An Imaginary Trip Back Home
Home is a little section of Bridgeport, Connecticut called the "East End". Since I can't really make the journey, I will write about the mental journey that I often make in my mind.
My imaginary trip would be by car. North on I-95 (how I hate that road) to the Florida border, cross over into Georgia, a state I have never "really" seen, although I have passed through it may times. This time I would stay in Georgia overnight and maybe see some of the terrain. I probably wouldn't stop again until Virginia, a state I love almost as much as Connecticut. Finally, after passing through Maryland, New Jersey, and New York, I would arrive in Connecticut.
The first city I come to on I-95 is Greenwich, a lovely New England town and one I planned to live in when I became a wealthy artist. Now, I pass through Stamford, Norwalk, getting closer. I could never describe the feeling I got when going home, even when I left for two weeks vacation I would get "homesick". I remember a feeling of exhilaration upon returning home. Coming into Bridgeport would be exit 31, Lordship Boulevard letting me off I-95 and leading to the foot of Wilmot Avenue. The house in which I was born and grew up in still stands at 157 Wilmot Avenue.
My parents purchased the house in May, 1938 and I was born the following October, at home. As I approach the house I knew so well, the first thing I notice is that everything now seems so small. This house held 11 people at one time. My brother, Mom and Dad, me and my seven sisters. We also kept a menagerie of pets. The yard that I rebelled against raking seems "postage stamp" size now.
The I-95 Exit 31, now covers the baseball field where my friends and I payed baseball, the blackberry patch and the inlet of Johnson's Creek, but I picture them all still there. The inlet of the creek was my favorite "alone place" as a child. To get to the creek one had to tightrope walk over the only remaining piece of what looked like a trolley track. I would sit for hours and watch the water and the little minnows swimming by.
The walk to my school, that seemed so long is also different now. I used to cut through the "woods" a lot filled with trees on the walk to Blessed Sacrament School. This "woods" is now all paved and contains a machine shop and a warehouse of some kind.
It was on this short cut that I met my best friend, Myra. She walked through the "woods" the opposite way to go to the public school, Mckinley School. One morning my sister, Babe and I came upon a little girl crying and sitting in the "pricker bushes", her hair was covered with the little round porcupine-like prickers. It seems she had been set upon by two rambunctious colored boys, who were now also crying that if we told their mother they would get a "whipping". My sister and I relieved Myra of her crown of thorns and sent her on her way. My sister told the boys that if this happened again we would certainly tell their Mama. Myra and I were about 9 years old then and have remained "best friends" lo these many years, even though she now lives in North Carolina and I live in Florida.
Next, I would have to walk by the school, which is now made up of two parishes, St. Mary's and Blessed Sacrament, two of the poorest in the city. The convent where I spent many happy hours visiting the nuns, or sitting to do a task after school, is now the Guenster Center, for recovering alcoholics. The catholic school is taught by mostly lay teachers and they do not have a use for the convent.
Blessed Sacrament Church is directly across from the school. For most of my childhood it was called the cellar church. The builders feared to add another story, because they felt the ground too swampy. I was baptised there, made my first Holy Communion, and Confirmation there. I was married there. Today it looks like a beautiful New England church. Two years after I was married in the old church, they decided to add the main story to the church. And though it is beautiful, I always felt more comfortable in the little underground building, where I had received the sacraments.
I don't think I'd take the chance of walking down Stratford Avenue, the Avenue was a pretty wild place even when I belonged to the neighborhood and a visit to it now would be foolhardy.
Most of the people I knew here have all moved away. In fact the last remaining person, Mrs. Watson who became our second mother, my Mom died when I was ten, just sold her house in the old neighborhood and moved to Huntington.
I would have to walk to Pleasure Beach just one more time, across the wooden bridge which has been condemned at least 1000 times that I can remember. They still allow cars to cross and if you are walking across when a car goes by, the boards jump up and down. I can still hear my kid sisters screaming in delight as this happened. Pleasure Beach is an island that contained an amusement park that I barely remember, then the Pleasure Beach Ballroom, and now the Polka Dot Playhouse. Many years ago I had tried out for a part in a play there, I don't recall what the play was, however, I had to conquer my shyness to do this and that is what I do remember!
I guess what they say, "you can never go back" is true. Certainly nothing is ever the same as you remember, so I guess it is best to keep the memories and not spoil them by trying to go back home.