This is an excerpt from a chapter I wrote and eventually cut from my book, The Gold Mailbox. So much of the writing process involves writing and rewriting, cutting and pasting, creating and deleting. I really liked this part because it was one of the few places in the story where I recalled some happier times with my mom. Unfortunately in the end, it didn’t work with the flow of the story. So, I’m going to share it here. The story is written in my child’s voice and I am seven years old, looking back at “the good old days” with my mother. Hope you enjoy it.
The happiest moments with Mommy were spent in our thirteenth floor apartment in Rochdale Village. Rochdale Village was a group of apartment buildings in Jamaica. Not the Jamaica surrounded my quiet sandy beaches and crystal blue waters, the perfect getaway advertised on TV. Jamaica, New York, surrounded by concrete, graffitti and strip malls.
Those were the days when Mommy loved me best of all. I was too little to go to school then, so after Daddy left for work and my sister, Aileen went off to school it was just Mommy and me. Mornings were spent watching The Dinah Shore show or my favorite Shari Lewis and her cute puppet Lambchop. Mommy did a perfect Lambchop impersonation. High pitch voice and all. After our shows, I’d color in my coloring book and Mommy would draw pictures of a little cartoonish girl named Curly Sue. She’d recite a little poem while she drew, “Once there was a girl, who had a curl, right in the middle of her forehead and when she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid!” When Mommy said horrid, she’d make her voice all spooky, fill her cheeks with air and blow a big puff on my face. My bangs would fly off my forehead and I’d crack up. At lpm every afternoon, Mommy set up our TV trays and we ate our lunch in the living room to watch the Soaps. I loved seeing the beautiful blonde hair, blue eyed, Nicky get into battles with the evil Mrs. Chancelor.
Sometimes Diane, our next door neighbor would come over. Diane had long stringy dirt brown hair, sad droopy eyes and milky white skin. Whe she came, Mommy would stop whatever we were doing and she and Diane would sit at the kitchen table smoking cigarettes and drinking black coffee for hours. I’d spy on them from the hallway. I’d hear Mommy whisper, “You should just leave him. You don’t deserve that shit.” I knew she was talking about Diane’s husband, Mark, who worked the night shift and spent the days sleeping on their king sized water bed. Diane had to tiptoe around the apartment so she wouldn’t wake him. Mark had a real bad temper and I even saw him take a swing at Diane more than once. I think Mommy was Diane’s only friend.
There was a beautiful faraway city painted in greens and blues on one whole wall in our living room. When I got tired of spying on Mommy and Diane, I’d take a pretend trip into the city on the wall. I’d imagine myself in a long frilly dress carrying a fancy umbrella, just like Mary Poppins. I’d stroll down the main street waving to all my freinds and shopping in the fancy stores along the way. When I was done playing pretend I’d lay upside down on the couch, feet up on the high back, my long dark hair, barely touching the floor. I’d lay that way until all the blood rushed to my head and I’d get that light dizzy feeling. Sometimes Mommy would sneak up on me, “Boo,” she’d shout. “Ahhhh!” I’d shriek. Then the tickling would begin. She’d tickle and tickle, her long nails digging into my underarms. I’d beg her to stop, between fits of breathy, uncontrollable laughter. She’d keep going until we were both worn out from laughing so hard. Then we’d lay there panting, bellies aching from all that laughing.
When Aileen came home from schools, we’d all have a snack at the kitchen table-usually Oreos or Malomoars with a big glass of milk. Aileen ate slowly, breaking the cookies apart, but I gobbled them down in no time. After our snack, Mommy would herd us into her bedroom. “Time for a nap,” she’d say. Mommy would lay in the middle of her big double bed and Aileen and I would be on either side. Mommy always fell asleep fast. As soon as she started to snore, Aileen and I would begin our game. We were grown ups with families of our own, living next door to each other. Mommy’s body became the wall between our apartments. We’d pretend to talk on the phone about what we were making for dinner and sharing stories about our absolutely perfect children.
Those were the good old days…