From the light box in front of Southgate, you could see Hyde Square to the left, to the right you could follow the trolley tracks all the way to Forest Hills; Boylston Street was straight ahead and Moraine Street was at your back. Sitting on the light box was like being in the middle of EVERYWHERE! ~ Melissa Brady
The light box ruled my life. Of all the places from my teenage years, this is where many adventures began. Whether we ended up at Daisy Field, the Pond, or Parley Vale, the Connelly Library, or Kelly’s Rink, we generally started out at the light box.
Southgate is gone, so is Greasey’s. Ditto Kelly’s Rink. Different people live in our homes. Yet, the light box remains, waiting. It stands as the guardian of our youth, a witness to our hopes and fears, our triumphs and failures. It was our gathering space, the hub of our universe.
Jamaica Plain (JP) back in the 70s and 80s was starting to change. It, like many Boston neighborhoods went through a difficult, turbulent metamorphosis. Busing altered the schools and the communities. Many families moved their kids to Catholic schools while still others left entirely. There was a lot of turbulence and violence, poverty and addiction.
But it was always beautiful, even with urban blight. There was, and remains, an incredible array of natural landscape to serve as our backyards: The Emerald Necklace, which includes Daisy Field and Jamaica Pond. Of course we had the Arboretum and other, smaller, urban oases. Continue reading
The Pond, Daisy Field, Kelly’s Rink, Parley Vale, Pinebank, the Library, the Curley, and so many others.
A few of the places from my teenaged wasteland that can conjure up a smile and a slight shake of my head.
I love the pond. Love! Summer, winter, whenever!
The boathouse, where my pond adventure started. I met George. From there it was Louie and Johnny and then the West Roxbury girls: Deneen, Lena, and Kari. And Tracey, always Tracey. Al, the old man that ran the place, let us have the upstairs (next to the ladies room) for a hangout. Our parties were amazing. I hazily remember a Halloween party and having to climb up the backside of the boathouse and through the window. In heels. Because someone lost the key. Sometimes I’m surprised I made it out of my teens.
I swam (well technically I got thrown in) since swimming wasn’t allowed. Had my sweater used as the flag. I learned how to hate red wine and how to smoke. I have a scar on my leg from when Grimace thought I would flinch when he held the knife against it — not quite sure who actually won that game of chicken. Chris found the old man dead in the water. Oh and the time Tracey almost killed a carful of people when she ran across the Jamaicaway like a crazy person and then yelled, yeah yelled, at the driver for almost hitting her! Ha.
So many great times at skating. I remember Sunday mornings when no one else was there; having the whole thing to myself. Heaven! Friday night skating and the boys racing from corner to corner. The girls laughing and flirting. I met a boy there; he stole my heart for a bit. He told me I should drink more whiskey (that relationship lasted a whole lot longer). Getting so cold that it hurt when you walked inside. The gross bathrooms and the 25 cents it cost to get in. It’s gone now. The building not the memories.
The parties at Daisy. Nothing else to say really. A mass of people and beer. Cops and running.
The rocks at Parley Vale always remind me of Elizabeth and Dineen. I’m not sure why. I was always surprised no one fell.
Of course no great outdoors adventure would be complete without a climb – the rooftops. No mountains or hills for we, the urban warriors. No, we had the buildings. The Curley and the Connelly and those damn Mickey Mouse cops. I remember Karen and Joann and Michelle. I remember the boys we liked and sometimes fought over. The ones with the cars. And the ones without. The sugar bowl and rolling down the hill. Paul or Bobby singing some stupid Boy George song; I think it was Bobby. Under the bridge outside the gym. Nipper rolling up on some girl trying to work his charm. Basketball inside.
I remember leaving JP. I walked away and my returns became less frequent until they stopped all together. That’s one of my greatest regrets. Walking away. Thinking there would always be time. Hard to believe I’m not that girl anymore. Hell, I’m not even sure I would recognize her if I saw her.
Oh and I would kill – KILL – my kids if they tried even half of what I got away with!
My mom has changed very little over the years. Sure she is losing the battle with age. Her hair now sits, white, upon her head. She has trouble walking so spends her time outside the house in a wheelchair. She has survived more than a few brushes with the Reaper. She is a testament to medical science.
Mom’s heyday was the 70s. She was raising five girls and running a home. She babysat for everyone and anyone, she fed and housed any stray that Dad dragged home, and she did it without complaint or reward.
She did it because she has the same big heart that Dad had. She just didn’t publicize it.
Mom had a few vices. She drank hot tea by the gallon and she chain smoked — at first Pall Mall Menthols and later Salem 100s. Back in the 70s, when kids were allowed to buy cigarettes, one of us would be dispatched to F&M to get her more if she were running low. Imagine that happening today!
She loves sports and she is the quintessential homer. Her Red Sox. Her Celtics. Her Bruins. Especially her Bruins.
Back in the day, we had one TV. It sat in the bay window in the living room, with rabbit ears and human remote controls. Arrayed around the room was typical furniture – sofa, loveseat, chair, assorted tables. In the evening, the living room would fill up as we spread out to watch TV. Arguments about seating were legendary and alliances were forged and broken to make sure prime seating was kept by those with the foresight to get to the living room early.
On certain nights, the TV watching dynamic shifted – hard. Everyone scrambled to the floor. Fighting and shoving to get as far away from the furniture as possible. You had to be strategic, to close to the TV and you would be up and down – the official channel changer for the evening, but you needed to be far enough away from the couch to be safe.
The Bruins were on and Mom was going to sit and watch them. Terror stuck the sisters! Mom was not a quiet fan she was not a passive fan. Our mother, the calm that ran our lives, became a raging, crazy lunatic whenever the Bruins played.
We always seemed to have company. Always. On this particular night the Powderly’s were visiting, at least Dan and his daughter, Mary Jo. They lived just over the other side of Sheridan Street. Dad and Danny were childhood friends and Mary Jo was a constant presence in our house since she was best friends with Debbie, my oldest sister.
Dad and Dan settled in, each with a beer. Mom sat at the end of the couch, alone. While all of the sisters, plus Mary Jo, squirmed around on the floor. Mary Jo, puzzled, asked why she couldn’t sit on the furniture.
One of the sisters, not sure which, said “Why don’t you go sit on the couch, next to Mom”.
So off she went. It was fine, at first.
Then the game started in earnest. Her focus firmly on the game, Mom would start by talking to the TV – get him, GET him, GET HIM! Son-of-a-bitch GET HIM!
As the game progressed, so did Mom. She quickly moved from talking to yelling to jumping to flailing. At one point the action was so savage and quick, that Mom literally lept from the couch – scaring poor Mary Jo; who looked at our mother as if she had lost her mind.
That’s when it happened. Mom – sweet, lovable Mom – worked into a frenzy by her big, bad, Bruins clenched her hands, raised them above her head, and – WHAM – punched, yep PUNCHED, a child. In the leg. Hard.
A child, by the way, that did not belong to her! The woman who wouldn’t harm a fly, who never
laid a finger on any of her children – yeah, that woman – became a crazy lunatic. Because of the Bruins. The Big, Bad Bruins. Baby.
Mary Jo recovered from her leg injury without any lasting physical damage. Although she kept her distance from Mom for a while after that incident.
Mom, she still loves her some Bruins (and all the other home teams) and watches as often as she can. She watches them alone. In her room. Perched on the edge of her bed. No longer chain smoking but still guzzling her tea – now iced. Intent on the action. Having the time of her life.
You don’t have to watch the game to follow the action. You only need to listen to the sounds emanating from the bedroom. Her shouts of joy, frustration, irritation, and incredulity tell a story more compelling – to me, a non-sports fan – than any announcer ever could.
All I know is, if there’s a heaven, God better be a Bruins fan! Or he’s in for one hell of an eternity
Jim had girls. Five in all: Debbie, Patty, Tracey, Barbara (that’s me), and Laura. The older four happened quickly — only 3-1/2 years separate Debbie and me; Laura was born a couple of years later. It was a cruel trick played on him by the universe. He didn’t know what to do with us, he didn’t know how to discipline us, and he sure as hell didn’t know how to relate to us.
He did his best to avoid having to discipline us when we were young. He wouldn’t hit us because we were girls. Jim had only one rule, no crying – ever! If you did something, you took your punishment like a man. Even if you were a five-year-old girl.
I’m sure it was quite a sight. Jim was not a small man. Physically he wasn’t incredibly tall but he was broad, and big, and damn, could he holler! Thunderous. His voice could peel paint. And when directed at you, you had to stand there and take it – like a man; a five-year-old-girl-man. There was no bending down to your level for a conversation and a gentle readjust. There was just Jim. Getting louder, and redder, and madder.
The four who weren’t in trouble would close ranks on the condemned sister. She would be out in front. Alone. Chin up. Looking straight ahead. Taking it like a man; a five-year-old girl-man. The remaining four would stand directly behind, two on each side. Chin up, looking straight ahead, crying like only little girls can. Heaving, snotty, sobbing, silent crying. Four little girls, protecting one of their own.
It didn’t take long for the crying to have the desired result. Jim giving up with a “Jesus Christ, Mul” (to my mom), you discipline them, I can’t take all the damn crying.
There were instances when we all got in trouble at the same time. They didn’t happen often but they did happen. The most memorable of these had five little girls lined up, shoulder-to-shoulder, chins up, looking straight ahead. Taking it like men; five little-girl-men. Luckily for us, just as Jim was really winding up his tirade – bellowing and sputtering – it happened! His top teeth shot out of his head and dropped – plop – on the floor between us. Much to his credit, he leaned over, picked his teeth up, and walked away. What little was left of his dignity preserved in that small action. And the sisters, well we had the grace to wait until he was out of ear shot to fall, laughing, to the floor.
I’d like to say that Jim met his match in those 5 little girls, but he hadn’t. That would have to wait a few more years. I was a teenager then; Jim’s bellowing didn’t bother me. If he wanted my attention, he grounded me and took away my phone privledges. That’s how you punish a teenage girl that likes to talk!
Sisters, you know who I’m talking about – a sassy, foul-mouthed brunette (no, not you Patrice). So, shhh, don’t spoil it for the others.
To read about the mystery brunette, click here.