A picnic on the back dock at my Grandparent’s home in Broad Channel

You’re never too old to cry for that which is lost

The pieces of my life are woven together with the thinnest of thread. I don’t think there is anyone that even remembers Cambria Heights. Especially Cambria Heights. I have few living relatives, and I see them rarely, if at all. None of them would remember Cambria Heights. This is the first place I lived, in a house that my parents owned. A little brick house; the blue collar post-war dream. Then my father became an alcoholic and so much for Cambria Heights. So much for dreams.

I have some pictures of the that house; inside and out. Me and Elisabeth, a little girl from the block I hung out with. Everyone said “they’re so damned cute.” And “Aunt” Marie, who watched me when my mother couldn’t. Mom couldn’t because she’d lost her partner and her financial security and had to go to work at Drakes Bakeries every day, leaving me with whoever she could get to care for me. Maria was an older lady and was kind. She taught me to like tea and would give me hot tea with milk and some Stella Doros to dip in it. Then we lost the house and I lost Aunt Marie, and Elisabeth, and Jeffry, and the retired couple next door.

I have met some friends from Queens Village on one of those Facebook Old Neighborhood type pages. (Cambria Heights is part of Queens Village you see.) I didn’t know them growing up but they remember my cousin and an aunt. But they don’t remember me.

No connections to Cambria Heights though. No Maria, no Elizabeth, no Jeffrey. The most tenuous connection to Queens Village and none to Hollis where we moved after losing an apartment in Queens Village. I had just turned seven and had lost two homes already. Not to complain, just a fact; a minor trauma. I always had a roof over my head no matter how small the roof.

I can remember the names of some of the kids in Hollis: Cindy, Ricky, Robert and Claudia. There was also a James and his crazy sister, and tons of tons of kids that were on the periphery but whose faces and names I can’t remember. By ten years old , I was a wild kid which made me popular. Robert told me “my mom and dad said you’re not allowed in our house.” Of course this meant that I was invited over at lunchtime at every opportunity. (Most of us were latchkeys and the kids with nice houses would walk home and eat lunch.) The same with Claudia, though the benefit with Claudia was that she fed me. A fifth grade girl sneaking the fifth grade troublemaker over to her house and making him lunch. I don’t remember much about Claudia, other than she was tall, but I imagine that even today she must be a kind soul.

Meanwhile, Ricky and I fed off each other as we raced to the bottom, to see who would get picked up by the cops first.

I went to live with someone else and left Hollis behind, winding up back in Queens Village. The people I lived with were good folks and I felt welcome. I got in a lot less trouble there but school, especially this new school, was a death spiral.

Now I’m twelve years old, sent to DeVitte Military Academy in New Jersey. I had two friends there that carried over to High School as we plotted and schemed to go to school together in Virginia. Good friends. But they are lost to me. One has passed on and the other is off the face of the earth. To understand how my mother, poor as we were, could afford Military School you’ll have to read another one of my stories.

That takes me to 15 and now I have some connections. But nothing in the first 15 years of my life. What about relatives? Completely lost touch on my father’s side, though I loved them deeply and was loved in return. There is only an uncle and a cousin left on my mother’s side. No one else.

There are photos of contemporaneous places and events. My grandparents and their house on Broad Channel, Rockaway’s Playland, cowboy outfits and Christmas time. All of these, the places and family that are lost to me…they live only in photographs and my memories.

© Glenn R Keller 2022, All Rights Reserved

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