I was seven in the summer of 1961 and as we did every summer we drove across the Tappan Zee from the Bronx apartment up to Buena Vista Rd. The cottage was a barefoot world. No hopscotch, no ringolivio, no school. Woods replaced playgrounds, height was gained by climbing trees, no one had to see me across the street. It was a tiny house in a small row of tiny houses, on just a little land but surrounded with woods and twisting paths, it was my other world.
Just down the road was the stream, the small quick running brook that fell from the apple orchards, crossed under the stone bridge and ran its course to the lake at the edge of the McLeod’s farm. I headed for the creek where I’d perch from rock to rock for hours fishing for minnows with a small glass jar, a string tied around one end, the other around my fingers, bread tears bobbing in the water. With the flick of my wrist I’d have a jar full of moving light. I threw them back in of course. And started again.
Just before the creek was the Tobias’ house. I hadn’t bothered with it when I passed, their kids were way older. But I heard a screen door slam and then a boy’s voice asking me – do you like watercress? I cached my jar and followed him, under the bridge and up the hill to a curved spot filled with watercress, we sat and ate and lay back to watch the clouds.. The rest of that summer Jackie and I explored the hill and found the little cave, sweet with cool and dark. We dreamt out loud there. We scavenged the woods for arrowheads, we camped under the willow we told each other the history of the world. In the hottest part of the afternoon we’d go to his house for practice. His family had built a wooden stage and put on his heeled boots, along with his older sisters they’d practice, his mother sang, his father played guitar. They had come to tour the states – Spanish Flamenco dancers.
At the end of the summer on Saturday my dad took us for ice cream at Ho Jo’s , Jackie wore long pants marking the occasion, when I saw him coming up the road I ran back in and changed my everyday shorts. I ordered peppermint ice-cream, my dad chocolate, Jackie had strawberry. The next day I waved goodbye from the back of the Packard. I never saw him again. But somehow I ended up in Spain.