Catalpas

IMG_0281_2_2_2Outside my window the catalpa trees waved their enormous leaves and dropped long brown pods over the ground.  They spread their shade over the narrow street lined with six-flat apartment houses like ours and a few single-families like the one next door.  The other end of the block was a long way off.

I met the girl on the swing at school, and we visited back and forth.  Her name was Ginger.  Now I could swing too.

We played hopscotch and dolls.  At my house we lined up our dolls on the living-room rug, in rows that followed the carpet pattern, front to back like at our school.  At Ginger’s we set them out in side-to-side rows along the floorboards.  Milly and Silly bent at the waist and could sit.  Martha couldn’t, so I propped her against a chair leg to keep her from falling down.

Rosemary was slim and grown-up, with glistening blond waves and a silky red shirtwaist and a belt that buckled.  I stood her as the teacher in front of the class.

Catalpas paintingThe pupils took turns reading aloud.  I stood them up one by one while I held the book.  If they faltered I helped them.

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We chased lightning bugs as the day faded and disappeared, but we had not yet been called in.  We swooped our jars into the shadows to catch them.

The pavement rode rough under our roller skates, the skate key swinging on a string around my neck.  We stepped down carefully from the curb, looked to both sides, then crossed the street.  It was smoother than the sidewalk, and bowed up in the center.

In the cool, musty inner hallway of our building, a little runner of rug led to each apartment door.  There was a quiet, dark scent, not exactly of food and not of mildew.  Of being closed in, a passage.

We used the wooden outdoor back stairs and came in through the back porch door, into the kitchen, where in the breadbox you could find rye and pumpernickel, and in the refrigerator Liederkranz and mettwurst and hard salami.


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