Sunday, October 13, 2013
The Garden Apartment
A friend of over forty years sent me a note last week. She told me what I had already heard from another, that a mutual dear friend was gravely ill in New York. I was saddened by the news of course. The stricken woman is one of those sweet, gentle and loving individuals who was always ready to help and always did everything with a smile. Both of these women are slightly older than I and both, well, they were a huge part of my early years as wife and mother. A flood of memories has set upon me, making me blue but very grateful for those times that we all had together when we were young.
Our very first apartment was in North White Plains, New York. It was a "garden apartment" and we were on the top floor of a two story building that housed four groups of renters. There were three individual parts to the complex known as "River Park Apartments" and ours was in the furthest back section. The units that made up our part of the complex were identical to the others, with a large expanse of grass in the middle of a circle. A sidewalk surrounded the circle and our building, Number 14, was dead center. To get to it from the parking lot, we had to walk halfway around the circle or across the lawn. We moved into River Park in December when we returned from our short honeymoon and the dead of winter sheltered us from the outside world as we kept busy with our work lives and our new domestic responsibilities as a married but very young couple.
One of the advantages to living at River Park was the use of the free bus which transported people who worked in down town White Plains back and forth each day. This meant that we only needed one car and that Joe would never have to worry about where to park when he went off to his job as a case worker for the County and I, as a nurse for the Western Electric Company in Yonkers. In those winter days, we would come and go and occasionally, we would see another resident either doing same or making their way to and from the laundry room in the building next to ours. Rarely did we stop for conversation. An exchange of smiles might have been all the communicating we did, with some small talk in the laundry room once in a while. It was a cold winter.
I soon became pregnant with my first child. This was the natural order of things in the late sixties, early seventies. Married, pregnant, stop work at seven months and collect unemployment. By early summer of that first year, I knew the drill and was ready to march in that parade. Each day, as I made my way from my car back to my apartment, I passed a collection of young mothers, seated on lawn chairs in the middle of the grass in front of our apartment. Toddlers and very young children sprinkled the area. The sound of "Big Wheels" hitting the sidewalk as they went round and round was almost deafening. Squeals, sobs and lots of kiddie noise went on from late morning until it was time for everyone to flee.Chairs were folded, toys were hidden, kids went into bathtubs and mommies started evening rituals in tiny kitchens, waiting for daddies to return home.
They all seemed to be enjoying this life and most of all, each other's company. Kids tugged at their legs, juice was poured, noses wiped and bathroom breaks were taken. I was watching real mommies in action and I was so intimidated, but envious and so wishing that I could break into what to me was the "In Crowd" at River Park. Surely, they were bonded and the circle was already too tight for my entry.
And then, one of those hot August afternoons, as I made my way from the parking lot, one of the mommies called out to me. "It's Judy's 30th....come have a piece of cake" and I officially became one of them. Lasting friendships were made that day in 1971. The celebrations continued. Each birthday, new baby, and holiday was shared in ways that to this very day, I can recall with vivid detail. Me and my baby boy, surrounded and nurtured in the circle of River Park. Simple, beautiful memories and now, as I look back to what I swear was only yesterday, I feel sorrow for my aged and dreadfully ill old friend and such gratitude for the precious moments that made that segment of my own life the pinnacle that it was.
You are in my heart and in my prayers Shirley Pearl
You are a Pearl of a girl and you always will be.