I remember being washed in a bassinet by my Mom, her friends looking on, and then not understanding why she thought it was such a big deal that I was born weighing 8 pounds 10 ounces and colicky.
It was a tough neighborhood, 143rd and Willis Avenue in the South Bronx, where my Dad was the building superintendent in the “picturesque” tenement we called home. There was a candy store next door, a firehouse with brass poles and friendly Dalmatians, the “el” train station, and, across the street, the Gramercy Boy’s Club.
My Mom’s favorite book was Black Beauty; it was the first book I read.
When I had a fight with “Johnny Upstairs,” my Dad got down on his knees and taught me how to punch “Johnny” back, at 5 years of age, and I found out soon my mother was a fighter.
We went to a bakery. Mom said, “Sit here Johnny,” pointing to a straight back chair. I may have been 10. A woman entered the bakery yanked at my right arm, and said, “Give me that chair!” My Mom, standing by the slanted glass bakery counter, took the woman’s right elbow, in hand, pulled her, quite quickly, and threw her, aiming at the slanting glass counter, saying, “You keep your hands off my son.” Mom’s final coup de grace was swinging her heavily laden hand bag with her right arm from behind her back, with such force, the woman splashed up against the glass, and slid to the bakery floor. The other patrons cleared a path. My Mom looked at me, extended her hand, and said, “Come on Johnny.” Continue reading