The Pedestrian

our next door neighbors on Ashby Street
were a decade older than my parents.
they felt an intrinsic responsibility to
impact their wisdom on our young family.
their most consequential advice
was to have our family join
the congregational church
that they belonged to-
in the City of Groton.

my Father never attended the services
my Mother ascribed to,
following the recommendation of our respected
neighbors. She was the one to wake up early
on Sunday; to get my brother and me
into the appropriate clothes, and the appropriate attitude
to mingle with the good Christians recommended to my mother.
what i did not know at the time
was that my Father was literally
incapable of attending a church service.

the car shuffled to a slow stop;
about a hundred yards from the entrance
to the highway exit that led to our house.

“ok, Richie, i need you to walk to Nana’s house,
you know where that is, right? near Ocean View but closer
to the Ice House. do you know where i’m talking about?”

our house was located at 56 Ocean View Avenue,
two blocks below the intersection
of US Rt. 1 and the Ocean View Avenue.
Nana was my Father’s best friend’s mother,
Polish for “Grandmother”
my Portuguese Grandmother was known as
Vovo.

her residence was my destination;
following the command of my Mother,
at the end of the exit ramp.
a two mile walk was of no consequence
to me- i would have walked as far as
she instructed me to.

when i arrived at the home of the Hoinsky Matriarch,
my parents best friends were waiting for me.
“where is Linda?”
“she’s at the entrance to town, at the foot of Exit 89…..
Allyn Street…..”

i had walked two miles
in an effort to help my Mother.
no one thanked me for making the trek.
i was an afterthought in the “rescue” of my Mother.

_____

i was fortunate to be drafted as a nine year old,
added to an expansion team of our Local Little League.
that was not something to bring up
in the schoolyard.

at the end of an early season Little League practice, it became apparent
three players waiting for their parents
to arrive late would be revealed.

i immediately decided that walking away,
toward the parking lot, that would allow me a certain plausibility.
if i made a run for it…
on my own…

the driveway of the Ramada Inne
that sponsored my Little League team
was where my Mother spotted me,
walking alone.
i would catch the yellow of her Volkswagen Bug
out of my peripheral vision,
as she makes an abrupt left turn.

“why are you out here? why are you walking
home? why did you leave the practice?” my mother’s voice was forceful,
withholding an inherent terror.

i realized that negating a public embarrassment
was paramount, and it did not rest exclusively
within the wealthy families of Mystic.

it was an incisive insight.

youth football had a very low
return on investment for a five foot one inch
Portuguese kid;
who would have been a soccer player in Stonington Borough,
but grew up on the Groton side
of the Mystic Village.
few of the neighborhood kids
who participated in Little League Baseball
arrived at that first football practice.
i was there. and i realized that certain families in town,
whose kids participated in Little League Baseball
were not present in this public sphere.

the rationale for youth football was
Regional Rivalries;
a clash with a neighboring town
according to an accumulated sense
of self-worth.
the parents against the parents, articulated within the specious
athletic ability
of their children.

i was a first round draft pick,
but my mother had yet to arrive
after the practice.
i was petrified to be the last player
in the parking lot, holding the coach up
in an untenable situation.
i decided to simply walk home.
i decided to disappear.
i walked into the woods between the
junior high practice fields,
and our neighborhood; higher up the valley
than the basin.
i felt confident no one would find me
as i followed President Carter’s “Fitness Trail”
built by federal funds,
to encourage a more healthy population.

i emerged from the woods,
onto Prospect Avenue.
i was quite scared of the Judson Avenue climb,
toward Ocean View Avenue.
a woman had just set the weekly trash
at the curbside, as i passed in heavy breaths.
a cavalcade of tears.

“do you need to call somebody?”

“yeah…. can i call my Mother….?”

“of course you can……”

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