Readers of my blog have often read about our July Festival fund raiser in support of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church and School. I have been a regular at the “Feast” ever since they began holding it on Herman Avenue – before it moved to the schoolyard that is.
That tradition was passed on to my children and it continues till this day. It’s the best place to meet new friends, renew old friendships and relive the memories of a lifetime.
As my husband Jimmy would often say, “You can take the girl out of the Neighborhood. But you can’t take the Neighborhood out of the girl.” And he was right.
Not too many years ago I literally took a stroll down memory lane with my good friend Michael. Actually it was West 69th street but you get the idea.
Michael and I had been friends ever since childhood. In a neighborhood that was predominantly boys it was a challenge to find a best friend. Lucky for me, Michael became mine.
We would sit on his steps for hours talking, laughing and telling stories. He had my back and I had his. He was like a brother but in low key kind of way – never telling me what to do, where to go, or how to behave.
Eventually we grew up and went our separate ways. We got married, raised our children, and retired to the suburbs but we always returned every summer to The Feast.
One summer not too long ago, I was standing on the street corner waiting for the procession to start when a familiar figure caught my eye. It was Michael. He waved and crossed the street smiling as he came toward me. He gave me a big hug. And he said, “Louisa, let’s go back in time.”
I knew exactly what he had in mind as we began to walk down our old street. We stopped in front of nearly every house. Every house had a story. And we’d always start by saying…”Do you remember?”
And we sure did remember. We started with Squeaky’s house recalling that he was always into something. Michael and I smiled as we walked past Isabella’s Bakery remembering all of the bread runs between Sunday Mass and dinner.
As we walked passed Goose’s old house it occurred to us that nearly everyone in the neighborhood had a nickname. My brothers Carmen and Tony were called Rhino and Lardy. My husband was just called “Irish” by the old timers who gave him permission to marry me.
We passed Michael’s old house and my house too. And next to my house, lived my cousin Wicky. I could just see his car parked right in front of his door. What a crew we had.
Little did I know that this walk down memory lane was to be our last. Not too long after that I had heard Michael wasn’t well and his memory was failing. A year later, we crossed paths again at a restaurant. He was with his wife. And Jimmy was still in my life. When Michael saw me, there was an instant of recognition in his eyes and he gave me a hug. That moment of recognition touched me to my core and is today a precious memory. It was a small fleeing miracle for us all. We had a nice lunch together.
Let’s face it, we’re all getting older and forgetting things. And every year I have fewer and fewer friends who share the same memories. This is why I decided to give mine away. I’d like to see them live on somehow. I also wanted to pay tribute to my late husband Jimmy who will live on forever in my heart. As one other Cleveland boy once so eloquently put it, “Thanks For The memory.”
I’d like to thank all of you for joining me on my journey back in time. I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as I did writing about it.
This is my last blog post; I never imagined when I started this journey that I would have an email address let alone a blog. It just goes to show you that it’s never too late to learn something new. And in keeping with that philosophy, one of my other pushy daughters has signed me up for courses at the local community college. Who knows, maybe for my next act I’ll learn to code.
God bless you all – Louisa.