My mother always loved the beach. She would talk endlessly the same stories about her childhood and going to Coney Island and eating spaghetti out of a thermos they ate like prince and princess my mom would laugh. In late July early August my mother would yell, “I want to go to the beach!”
My father and I would turn white as ghosts as she stormed the house after cleaning it. She can’t just get out and go. She couldn’t just drop what she is doing to go. It is always the same thing of getting up early, packing a lunch in a cooler driving down to Rockaway Beach by B108 or B110 street by Stella Marias. My father would drive and scramble for parking sometimes we would get lucky and get a good spot many times he had to pay five bucks to park in a lot. Then we had to lug everything onto the beach, but my parents didn’t want to stay near the boardwalk but go closer to the water but not that close and pitch the tent, blanket, and chairs. This would make my mother happy that she can go into the water and swim in the waves. My dad and I where not fans of the sand, the seaweed or the crabs the can claw the bottom of your feet while swimming. My father would eat his sandwich, drink his coffee, read a book and listen to the Mets. My mother would come out of the ocean and run for the beach towel and not stop talking of the old days and where the White House use to be on the boardwalk and how Irish Town was torn down.
I would have my birthday parties at Rockaway Playland. I would have a hand fill of friends my parents would buy us an all day ticket and go on all the rides and run around and play at the games. I loved Rockaway Playland. The Roller Coaster was old and it would rock and different parts while you were on the ride there was a sense of danger to the old wooden coaster. I cried when I heard the Playland burnt to the ground.
There were times I hated being there as my mother was very happy to run around in the sand and surf. I couldn’t wait to go home to take a shower to get the grim of being at the beach off. Then I would be sun burnt for a few days due to my fair skin.
I did my time at summer school at Stella Marias, I was a poor student I struggled to get a good grade. I enjoyed taking the Q21 to the Rockaways but taking the C train that was fun I would meet my friends in the third car we would sit together, laugh, look outside when the C train traveled over the water of Jamaica Bay. We would get off at Beach 116 walk down to the boardwalk, my friends might get a soda, funk food and walk to B110 where the Stella Marias stood. When school was over and it was too hot we would take the empty train back, it would rock back and forth because they was not enough people on the train we would stand in the middle and rock with the train. It’s how I learned how to train surf.
The only beach I like is Rockaway. I like that it’s dirty, that they are just a few places to get something to eat. Or when you walk just a few blocks to the subway station you should be on your guard. There has been punks going to that beach since the Romones sang about it, that part I am happy to see hasn’t changed. May Rockaway not lose it’s edge.
Each day I have been chipping away of the items in my mother’s house in Woodhaven, Queens. She has lived in the house for fifty years, I grew-up here. She use to get this house spotless had the energy of ten people on a Saturday of cleaning, throwing things out and still cook dinner. It was rare if she took a nap and if she did the bell would ring and it would be my grandmother, who was lonely and wanted someone to talk too.
A lot has changed. Woodhaven has changed it’s not the tight neighborhood it use to be and you could do all your shopping on Jamaica Avenue rarely have too go to the Queens Center Mall. Everyone knew each other back then because they sat outside or played running up and down the street.
My mom is older now suffers with back problems which has slowed her down. It’s how the clutter in all corners of the house grew. I get black and blue marks from bumping into furniture and the bric-a-brac. I am amazed of what she saved, maybe forgotten in the basement, boxes of moldy school books and folders, my father’s tools, lots of mats many from my Grandmother’s apartment up the street. Rolls, and rolls of gift wrap and boxes for Christmas. I guess she started to lose that ball of energy years ago and it’s now I am realizing it.
I am a native New Yorker and everything is changing most of the articles are written are about the Renascence of Brooklyn, Queens areas I never dreamed that millionaires would want to move too. Woodhaven, Ozone Park, Queens have always been working class neighborhoods hard working people, raising their families. So I worry. The city I grew-up in is chasing pushing the middle class to the far parts of the city away from gentrification.
The house is too much for my mother seven rooms and two flights of stairs I worry she could fall down them. We have are fights because this place has always been our home and it gets emotional of the idea of cleaning it and selling but I can’t look the other way from the 800 pound gorilla. I have to get back to clean. If anyone is looking for a house check us out.
I walked into Ivan’s coffee shop in Woodhaven, Queens and the young man knew right away how I wanted my ice coffee. Simple milk, one bag of equal, ice he shook it up it cost me 1.75. I gave a tip and then I left the place. That is what I like serve. The young man remembered what I like in my coffee,hot or cold because he remembered. I go back when I get that crave needing that jolt to get you going. I know there are articles about coffee snobs how making coffee has become a science project. I like the basics, of a place coffeehouse, bakery, or coffee shop that they are non-stop of brewing coffee to me that is not science it’s service.
My mom has been through a lot this year. She has started to go back for Physical Therapy, in Howard Beach, Queens. I discovered a place called Sugar Bun, it been there forever. It’s a great place for a quick lunch, breakfast and it has a good bakery, the coffee, ice tea flows non-stop. So the last two weeks I took my mom after her sessions. It’s good for her to walk, she is getting stronger. At 76 years of age she is not worrying about her weight. The Doctor and I just shook our heads and rolled our eyes. My mom is blessed with a great metabolism, she can eat anything, naturally skinny, now she wants to count calories?
So at lunch she has a chicken wrap, I had a BLT it’s a good way to test a new place or order a burger. We ate then I hear. “Is that the paper?” “No. It’s the wrap.” She cuts it with a knife and fork, I look the other way when I eat out in public with my mom. Uses a knife and fork with pizza, dessert, lobster, the table rocks back and forth as she hacks into food.
I told her you getting stronger and this month your going to be moving around more, take walks, do the exercises that the Therapies showed you. It’s easier to talk to the wall than her sometimes.
Well if you are driving through Howard Beach, Queens stop into Sugar Buns to get a wrap or sandwich or cake.
My mom has lived on her house on 95th Street, Woodhaven, Queens since 1965. It’s attached row house my dad died of lung cancer in 1990. I can count the number of times my mom had a yard sale one and was a teenager at the time. Yesterday beautiful sunny Saturday was the second. We and the next door neighbors sat out late morning until after two and just made a few bucks. I grew-up on this block it was fun to sit and talk and watch what has become the new neighbors who toss out dirty diapers from their mini-van trying to be friendly buying my mom’s old snow shoves. Our other neighbor bought my mom’s many teapots. I was hoping to sell the perfectly preserved barbecue that stays in my mom’s basement and throw the out bags of charcoal for free. Instead sold the open bags of charcoal for two bucks. It’s a start to get fifty years of collected things out of the house. This is a differcult time in my life. My mom moving from a place that has always been there for me my tara, my stomping ground still, my childhood home. Woodhaven, Queens. You hipsters, bloggers should check it out it’s the other side of Atlantic Avenue before the airport. Next week we are planning another yard sale come.