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Growing Up the Small Things

I grew up in a small apartment in a borough of New York City...the building had 6 floors which we called stories, each with 10 apartments. Real privacy was impossible...whatever we didn't hear with our own ears the gossipmongers spread. Yet I loved growing up this way...I loved hearing the sounds of other families...I loved always having friends nearby.

For years my Dad grew flowers and plants on our fire escape... until the Fire Department said it was a hazard. Most of our windows faced a large Victorian home with lots of trees and shrubery. It was in so many ways a rich childhood.

How many kids have a chance to see a real monkey? Our monkey's name was Ralph...he was our upstairs neighbor's pet and often escaped first to the neighboring tree and then into our apartment.

How many kids have the chance to run their own animal rescue group? My apartment's basement had empty storage rooms, no kid should have been exploring, but I'd like to believe it was all for a good cause. My best girlfriend Annie and I found our animals on the streets...malnourished...beaten...hungry. One at a time we rescued them...kept them in my basement room...I was especially zealous about taking the garbage down constantly and stopping by with food. Annie's family had relatives living in the country and she found the adoptive homes...I think we rescued 11 before my Mom caught me in the act...end of the road for the rescue org. Our last one was a beautiful Irish Setter, very skinny with cigarrette very scared but he/she let us pet him. And I'd like to think he lived a long and much happier life.

How many kids can learn about life just from the families they live with? Alcohlism, domestic violence, poverty, depression...we had it all, but it was tempered with kindness, laughter, and old-fashioned good neighborliness. My best friend Billy lived across the floor from me, one of the middle children in a family of nine. They lived in a 3 room apartment...his Dad in a wheelchair from a car accident...we knew money was especially tight for them. Billy used to watch TV with me every night...together we explored every nook and cranny for miles. He taught me water pistols, I showed him how to make bow and arrows from tree branches. He was the sweetest kid I ever knew. The last time I saw him he was sitting on the steps, head in hands, crying. The family's furniture was lined up on the sidewalk, some contents spilling out onto the street. That's what they did in those days to people being evicted. I tried to talk to him...tried in some way to help. I don't think I realized I would never see him again.

This isn't meant to be a sad story...quite the opposite. Mostly it was an exciting way to grow up. The streets as well as the parks were our playgrounds. What we didn't have as toys we learned to make. We created our own games...

One of my specialties was writing letters.  I wrote letters to the editors of National Geographic magazine requesting additional info and often they responded. I wrote to Esquire Magazine when I was 16 requesting a job...they responded and I still regret not contacting them (as they requested) when I graduated from high school. I read anything given to me by my neighbors...not sure if that was such a good thing. lol

I remember living with such a strong sense of was an adventure...our first and only family vacation was to Rockaway Beach, a 2 hour subway ride away. Although I don't remember a minute of the "vacation" every time I get excited now seems like a replay of how I felt when my Mom told us, "we're going on vacation!"

Although at times tinged with sadness, I believe my early days taught me to recognize the joy! And that's a lifetime gift.


frito414 frito414 56-60, F 78 Responses Sep 3, 2009

Your Response


Sounds a great, and memorable, happy childhood. Those memories will last for ever!

I really enjoyed your story. My family didn't have much either when I was growing up either but my parents did a great job not letting us realize it. Indeed, joy is in the small, everyday things. These small joys can refresh us everyday.

Good story with a positive outlook on life. Regardless of the circumstances.

Thanks! What's an inspiration. A kind of excitement in life that is missing in me.

what a positive story you have written. first one in a long time. :) thanks!

This is perhaps the best story I have read yet on Experience Project. Thank you for sharing your memories!

BTW,I wanna share a great news with you,my best friend ,she just has announced her wedding with a millionaire young man Ronald who is the CEO of a MNC !they met via <br />
'match'riches.'Có is the largest and best club for wealthy people and their admirers to chat online. …you don’t have to be rich there ,but you can meet one , It's worthy a try. You do not have to be rich or famous. !

Hi Scarmart and Tempe100! I love the way we grew was an education that can't be taught in school. And I love to read stories of others here from all parts of the world.

Wonderful... I see a book or TV show there.

Hi Tas...hahaa yes you did! I like this story too. It really was a great childhood. :)<br />
Thanks for revisiting my story...made me smile today! :)<br />
<br />
Juan, <br />
Thanks for reminding me of Rockaway Beach...lots of great memories for me I have to find that song. :)<br />
and I agree with you about having gratitude...I am sooo grateful for these childhood experiences, mostly good and always rich!

That is a very cool story, Frito. I'm sorry I missed it earlier.<br />
I believe that gratitude is the key to the good life, and you certainly show you've had the good life here.<br />
On that note, I've now got the Ramone's tune "Rockaway Beach" running 'round in my brain -- thank you!<br />
"Rock rock Rockaway Beach<br />
We can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach"

Did I tell you that I love this story?<br />
<br />
Oh, yes so I did .. lol

With love is the best way to grow up...thanks for your kind words peoplesprincess!

I grew up with love and that was it. This is great story!

I grew up with love and that was it. This is great story!

Sorry you had to deal with domestic abuse...always difficult and traumatic.<br />
No child should ever have to go through this.<br />
I saw abuse and was disturbed by it but it wasn't in my immediate family so that may be why my childhood memories are easier than yours.<br />
Thanks for commenting and I hope your life is better now.

Very nice story. Sounds like you had a very nice childhood. I had one in the very early stages of life, but then my dad cheated on my mom repeatedly and the domestic abuse started. Everything went downhill from there. I can rarely think of those happy childhood memories without resenting all the negative aspects of it. I'm glad you're grateful for that kind of life. You seem to have been a very positive person, helping animals and such.

BlueGeorgia,...glad you enjoyed it! Thanks :)<br />
<br />
Tasmin, thanks so much! I really do feel that the way I grew up was wonderful for the most part...I had absolutely no understanding of loneliness...something so many of my friends' children had to deal with. :)

Hadn't read this before frito ... LOVE the way you write and how you see the postive side of everything . You never moan about what you don't have but make the very best from what you do have and appreciate it.<br />
<br />
Inspiring story .. thank you : )

Great story. Thanks for sharing.

Hi Stuckinlimbo...I'm glad you enjoyed my story! I've had great luck in finding some old friends on the Internet but sadly, not Billy. ...just now I've been reminiiscing about Billy and his 6 siblings...sort of amazing that I still remember their names...Eddie, Anne, Charlie, Billy, Mary, Frankie and Johnny.<br />
Thanks for visiting...maybe you'd like to share some of your family's stories. :)

Frito, <br />
<br />
Reading your story, make me think of all the sotries my uncles and aunts told me about them growing up in NYC too. Thank you for sharing your story - I loved it.....<br />
<br />
I do wonder what happened to your friend Billy, have you tried looking him up online? Facebook? Anything? Wouldnt that be amazing to find out where he is?

It really was a wonderful experience....I've never regretted growing up there. Thanks Longrun. :)

Thank you Diva75....there were sad moments but overall it was a wonderful way to grow many different many different kids to enjoy! :)

Not at all...not to was the way I wrote did sound as if love had come my way.<br />
So I'm taking it as a positive omen...thanks to you! *grin.*

oh gosh. <br />
<br />
I think i m starting to ONLY see what i like seeing! <br />
<br />
Maybe i need a doctors note!

Haha I wish...if that's not a slip...I fell "in love with this cute little yellow house" in North Dakota...thanks for wishing me well...and if it should really happen I will tell you! :)

Aww, i am so glad you fell in love...recently! <br />
<br />
You should tell us all about that!

Ahh this is soo off the focus of this story but: recently I fell in love and actually thoUght about buying a little 2 bedroom home in Michigan, North was an auction on Ebay.<br />
A toast to all who love New York City!

My G. G. Grandpa immicgrated from Ireland to Sout Dakota, land of tall tumble weeds! In the 1850's I believe. Thanks for the toast and I think many people who Love New York are vibrating to make it shine in absentia.