Pulling up stakes …
I introduced Part One by mentioning the major move Laura Drake took recently, pulling up stakes in SoCal and moving to Texas, the land of the Sweet Cowboy. Like my move to Southern Florida, Laura’s move was one of the benefits of retirement and thus it was welcomed and met with open arms.
What if you didn’t want to move away from the known into an unsure future?
Well, if you’re a kid, you have no choice. Someone packs up your marbles and moves the game across the borough, or to the burbs, into the hills or along one of our winding river banks. You go to sleep in one location and by night fall you are tucked into bed in another location.
Today we visit Antoinette and her friend, Michael the day their families are leaving Sunset Park. It is two weeks after they graduated from the eighth grade at St. Matthew’s Parochial School.
Michael will live in the burbs of Long Island, Antoinette in the posh neighborhood of Bay Ridge, accentuated by the Brooklyn Narrows and the Staten Island Ferry.
Moving day …
Antoinette and Michael sat on two milk crates from the old Olympia Diner, their heads moving like spectators at a tennis match between the two houses and the two trucks moving their families. Neither of the teens spoke. Antoinette was so quiet, Carmela rushed twice to the medicine cabinet to shake out her thermometer to take the girl’s temperature.
“She hasn’t spoken a word in hours. The only time that child is quiet is when she’s sick or she’s been into mischief. And since there is no mischief to make today, even for our Antoinette, I’m certain she’s coming down with a terrible cold.”
Andrew leaned out of Antoinette’s bedroom window and watched his sister raise her camera. “Will you pack this and stop worrying. She’s upset because you’re moving.”
Michael was the first to break the long silence. “I’m happy. That’s what I keep telling myself.” He shook his head slowly. “So how come I feel so rotten?”
At one point she became agitated and marched to the back of the truck carrying the few possessions she was moving to the new house.
Michael followed her. “What’s wrong?”
“If you were like a normal boy, and not the dough-head that you are,” she rolled her eyes, “I wouldn’t have to tell you. You’d know.”
He pulled at her arm. “You could humor the dough-head and tell me anyway.”
She started walking in a circle and held up one finger. “First of all, I don’t want to play hide and seek with boys all summer. Bobby will be chasing me all over and Tom Conti will be following suit. It drives me crazy when they act like that.”
She held up her other finger. “Second, I need to get used to the new place and some of the kids I’ll be going to school with.”
She held up the third finger and frowned. “And third, I feel like it.”
Two hours later the trucks were gone and on their way to their final destinations. Carmela rushed down the steps holding two shopping bags and a lamp shade. Andrew was behind her with two more shopping bags. “I don’t understand why you couldn’t pack this stuff and send it ahead.” He motioned to the lamp shade. “And why would you want to keep that hideous lamp shade?”
Carmela ignored her eldest and pointed to Michael and Antoinette. “Look at them. You’d think they were being sent to refugee camps.”
Andrew smiled. “It might have more to do with the fact that this is the first time since they were born, they’re not going to the same school and won’t be seeing each other every day.”
Angelina and John Russo came out of their front door as Carmela was putting the lamp shade on top of one of her shopping bags. One look and they both broke down.
Antoinette used the last of her third roll of film to capture the precious moment when the two women finally separated, the moment when the two men hugged and kissed each cheek as was their Italian custom.
Michael laughed. “At least we aren’t getting all wet and silly about it.”
Her head bobbed. “Sure, we’re not going to act like them.”
John Russo barked at his son to get into the car. It was time to say good-bye. Angelina reached out to her best friend for one more hug and the two teens watched as John Russo and Big Frank separated them.
Michael play punched Antoinette and said. “I have to go. You know how he gets.”
She gave him one back. “We can still see each other when you’re working with Andrew, or on weekends.”
He nodded. “Yeah, sure.”
“And we can always do stuff on school holidays, like the Music Hall.”
He nodded again. “Sure we can.”
Antoinette shook her head. “It’s a good thing you always had me to get you out of trouble, Michael Russo.”
He stepped back and smiled. “What does that mean?”
This time she wasn’t clicking on her camera. She reached over and touched his face with the palms of her hands, as though she wanted to memorize each curve, imprint his smile and hold this one single moment in her memory. She kissed him on both cheeks and told him in Italian. “Because you’re still the worst liar on the planet.”
Without another word she ran to her brother’s car and slipped in next to the shopping bags. Big Frank pushed Carmela into the backseat and motioned to Andrew. “Do it now.”
Andrew gunned the engine, jumped off the curb and made a U-turn to get onto Third Avenue, heading for Shore Road and his parents’ new house. Antoinette turned and got up on her knees, watching Michael climb into his father’s new Buick. She watched until her brother’s car made the turn on Third Avenue. Only then did she turn and sit.
Big Frank moved his body around in the front seat until he was facing his wife and daughter. He pulled a clean hanky from his back pocket and handed it to Antoinette. No one spoke during the fifteen minute ride to Bay Ridge.
When Andrew stopped the car in front of the new house, Antoinette turned to her mother. “Funny, isn’t it mom?”
Carmela sighed. “What’s funny, Antoinette?”
“It only took us fifteen minutes to move from one world to another.”
How about you reader, did your family pull up stakes,
and force you to leave behind a childhood friend?
And has that friend remained a part of your life?
fOIS In The City