Then

I’m eating Twinkies. I haven’t had one since I was a child. And it was rare then, only upon occasion.

Then the mailman’s name was Ray, and the mail was delivered twice a day. When there was a letter he would ring the doorbell or shout through the screen door. If it was a letter from my brother he would persist until someone answered. (My brother was off fighting whichever war we were giving then.) He didn’t have to persist often or long—we always watched for the mail.

There were milkmen who delivered milk in glass bottles and you could hear the bottles clanging in the carrier as he walked to your door. Some people got chocolate milk and we knew the houses they went to.

We played softball in the street in front of my house and quit when the streetlights came on. We had to go home then. If earlier and some other reason to go home, you would hear someone’s father’s whistle. We all knew the different sounds and pitches that belonged to us.

Those nights you could hear the sounds of laughter, and children’s voices, and cicadas calling with the tree toads, and a few birds still visiting. Sometimes you could hear wandering bullfrogs calling for their mates. And crickets. The sound of crickets was the music we fell asleep to. Once in a while you would hear a car go by, and the thump, thump of the tires as they went across the tarred strips.

It was quiet on Sundays, after the morning of ringing church bells. Whole families walked down the streets to the Church, girls wearing dresses and gloves, just like their mothers, men with hats, and suits and ties. Almost everyone went to church and afterward you came home to your big Sunday dinner and the readying for Monday—schoolwork, newspapers, clothes laid out, shoes polished.

We knew all of the neighbors and the houses around our block, and the stories they held. We knew the house where the woman had hung herself in the basement because her husband went out with other women. We knew the house where the poker parties were held on Saturday nights. Sometimes there was a special game on Friday night and you knew because of all the cars parked in the alley.

After supper you had to eat your desert inside, before going out. You couldn’t walk out with a Popsicle unless you had more to give your friends. And you ate your Twinkies inside, or out on the back porch.

stanisław wyspiański (1869-1907), portrait of józio feldman, 1905, pastel (national museum in kraków, poland)

stanisław wyspiański (1869-1907), portrait of józio feldman, 1905, pastel (national museum in kraków, poland)

 

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