i started this post on the evening of november 11, 2017 after returning from a party celebrating tom moerman’s life. i was going to post it the next week but needed to scan some pictures from old scrapbooks that were stored under the bed. i didn’t get around to it. then last tuesday (november 28, 2017), ruthann jack – a person my mom considered a sister – died suddenly at home. yesterday was her funeral and it seems like i can’t wait any longer to post this tribute.
i grew up on an amazing street. just 2 blocks long but full of wonderful people and childhood wonder.
i now know that this childhood and these two blocks of tree lined suburbia were not the norm. this was a special place and special people.
i am remind of it everytime some of us get together. these people have been a part of my life for so long that i don’t remember a life without them. we came and went from each others’ houses. doors were rarely locked. i called their granny “granny.” all the parents watched out for each other’s kids. mothers cooked together and kids played together. we were a village before anyone talked about villages.
2 short blocks in the heart of hillcrest. this magical place called north woodrow.
the jacks lived in the big house at 300. four kids (3 girls and a boy), granny miller, and a black lab named belle. i think i was 7 or 8 before i realized that i didn’t have 3 grandmother – nanny (my mom’s mom), granny graham (my dad’s mom) and granny miller (the jack’s grandmother). they had a volvo station wagon named petunia and a jeep wagoner. we slid down their stairs in a sleeping bag and somehow no one got hurt. they were the first to get a computer on the street. we all made the trek to the 3rd floor and gazed at the machine with its giant bookshelf of manuals.
the moermans lived at 303. tom loved jazz and food and beer. his daughter andrea drew a life size ballerina for my birthday party when i was 8. it was a ballet themed party and the ballerina was for pin-the-pointe-shoe-on-the-ballerina game. his wife elena was an amazing cook. their dog max was big enough to ride on and had a bark that could terrify the bravest of passerby (and make my mom practically break your arm!).
the blacks lived at 301. two kids. a dog named boots and a cat named socks. paul used to terrorized carolee and i with an empty caulk gun he called the coody gun. we made chocolate covered peanut butter balls in their kitchen during the holidays (still my favorite!). we played in a huge tree with low strong branches in the alley out back. or in the ravine next to my house. carolee was my best friend and we are still best friends to this day.
the bilheimers lived at 315 and you didn’t dare walk on his grass – even to get to the swing he installed for us in his pine tree. he was a marine who fought at iwo jima. she was the high school english teacher at the blind school around the corner. she grew the most amazing roses.
mr. kramer lived at 311. he remembered when his house was one of only 2 on the street. he lived alone and was scary and wonderful. our very own bo radley. he threatened some movers with a gun when the moermans were moving in. when they said they were calling the police, kramer ran across the street to the jacks and hid the gun in don’s desk. he loved mcdonalds and would bring us soft serve cones wrapped in napkins and put them in our freezer for later. he knew everyone’s dinner schedule and regularly arrived at a different house each night just in time to add another place at the table.
ms. fitzgerald lived at 312 and ms. matthews lived at 324. i only knew them as old ladies. ms. fitzgerald was a dyed brunette with cat eye glasses and a little yappy yorkie. ms. matthews was white haired and edged her grass with little battery operated clippers. ms. matthews locked herself out of the house and i was enlisted to climb thorough the bathroom window to unlock the front door. i was only about 4 or 5.
and christmas was so amazing. from my earliest memory till i was about 6 or 7, we spent every christmas eve at the jack’s house. they had a huge party and we would stay until about 10pm when they went off to midnight mass. we exchanged gifts, ate dinner, sang christmas carols and played board games. the fire roared in the fireplace and the kids drank hot cocoa.
then as we all got older, the party moved to christmas lunch. since i was one of the youngest and always up way too early on christmas day, i didn’t understand why my mom wouldn’t let me go down at 8am after we were done opening our presents. i had no idea about sleeping late! who would sleep late on christmas day????
but it is the winter wonderland of 1978 and then again in 1979 that is most vivid in my memory. snow isn’t a given in arkansas. and if it does snow, it might be a dusting. and even if it is an inch or two, it might not stick around till the end of the day. but those two winters (january 1978 and february 1979) when i was 4 and 5 it snowed and stayed.
everyone was out of school and off from work. and just like other holidays, it was a reason to get out and have a party. we played in the snow and built a snowman (or two). we went sledding on the hill in front of the blind school. we all trooped down the street to pizza d’action. and one evening we walked up to hillcrest and the safeway on beechwood. i remember it seemed like the longest walk of my young life and i begged to ride on my dad’s shoulders.
as an only child these kids were my siblings. i never wanted siblings of my own because i had them. edith, kim, donald, elisa, andrea, carolee, and paul. what more could a little girl want!