The Hoodlum — To the east of the house next door was a house which must’ve been occupied by someone but, strange to say, if I ever knew who lived there I have long since forgotten. Just on the other side of the mystery house lived in elderly woman, Mrs H__ who, like my grandmother had a very nice garden in her backyard extending all the way to the alley. But I was young, and didn’t really know her very well, so the alley was the only place from which I could enjoy the flowers.
Coincidentally, between the garages across the alley from the garden was a wild array of many colored hollyhocks, so when walking there, perhaps on an errand to the Buy-Rite, it was – for the width of one house, at least – kind of like being in a botanical garden.
In the mid 1950s Mrs H__’s son, a vet who my father had actually known in the Army, moved in with his wife and son, who was just my age. You would think this would be a doubly good thing and the families were supposed to sort of automatically be close. As it turned out, my father had never really liked the man — for good reason — and the son Billy, who joined my class at Bardwell Elementary School, was a young hoodlum in the making.
But my parents were polite, and not wanting to cause bad feelings they were friendly with the newcomers. Fortunately, after a couple of years the young family moved on, and relative peace returned to the neighborhood.
For years my parents cited an incident which they felt demonstrated a result of bad parenting technique. One afternoon Billy climbed the apple tree which then grew in our backyard, and then refused to come down. My father, not wanting the boy to be hurt, nor in truth having a boy in our apple tree at all, tried to talk him down, finally telling him that he should come down from the tree because his father would be angry. To this Billy replied “So what? I’ll just get another whippin’”. Billy did eventually come down from the tree, and as it turned out, the issue was resolved in the precisely the way that now everyone expected.
The Girl Across The Street — I can’t say that I was one of those young boys who hated, or had no patience for girls, until one day suddenly discovering the wonder of it all. I sort of always liked them, and when I was young there was a girl who lived across the street named Stephanie who certainly liked me.
When my mother would cross the street to visit, and I, being too young to be left alone, would be taken along, Stephanie would talk to me, and sit with me, hold my hand and embarrassingly kiss me on the cheek from time to time. The two mothers thought this was adorable behavior for seven-year-olds — and I didn’t really mind as much as I pretended.
Unfortunately (perhaps), a year or so later — long before anything could have developed — the family moved to New Mexico and I never saw them again.