Coney Island Dreams

(part 3 of 'The Cape')

Taking the train just a few stops to end up in Coney Island was like a magic carpet ride for a 5-year old. Spending summers in Bay Ridge with my grandparents is what made that ride a possibility. There were trees in Bay Ridge and to a little kid from Williamsburg it was like being in the country. Waking up to birds singing through the open window was like heaven. The kids were the same, the games were the same, stick ball, stoop ball, punch ball, same rituals, same pastimes, just two different worlds.

The older guys and men playing stick ball on Sunday afternoons in their suit pants and t-shirts was part of the neighborhood mystique. I couldn’t wait to grow up and put on a suit on a Sunday just so I could take off my jacket and my shirt: Suspenders over my t-shirt, full uniform for a Sunday afternoon game. Pure joy!

Broken English speaking Italian immigrants ran most of the stores on the avenue. Grandma was the Queen of Thirteenth Avenue. Nothing but respect and special praise for the queen; gray hair in a bun, big blue eyes behind glasses that made here eyes as big as quarters, really big for her. She stood five-foot-nothing in her big black grandma shoes. Her heart was five-one. That is what got her the respect and made her so easy to love.

Tuesday night on the roof of the four-floor walk up you could watch the fireworks at Coney Island. The glow in the eyes and faces were the same on the grown-ups as it was on the kids. A wonderful world in a wonder filled time.

Naturally I had many cousins to be with because the custom was you marry a neighborhood boy or girl and move within a five block radius of where you grew up. I felt lucky to have cousins for friends, friends that were cousins. It made that trip to Coney Island that much more fun. Coney Island, now that was a whole other world; a beautiful beach back then loaded with families with baskets full of food. Lovingly wrapped sandwiches, cold potatoes and some kind kool-aid or slightly warm soda. The day never seemed to end. After a stay on the beach there was the boardwalk to walk with a zillion games to play, sights to see, prizes to be won. Thinking back it was almost too much for a little kid. It had to be, to leave a five year old speechless. If we were lucky, we would stay till it got dark and the different lights and music would take over. The Ferris wheel, the carousel, the aroma of all the different foods, hot dogs, corn on the cob, cotton candy was a little kid’s high. We were getting high way before the 60’s. Oh, and I remember the parachute jump being much bigger then and our world much smaller.

I remember the glow of the sand
Sunlight shimmering, touch of mom’s hand
The smell of cotton candy, sounds of the carousel
Jelly apples, sledgehammer’s prizewinning bell
Corn on the cob, roller coaster so high
Ocean filled breeze, parachute jump that touched the sky
Arcades filled with children, haunted house with only those who dare,
Steeplechase horse race, clowns with yellow hair
Hand in hand with my cousin, still warm from the sun
Bay Ridge rooftop, Tuesday fireworks have begun
The joy of being a child in retrospect seems
The treasure filled magic moments of Coney Island dreams

– niz

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