I really liked the movie Manchester by the Sea, but it could have been filmed in any charming New England town. The town where I grew up in the 70’s, my Manchester by the Sea, was remarkable and provided the real scene for my first indelible memories.
Our home on Woodholm Road was a short bike ride from where Bethany Williams ate her breakfast. We would play hopscotch and jump up and down on beds giggling until we fell over. Her long silky hair would dance in the air. Her twinkling eyes were accented by her bronze skin. She moved to Hamilton and broke my heart.
Miss Mulligan taught us 2nd grade, but she wasn’t married to the Mike Mulligan with the steam shovel whom she read about to us.
My dad stood and watched President Nixon deliver his resignation speech on a small black and white TV. It meant nothing to me.
In 3rd grade, I was assigned locker 21. My best friends were down at 3 and 14. The sequence was 1, 2, 3: Julie Adams, Kyle Biggar, then Curtis Buddenhagen.
Curt was a playful mischief with untamed curly black hair. He would mess with new teachers who would ask him to spell his last name during roll call. He would say it as fast as he could, B-U-D-D-E-N-H-A-G-E-N. Again? The second time with a laugh and just as fast. B-U-D-D-E-N-. Slow down!
Curt and I spent hours trying to set a Guiness World Record by tossing a Nerf football in his living room the most times without dropping it. We never did bike across the country as we had mapped out either. Curt and I read a fat book, Jaws, before it was a movie.
In the heart of the pack, you had 12, 13, 14: Jason Karas, a guy I forget – Kieslowski?, then Glenn Manos, or May-O-Naise, as he was dearly referred to. Glenn was an all-round athlete, graceful, polite, and gave me the nickname “Seed” due to my smaller stature rhyming with Read.
Glenn taught me how to hock a loogie. We had distance-spitting contests. But he was also an 8-year-old gentleman. One time during a Dictionary game in class, a paper flew off the teacher’s desk and Glenn ran from across the room and slid like he was stealing second base to retrieve it. Paul Coyle looked around the room with a gaze that said, why can’t the rest of you be like that?
Bicentennial history up the wazoo. Field trips to “Old Ironsides” and Bunker Hill. Books about Tories and the Revolutionary War. Were there any OTHER wars? Bicentennial commemorative quarters.
Happy Days was climbing to the top of the charts and symbolically good times were spiking in my family life too. It looked like my dad’s second wife would be a keeper. She made us grilled cheese sandwiches and Jello with fruit cocktail for lunch. She draped me in the American flag for Halloween while she handed out pencils. We scooped up an Airedale terrier from a box at the local grocery store and named her Nina. She was a boy’s best friend.
At Floyd’s penny candy store, you could buy gum with a parachute jumper that you’d chuck high into the air to see him catch wind and float to the ground.
Fifth grade was a stellar year. Mrs. Lakeman was pretty damn cool. One day at recess, Kevin McCoy had taken Curt’s hat. In retaliation, I snagged Kevin’s cap off his head and ran. He easily caught up and we wrestled in the mud. Mrs. Lakeman just laughed as she washed my head in the classroom sink. During spelling bees, in tight competition with Mr. K’s class, she would mouth the letters to me from the back of the room. Mr. K kicked me out of sex-ed once beyond known reasons.
By this time, we lived in an A-frame on Harrington Way. I would climb out my 3rd floor skylight in the middle of night, slide down the roof, and bike down the middle of the street with my neighbor Mike Maloney.
I literally fell head over heels for a popular blonde, Traci Tossi, who tripped me while rounding the bases in kickball. All in good flirtatious fun I guess. We were meant to kiss in a Truth or Dare game after school with Dee Dee Day once, but I was so chicken I demanded a leaf between our lips. Tina Clifford was my last crush. Her bouncy good spirit and sweet heart inspired me to write love notes.
I got a skateboard for Christmas. Plastic, narrow, pink. Despite the color, I loved it.
The Blizzard of ’78. I learned to cross-country ski on the municipal golf course. We had to jump off our decks to open the front door. We built igloos where the snow plows shoved snow to the end of the cul-de-sac.
The town’s crown jewel Singing Beach was ruined by the storm and the massive rock wall demolished.
My sister Mandy was born at home and I pulled her in a sled while skating across a pond.
My dad got a job in Connecticut that spring. We left friends behind in what seemed like a hurry and I never kept touch. I was 10.