A brother, Johnny, who I very rarely saw because he was always out in the alley with his friends doing what boys do. We weren't welcome, thank you very much. Her littlest brother, Jimmy, didn't make a difference at all. He ignored us girls, and we sure didn't have time for him.

Mrs. Jones was kept busiest taking care of Casey who had Cerebral Palsy. At first Casey made me uncomfortable because of his special chair and his spastic movements. He used to bang on the piano and make a racket. On days when his nerves cooperated with him, he could actually pick out a simple tune. It made me squirm when he'd speak to me because I couldn't understand him. He never seemed troubled by someone in the family interpreting for him, though. He'd just wait and smile as they did.

Over time, I got used to the sounds Casey made and one day I realized I understood him as well as anyone I spoke with. Besides Marcy, I liked Casey the best of all of the Jones kids. He was always pleasant and sunny. He loved music and loved to sing; he'd listen and sing along with Puff The Magic Dragon repeatedly for hours. He always wanted a hug when you came in the door. But, he was so severely handicapped, poor Mrs. Jones had no time to herself what with all of them and managing Casey night and day.

While I was dealing with the snotty behaviors of the Lorraine Avenue gang, Marcy suffered the same trials in our classroom. There's always one kid who seems to bare the brunt of everyone's bad behavior, and for whatever unspecified reason, Marcy was that for our class. I'd try to defend her. When that didn't work, I'd simply stand next to her on the playground or try to make it known through my actions that Marcy was my friend. I didn't have much influence over the situation.

Some days Marcy was invited to play. Some days she wasn't 'allowed.' Most days I'd decline to play if my friend wasn't included. But, sad to say, there were times when I left her standing there as I ran to join the others.

We grew, interests changed, friendships fell away, new alliances formed. The one with whom you are tight one week, becomes the one you simply can't stand the next. God, kids are like weathervanes!

I'm not proud to admit this, but at a certain point, it became easier to not like Marcy, too. As I write this, I know that I felt that at the time, but I don't know why. In part it was because we started to like different things. But, mostly, it was because the rest of the class just didn't like her. I found myself, one day, making fun of her. Wow. How did that change and why? Survival, I guess.

I should have known better and acted better. I mean, after all, I didn't like how the brats on Lorraine Avenue treated me. It really hurt my feelings and made me cry. I knew what it was like to be ostracized and treated badly. So, why was I okay with doing it to Marcy? Shame on me. But, I was just a kid and most of us don't learn about feelings until we've pulled the wings off of a few unfortunate flies.

Marcy and I never were friends again even though we both went on to Seton High. When we saw each other, we'd chat and be pleasant but cool. I was all right with my choice to stop being friends, but there was a twinge of regret for what was lost. She went her way and I went mine. I'm sure she's fine. Still, I want to go on record, "Marcy, I'm sorry if I ever made you feel like the mean kids made me feel. I wasn't very nice to you at the end. You deserved better. You were a good friend and I loved being with your family in your big house on Maryland Avenue. I wish you well."

Namaste' Till Next Time,


LionKing said...

I guess all of us were both givers and receivers of childhood torments. Being one of eight, there were many such instances just among siblings. Most of us have those thoughts rattling around in our consciousness, and try not to remember such circumstances, or push them down when they surface. Thanks for, in your usual inimitable style, scratching off your own childhood scabs, and reminding us that we can, at the very least, send out our own remorse into the universe for the torments we caused others.

Anonymous said...

Boy Holly, these are the days when I wish I had a computer at home...the days when your blog makes me cry and it's not the happy or proud cry, it's the sad cry for I was one of those little girls who no one liked and made fun of and didn't want me to play. What really puzzled me was when their own mothers would lie...I remember going to a friends' house and her mother telling me she wasn't home when I saw her at the window. Funny, that little girl is my best friend today, we recollected several years ago and we been best of friends ever since. So, with that said, I hope you recollect with Marcy one day.

God Love You Holly!

Anonymous said...

Holly, I grew up under those sycamore trees and was in your class for all of the time you were at SSPJ.

I hope I wasn't one of the brats of which you speak.

Thinking of how Marcy was treated makes me sad and somewhat guilty. Why didn't I speak up?

Why didn't I defend her? I regret my silence.

At that time, she was a better person than I.

She was so fun loving, and innocent, and friendly.

Holly said...

Anonymous, since you didn't leave your name, it's hard to know who you are! And, how you found me and my blog and this older piece about Marcy has me intrigued. We were all mean to ourselves and others when we were young and wild. I'm sure, like me, you have learned to care about how you imprint others. It's the way we learn, and the way we live after the learning that makes the difference toward being a Real Human Being.

Anonymous said...

I missed the SSPJ reunion a few years back and was just searching to see if anything new was going
on at the church, and your blog site came back as one of the hits. Happening on the “Marcy” piece was
just dumb luck. I was trying to determine if this was the “Holly” that I remembered (I was pretty sure from
looking at your blog picture, but was not positive). When I saw the piece on Marcy and read it, I knew I had
the right one. I have very clear and fond memories of you. Your writings that reference the times at SSPJ
brought back tons of wonderful memories. Thank you.

Holly said...

So, don't you want to let me know who you are? I hope you enjoyed reading the piece...and thanks for letting me know how you came across it!

Holly said...

Oh, and if you liked this piece, here's a link to another post you might enjoy.;postID=3488359659536959950;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=0;src=postname

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Holly. I am sure I will enjoy it.

PS - Your writing is funny and inciteful - You think and write like a true left-handed person, and I really like it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Holly.....having problems navigating to that link.

After I log into Google, I get the message that "I do not have access to view that page".

Any idea what I'm doing wrong?

Holly said...

You are the reader, so you're not doing anything wrong! Try this one:

Anonymous said...

WOW!!! How do you remember all of this??

When I read your descriptions of the things that were going on, a memory is brought back to life in my mind. And then I begin to fill in the blanks. The pagan baby; the weekly reader; the safety belts (I actually got to be a safety one year-you know there was a very special, and secret, way you had to fold the belt up when you weren’t wearing it); the frozen milk (it tasted like a chocolate milkshake); the paste (that smelled of mint); and the Friday art class!

You only touched on it, but I think I specifically remember the “glitter debacle”. Didn’t you have glitter in your hair and all over your uniform? Unless I’m just making things up, I remember you standing there with your arms outstretched just covered in glitter!

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