Growing Up Bronx
Map of the Neighborhoods of the Bronx
When I was 6 years old, my parents made the tremendous leap from renting a tiny apartment in the Fordham section of the Bronx to purchasing a comfortable two family home in the Country Club neighborhood. I shared my bedroom with my Grandmother (Nonna) until the day I left the house to get married in 1989.
It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized that Country Club was considered an “upscale” neighborhood. We were by no means an upscale family. My mother was a stay at home mother who worked harder than most working women! Devoted to her husband, she maintained a sizable home, raised a precocious only child and cared for a demanding elderly mother. My father was an extremely hard worker. A laborer in the Construction Industry, he often worked 6-7 days a week and plenty of overtime to keep his family comfortable and wanting for nothing.
My mother handled the paycheck. Somehow she managed to turn every penny into a dollar! I was sent to the best schools, participated in after school activities and tried every lesson I thought of and lost interest in almost immediately. She helped out neighbors, family and friends, and never asked for anything in return!
As hard as my father worked, he never once complained! Many late nights, my mom would stand behind our tremendous living room window waiting to see him turn the corner on his walk home from the subway. And he would be up and out again before dawn in the morning.
As a family, we made the most of our time together when my father was home!
He took great pride in his home and had the most amazing garden filled with a myriad of fresh vegetables and a beautiful grape vine. We had the typical Italian grass - concrete! And boy, did he keep it clean. We always ate dinner as a family when he was home. Steak (that he grilled to perfection) on Saturday, Pasta on Sunday, Chicken on Monday and random meals the rest of the week. No gas grill for us! We used charcoal briquettes! Best flavor ever!
Elementary School for me was in walking distance. My mother would walk with me everyday. As I got older, I wanted to walk on my own, and my mother reluctantly let me. I later found out that she would follow me to make sure I got to school safely, but I never saw her. Finally, she cut the apron strings and actually let me go on my own.
Food shopping was in walking distance too. We would take the folded shopping cart and walk to “the Avenue” and walk back with the cart filled with staples and treats. We went the “Square” and Parkchester on the 22 (bus) which later became the 14. We would often take a trips to NYC on the #6 subway and visit the garment district to buy fabrics. My mother was an amazing seamstress and would often make my clothes.
I had so many great friends - on the block and at school. And my best friend lived right around the corner. But the majority of time was spent on the block.
My block was always filled with kids. Back then, we went out in the morning, came in for lunch, went back out and came in for dinner. We never feared for our safety and our parents always knew where we were. We had fun outside - running, jumping, laughing, playing games, singing songs! Innocent fun!
At night the parents sat on their stoops. My grandmother, always present even though she didn’t speak any English, laughed and enjoyed while sipping her nightly espresso.
Over the years, the block went through many changes, and eventually I grew up, got married and moved out. But my great memories of living in the Bronx are always with me!
I reconnected with a group of neighborhood friends recently! You never forget the kids you grew up with! You realize later on that they played such an important role in your life!!
© 2019 lisanna