I frantically dug my phone out of my pocket, dialed my sister’s number, and began my meltdown.
“Joan!” I wailed as the tears started to flow, “I stopped by the house on Senator Street and it was a bad idea!”
I had returned to my family’s home for the first time in nearly three years last week and I didn’t handle it very well.
The morning had started off with a visit to the Good Fortune Supermarket, the site of the old Fortway Theater on Fort Hamilton Avenue to research a book project I’m working on.
On the way there, I stopped by McKinley Park, which I had not visited in years. My sister tells me that our mother used to take us there when we were children, but I’m sorry to say I have no memory of that.
After revisiting the Good Fortune, I walked through nearby Leif Ericson Park, which was filled parents, kids, and elderly people, most of whom were Chinese, much like the rest of the neighborhood.
From there, I walked down to Sixth Avenue, where I spotted the Sixth Avenue Electrical Supply Corp., formerly Karl Droge Ice Cream, my second home on sweltering summer nights when I was growing up.
This is where I used to go with my friends—and everybody else in the neighborhood—for fabulous Italian ices that could drain the heat right out of any August evening. There’s a church right across the street, but back then Karl Droge was the real holy place.
The building was just two blocks from my family’s home and I figured, oh, hell, I’ve come this far, why not stroll up Senator Street?
I thought I could deal with this. I’ve driven down this block many times with my sister and I didn’t think it would be a problem.
However, as I got closer to the house, when I saw these beautiful flowers in the garden, where my mother used to do her planting, when I saw the new fence and the ceiling fan in the upstairs apartment, when I saw a car in the driveway, when I realized that people, honest to God people were living here now, I started to fall apart.
A nighttime drive-by is one thing, but a slow walk on a sunny Saturday afternoon is quite different.
I hung around the house for a few minutes, shocked at how quickly the years had gone by.
I regret it now, but at the time I felt foolish. What does he care about who used to live here?
I started to walk down the driveway to look at the back garden when I reminded myself that I was about to walk on to somebody else's property.
My sister wasn’t home when I called, as she had gone hiking where she could enjoy the here and now, instead of blundering around the past.
I finally walked up the block and headed for home. I guess it was a mistake to visit the old house, but I don’t regret it. I wanted to see.
I would like to go back to Senator Street again someday and maybe even speak with the new owners.
But I’m going to need some time.