Friday, April 22, 2011

Mrs. Vanotti -- Part Three

Mrs. Vanotti would greet me and my mother with a gleeful hug, and move from immediately from her chair at the counter to behind the counter to make Mom and me a chocolate cream fountain soda or a malted milk shake (or a hot chocolate in winter); and, while Mom sipped and rested, and I slurped and chomped (cookies were often part of the daily treat), Mom and Mrs. Vanotti, between Mrs. Vanotti’s duties waiting on customers coming in and out of the store, would sit on those swiveling stools for hours and chat.

During one such visit, Mrs. Vanotti hatched a plan for our family’s home-owning future. She told my mother about a house that had recently become available. It was located diagonally across from the candy store; a little down Sixth Street, across New York Avenue, on the northern side of the street. We could see it from the candy store front window.

It was 322-6th Street; a narrow row house, the fifth of six such row houses, built around the turn of the 20th Century, with a porch and a roof with a Corinthian cornice molded across the full expanse of all the adjoining six roofs.
A trolley track ran past the house, down the middle of the slightly sloped street. It was a connector track between the main trolley lines on New York Avenue and Palisades Avenue. There were cobblestones set between the steel tracks. At the other end of the street, perpendicular to Sixth Street, and parallel to New York Avenue, lay Palisades Avenue, and across the avenue, sat forbidding and foreboding the great limestone white Yardley’s of London cosmetic factory, its back loading doors and four story tall windows overlooking the shale palisades, the viaduct, Hoboken, the Hudson River, and New York beyond.
Mom had been dreaming increasingly of owning her own home.

From 1923, when, at the age of fifteen, she had run away from and her middle-class family home in St. Paul, Minnesota—and a school for wayward (incorrigible) girls—more pointedly away from her oppressive grandmother who had forced her to enroll in the school--to go to Detroit and fend for herself, my mother, by now thirty two years of age, had only lived in a series of tiny single, or one-bedroom rented apartments.
At first, she liked being footloose and fancy free. Whether when working as a teen-ager in the auto factories of Detroit, or subsequently upon moving to New Jersey where she married Dad and they lived happily and in a series of single apartments--Mom would stay up all night reading book after book waiting for Dad to return so they could sleep the morning and early afternoon away together--she always enjoyed the simple lifestyle; that was, until children came into her life.
She always said having children (Kurt, me and years later, our baby sister, Betta) was the defining event in her life.

Now, in her thirties, with two children, and with memories of her middle class upbringing increasingly flooding her mind, her desires and needs for living housing circumstances changed. She wanted more.

( be continued.)


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