A Street Where You Live
69 Georgia Street, Long Beach, Long Island, New York 1963-1970
Georgia Street was among the streets in the west end of the Long Beach where all the streets were named after states. The street next to Georgia was Florida Street. There was a bully on that street so I stayed away. The west end of Long Beach in the 1960’s was essentially comprised of summer bungalows; small one floor houses with one or two rooms, no basement and built on a concrete slab because no one really had a basement due to the floods. The west end of the Long Beach was narrow and lay between the bay and the ocean. At least three to four times a year, the ocean and bay tides would rise so high that they would flood over the boardwalk, over the dunes and into the street creating a huge lake where the bay and ocean would meet. Most of the people that lived in the west end were lower middle class or poor people. We hung out in the street; Mr. Softee rang his bell up and down the narrow streets; we played jump rope and hopscotch in the streets; the houses were so close that as pre-teens we would climb to the rooftop of a friend’s house and jump from roof to roof until a friend fell from the 2nd story of a higher house onto the pavement. We stopped jumping after that.
Georgia Street is where I had most of any good years I had with my mother and my best memories with my sisters. It is also the place where I lived when my mother let a 60+ yr. old man … some former friend of my fathers who I had no affection for or relationship with …. Come and take me out for the day once a week or two weeks. Why would she let a 5 year old go with a 60 yr. old unsupervised? She never asked me where we went or what we did. So where did we go or what did we do? Fucking asshole. We went to his apartment where he molested me. No, my mother did not stop it. I did. I said I was sick. I continued to be sick each time he wanted a visit. He came to see me to ask me “to see if I was ok.” I got in the bed, under the blanket and pretended to feel very sick. Fucking asshole. Put his hand under the blanket and started to touch my vagina. My damn mother was in the house but apparently he was starving for me, fucking creep. I turned on my side. He said, you don’t like me anymore? I said I don’t feel good. He left and somehow that was the end of him. I cannot, as a mother, understand to this day what was in my mother’s head allowing this man access to me.
We lived in a two family house made of stucco. The apartment upstairs was very large; 3 bedrooms. The woman, Anna, who owned the house, had a hole in her neck where she had had her voice box removed due to cancer from smoking. She spoke with a gravel and it scared me to death as a child. I avoided Anna even though she was very kind to all of us. We had fabulous gigantic closets in the apartment and my mother was a slob so the closets were filled with piles of clothes; piles and piles of clothes that my sisters and I could climb on top of or hide inside of when we played hide and seek or when we wanted to hide from my mother’s beatings. My mother doled out her fair share of beatings; we…mostly Kathleen …. Got hit with the broom handle, the electric cord, the dog leash, the TV antenna and anything handy. I was not a saint. I have no idea why but I took a pencil and scratched out the pupils of my sister Colleen’s eye’s in her school pictures on the counter so that they looked white. When my mother noticed she freaked out thinking that there was something wrong with Colleen’s eyes. My mother was a dope. No I did not get my intelligence from my mother. I fessed up and got a good beating. Sometimes, I was just stupid or a pain in the ass; like when I took a can of grape soda, shook it and let it spray all over the kitchen; I got a good beating for that too.
I walked to school from our apartment. West School was about 15 blocks away. Even at age 7 I walked alone. When I was 9 I was picked on by a group of boys walking to school and they whipped my legs with licorice while teasing me about being a welfare girl. I was a welfare girl. The welfare check came the first of the month. Welfare kids learn the calendar quick. When the welfare check comes we get to go food shopping and get all the goodies we like! Then we go home, divvy up the goodies and eat them all on the first day the check comes. By mid-month we were eating the ugly big block of welfare cheese and welfare powdered eggs. Welfare meant that in the beginning of the school year I usually couldn’t get my school supplies on time and sometimes the teacher would get mad. Stupid fucking teacher. Some teachers were nice and could read between the lines since I certainly wasn’t going to say “the welfare check didn’t come yet” but instead said “my mother didn’t get it yet”. Class trips were a nightmare because my mother never had the $10 or $15 for the trip on time, and I was always the last one to send my money in. Again, the crappy teacher would make a face. Bitch.
My mother often left us alone in the apartment. She left me in charge even when I was only 9 to watch my two younger sisters ages 7 and 4. Mother would go to the bar. That is the only place she ever went to – the bar. Sometimes she would bring home different men, and I could hear her having sex…I hated that. I hated meeting the men and the nicey-nice small talk they would try to make with me. Get the fuck out buddy – this is a girls club. Get the fuck out with your drunken dick. I hated these losers. Losers who my mother would make us spend time with because they had a car; driving us to the bar! My mother would actually put us in some guy’s car, drive us to another town, go to a bar with food, order us something and get drunk with the guy. Me and my big mouth. More than once I made trouble. “I want to go home; children do not belong in a bar; we should not be in this car he is drunk and driving; I’m leaving and walking home..” I got the evil eye “I’m going to kill you when we get home you little bitch” look everytime! Of course, the look and the beatings did not deter me, and I kept bitching.
And so it began, I got away from my mother as often as I could. As a pre-teen, some of us kids would go sit under a dock in the wet sand by the bay and play spin the bottle when we were probably 11. I was not the girl the guys wanted to have to kiss. I didn’t want the bottle to point to me. I didn’t want to kiss anyone. I didn’t want to be rejected by some guy who spun toward me either. I always bitched and broke the rules. The boys would pick up the horseshoe crabs by their pointy tail with all the little creepy legs underneath moving and chase me. It was awful but I wanted to be with the crowd so I stayed. But I was a cheater; if the bottle pointed to me I would leave; I would run away; I didn’t want to wait to be tossed aside by the spinner. They would throw sand at me. I would be afraid and start to pee in my pants as I was running; then my mother would scream at me for peeing in my pants when I was 11.
Age 11 and the shit storm begins. My mother meets her final boyfriend – Artie. The man who will be an accessory to her death. The man who will beat her the night before she dies because she did not iron his work shirt because she is too weak from cirrhosis of the liver to stand. Artie is a peach of a guy. My mother thinks Artie is the cat’s pajamas. He has a car and a great job – according to her – he’s a Long Island Railroad conductor. He’s also a drunken asshole who tries too hard to befriend me, and it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like men who get falling down drunk with my mother. Artie’s big cheesy smile belies a devil underneath – I just know it. I don’t trust him. My mother is smitten and decides to move in with him in his Far Rockaway apartment. She is playing a game. She wants her welfare check and can’t actually move in with him under the welfare rules so she has to keep the apartment in Long Beach and keep us in the Long Beach school system and keep us on Medicaid so she packs up a bunch of clothes for everyone and decides we can all take the public bus super early every day from Far Rockaway to Long Beach and back to go to school, and she’ll keep the apartment in Long Beach to trick the welfare people. Ah, now she can get drunk with Artie in his apartment every night! I go to Artie’s apartment with my mother. It is crawling with roaches everywhere and there is a mouse living in the kitchen. It is a one-bedroom apartment in a huge apartment complex. So, us three young girls are supposed to walk to the public bus alone, take the bus two towns away, go to school, and take the bus back? What? Oh, and yes, our sleeping arrangements …the three of us share the living room as a bedroom but only at night – it is a living room during the day. At night, we take the cushions off the couch, one sister sleeps on the couch without the cushions, one sister sleeps on the cushions on the floor and I sleep on the floor with blankets. It is not long after our move-in that creepface shows his true colors and shows up next to my blanket in the dark hours of night when everyone is sleeping. I feel a hand under my blanket. I wake up. It’s him. “Shh shhhh it’s ok. I just came to see if you’re ok.” Yeah, sure buddy, I’ve been to this movie before….holy fuck, I have to get the fuck out of here! I tell him I have to go the bathroom. I go into the bathroom and stay there for 2 hours. He must’ve been annoyed and tells my mother who then bangs on the bathroom door – “what’s the matter with you in there?” Nice mother.
The very next time we go back to Georgia Street for my mother to get the mail and her welfare check, I fucking CHECK-IN!!! YEP! I check back into Georgia Street and announce to my mother that I am not going back to Far Rockaway, that I don’t like Artie, that he’s a creep who tries to touch me and she should get away from him. My mother accuses me of always making trouble, ruining everything for her, having a big mouth, being a smartass, being miss-know-it-all. I do not care. I’m not going back there. Fine, try and live by yourself, she tells me. Again, nice mother. I’m 11. She leaves me in the apartment with whatever food is there. There is no telephone because we cannot afford it. I go to school every day and do my homework. I’m an excellent student. I love school. It is the normalcy in my life. It is the place where I shine. It is the place where I am praised. I feel loved by the books. I’m in 6th grade and going to graduate. My grandmother – who loves me dearly and I love her same – buys me a dress. My grandmother comes to the graduation ceremony. My mother and my sisters do not come to the graduation ceremony. After graduation, Grandma takes me to a diner for lunch. This is very exciting. I’ve never been to a diner. Then we go back to Georgia Street, and Grandma tells me to pack clothes for the summer ….. I’m going to stay with her for the summer. Oh! I’m so happy. I’ve been so lonely. And food! Grandma makes excellent food. And love! Grandma loves me so much. I’m very happy that I’m going to Grandma’s house for summer, I’m happy that I’m not alone, I’m happy to be even further away from Artie. I pack my things. It turns out this is the last time I ever see 69 Georgia Street.