Why is it that whenever thoughts stray to the bygone years, in my mind’s eye it’s always sunshine, always spring?

       “…When I was small, and all the trees were tall
       We used to laugh with others and to play.
       Don’t ask me why, but time has passed us by.
       Other folks moved in from far away…”

First there was Sunday’s reunion: returning to Fox And Hound, 50 or so remnants from campus days dined and caught up midst the background music of the NBA All Star Game. As usual, Lester did a masterful job on everything and, just as usual, I won nothing.

Then came Monday: in the morning we buried Ruth. She was my dad’s first cousin, vibrant to her nineties and always, especially in our small clan equation, a vibrant part of the family circle.

—–Within twenty-four hours…two events: disparate in tone, different in nature—-and for some reason I found myself reaching back …a long way…even before the core friends … to the oft forgotten buddies I cut my teeth with.

It was the ‘50’s—the “old neighborhood”. Living on Hopkins, we were doors down from our mother’s high school sorority sister. Like our mom, Bunny Lang was now married, living in her mother’s house. Enter new friends, fast friends in Stevie and Kenny Rubin. It was that simple.

Me? I spent time as well with an older kid next door. Hymie was his name, and my dad called him “The Bad Hymie” (to distinguish him from my our mom’s Cousin Hymie, who years later would be fired from Standard Electric by Uncle Bob and dubbed “The Dumb Hymie”). Our father was right, of course. Not only was Cousin Hymie the nicer of the two, but indeed, Hal got in trouble one night when The Bad Hymie was playing with matches with H, Stevie and Kenny and started a fire in the Rubin garage. (Predictably, I was absent).

Ed. Note: Suburbia found us in ’55; within years the Rubins followed. We were on Bayard and they bought on Hinsdale, but it was never the same. (It never is). H remains Facebook friends with the elder but word has it that Kenny left for college, developed a British accent and never returned. Who knows?

Landing on Bayard, though, meant new friends. Next door lived Mozart-playing child prodigy Mark Gelfand and next to him, Eddie Davidson. (Ed. Note II: It was the latter’s legendary temper that abruptly ended the first Boobus Bowl. So unnerved was Ed when, as he was going out for a pass I inadvertently hit him with the ball in the air that he began chasing me around the house. Three quarters of a lap through my perilous flight I ran in the side door, never to come out. Game, set, match).

And to the east there were many: Bulb on the corner… Stuart and Ricky…the original Cohen Brothers…and Fromin—not to mention another Hymie, (Massarobbo) and Turd Rosenberg on Beaconwood.

Rain meant Monopoly on Hovanyi’s screened-in porch. Weather permitting though, it was swift pitching off Rowland’s north wall. Simple stuff: ground ball past the pitcher, a single… fly ball to the street a double…to the tree lawn, a triple—AND, hit Fenton’s home on the fly: a home run. Morton’s house (to the right) was in foul territory. One time his mother, (who coincidentally had worked with my aunt some years earlier), was so unnerved when a ball found her shrubs that she seized it, not to give it back. (I don’t want to say Mrs. Cohen was mean but—-hand to God—Aunt Helen had once called her “ an angry woman”.

Yes, those were glory days, glorious with an innocence that, once life swept me off my street corner, I was destined to lose.

I don’t know why I think of them today. Couldn’t be the flock of Sunday’s Sammys. Where’s the connection? Nor, for that matter, could it be my cousin’s death. Just doesn’t compute.

That nexus, I suppose—the clutch on my past compelling periodic peaks back—is in all of us. Me, perhaps more so.

Mind it I don’t, but accept it I do…and yes, every once in a while I  even relish it. After all, it was springtime then, and the sun was always shining on the street where I lived—in my little corner of the world.

       “…Now we are tall and older trees look small,
       And we don’t have the time of day.
       But you and I, our memories never die,
       It still feels like first of May….”

Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb (adapted)

2 Responses to “THE FIRST OF MAY”

  1. Georgia Gibbs says:

    Bruce, just for clarification. The song (“First of May”) from which you adapted the lyrics was composed by the three Gibb brothers: Barry, Robin and Maurice. Neither I, nor scientist Josiah nor NCIS investigator Leroy Jethro (portrayed on television by actor Mark Harmon) had any role in the composing of this wonderful song.

    Now, “Dance with me, Henry” is another matter.

  2. Up From Dysfunction says:

    Correction noted and blog updated. There are many talented Gibbs, including yourself.

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