My Mother entered a convent in hopes of becoming a teaching nun. Two years later her father fell from a ladder and was paralyzed. So much for being a nun. She returned home to help care for her bedridden Dad his final ten years.
Meanwhile, in the Polish immigrant family at the time, after completing high school, boys were often sent off to seminaries Sure enough, my Dad was. It took him all of a month to decide he wasn’t totally up for celibacy.
So here I am, the son of a would be nun and could have been priest. No wonder I’ve actually been accused, at times, of looking like I walk on water. I did have two older sisters and a younger one, too, but the walk was all mine. They walked like girls.
We grew up in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, within the shadow of Saint Stanislaus Kostka Church. A very predictable phenomenon in a Polish family. We attended the parochial school, learning to read, write, and conjugate verbs in Polish, for whatever that was worth.
Mom remained a glutton for punishment. She not only sewed army uniforms and crafted eagles and oak leaf clusters in gold bullion for military officer’s during World War II, she also volunteered at St. Stan’s. My sisters and I helped cart home baskets of priest’s lace vestments and lengthy bolts of altar linens to be laundered, starched and pressed, in her so called spare time.
Not surprisingly, after 5 years on the job, I became a vice-president of the altar boys, having served at every ceremony possible, including masses, vespers, stations of the cross, weddings, baptisms, funerals, even making the rounds with priests, blessing parishioners homes annually, at the Feast of the Three Kings soon after the New Year Holidays. I also hawked the church’s house organ/magazine in the main vestibule, religiously, to exiting parishioners after every mass on Sundays, from 6AM thru I PM. Obviously I was destined to go into advertising one day.
From the windows of our apartment on Monitor Street, we had a great view of the Empire State building. Our family’s entire world amounted to four square miles, containing three churches, five schools, three parks, four movie theaters, three subway stations, two huge cemeteries, and THE view.
Though Greenpoint would one day host thirty-five thousand marathoners annually, wending their way along Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint on their way to Central Park for New York City’s marathon finale, I personally never knew anyone who lived to run, or left the neighborhood, ever. Not to go on vacation, not to gamble in Las Vegas, not even to die and get buried at sea.
Finally, at age 16, I secretly took a bus ride to Orange, New Jersey, just to feel what it would be like to actually go cross a state line. After that, it was all down hill and abundantly clear. I was born to write– humorously. That is, if I were ever to grow up, or better yet, old. I was the chosen one, though nobody could actually see far enough into the future to warn me in time, at least not before Hubbell.