... my early years were gone
Here I was in my old neighborhood in Everett, Massachusetts, as if the car had its mind of its own. I was in a kind of fugue as I drove up Cleveland Avenue where I lived until 1953. As I turned left down Swan St. onto Bucknam Street, thoughts from way back found themselves seeping into my consciousness. On the right, as I drove, was a large brick building that “Skippy” Cardillo lived in. On the corner of Bradford and Bucknam Streets, where Cecil and his brother, Eric, owned and ran the store was where I spent many a happy time. As I drove further, I let out a gasp. I quickly pulled over and stopped the car. St. Joseph Church was gone!
I sat for what I think was a few minutes. I was startled and a little dazed realizing there was no more church. After a while I noticed the only thing standing was the rectory. The school, the church were gone.
I drove away and didn’t know what I was feeling. My school and my church were gone. This was the time of my life where I had spent eight years of mostly happy days. It was if I had in someway been wiped out. At least, it felt that way.
I made my way home stunned. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, if anything. After a few days I decided that I ought to make pictures of what was left. At least I could get pictures of where things had been, the school and the church. I could get pictures of the playground and the holes where the school and the church used to be.
Armed with my new digital camera, I drove to Belmont Street and took a right onto Kinsman. I parked next to the playground and took a few pictures. I got a picture of the playground. In 1936 when I arrived for the first grade at St. Joseph’s School there was a building on the left slope that housed grades one and two in one room, and three and four in the other. The janitor and his wife lived on the second floor. He spoke only French so he was no one to talk with. There was a clump of shrubs to the right of the house in which we could hide ourselves to the annoyance of the nuns. Most of the nuns could speak English but it was hard for some as French was their native language.
I remembered having a dream about those tall bushes at the top of that slope. It was a guy and a girl. “At the top of the hill they make their way among the tall bushes. As her head rests on his shoulder her breath quickens. He has slid his hand inside her waistband and strokes the soft stomach skin he finds there.” Now, as I look at the picture I have made of the playground there is nothing there. No building or bushes, nothing.
I was feeling desolate, turning my camera to the gaping hole that was the convent on the upper floors and five and six grades in one room and seven and eight grades in the other room on the first floor. I thought of Norma who I loved in the eighth grade. I remember Sister Something who liked to put on plays. We would go into the basement of the church that had a small auditorium. Sister would be out front directing the play. I would do my best to find a way to rub Norma’s breasts through those rough old uniforms. Now there was only a hole in the ground that housed the convent and school.
I took a picture of the rectory which seemed intact. The rectory was built in the “30’s, I think. As I looked at it, I thought it look rather splendid compared to what the nuns had in a wood frame convent. The nuns all slept in rooms above that we never got to see. Priests were rewarded on a much grander scale compared with nuns. In those days there were only two priests for what looked to be three or four bedrooms and a study. Also, there was a two-car garage to house the priests' cars.
I drove around to Bucknam Street and parked just in front of what used to be a church. The area where the church was now has a new foundation being built for what I suppose are condos. I got a picture of that and also a front view of the hole that was the convent and school.
This was my way of trying to hold on to what was no more. It felt like my whole universe of experience had been ripped up and thrown away. I was thirteen in 1943 when my French grandmother died. There were tons of leaves on the ground when Sister Georges Edmund marched the ten kids in my class to visit my grandmother’s coffin laid out in her home a few blocks away. Now there were just holes.
July 6, 2007