Up On 107th Street

It’s not like I miss it that much, but it’s the only home I know.

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Up on 107th Street

Our block had a catholic church on it with a statue of the Virgin out front.  I went to the adjacent catholic school for a year. Could have been first grade.  My uniform was burgundy and white, I think.  I remember knee-high socks were involved.  Not to mention the nuns and their rulers.

It wasn’t the hairiest block by far––ghetto light vs. ghetto heavy?  One time there was a fire across the street in my friend’s building.  The orange fire seemed to go all the way up to the night sky.

Years later I would read a NY Times article listing my block as one of the worst.  That’s according to the police.  I guess they would know.

Homes where children live exude a pleasant rumpledness,

like a bed made by a child, or a yard littered with balloons.

To be a child again one would need to shed details

till the heart found itself dressed in the coat with a hood.

Now the heart has taken on gloves and mufflers,

the heart never goes outside to find something to “do.”

And the house takes on a new face, dignified.

––excperted from “Where Children Live” by Naomi Shihab Nye

 

 

 

Tab

I met Tab in the fourth grade.

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Tab and Jiwon

Our birthdays are three days apart and we grew up three blocks from each other in the part of Manhattan set aside for poor and colored people.  But one fun fact: Our stretch of blocks was rated one of the top ten worst neighborhoods by our precinct cops, on the scale of drive-bys and drugs we got a big “A”!

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I baked these cupcakes

We were a combo Judy Blume and Walter Dean Myers novel: Increasing our busts in the ghetto.  I even wrote a children’s book about me and Tab for one of my graduate classes, inspired by one of the few children’s books that features a friendship between a black and asian child: Bebop-a-Do Walk by Sheila Hamanaka.

As an only child with parents who were struggling in deep water, my friendship with Tab was an act of grace.  Our friendship didn’t stop me from being a spaz in social settings and super awkward about most things, but in a lasting way it helped me become better suited for the world ahead.

It’s who we breathe, in, out, in the sacred,

leaves astir, our wings

rising, ruffled––but only the saints

take flight.

––excerpted from ‘In Whom We Live and Move and Have Our Being’   

by Denise Levertov