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Growing Up Rich...in 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 burns...so 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 excitement...life 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 79 Responses Sep 3, 2009

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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.

Ah RavenDelcor thank you...I love New York City...I think it's in my blood...my Mom immigrated from Ireland and at first lived on 28th St...later lived and worked on upper Central Park West....she used to tell us stories of working most of the week, then dressing in her best and walking down Fifth Ave. feeling like a million dollars.<br />
But I'm not living there now so I'll just have to help keep New York shining with good vibes.<br />
A toast to you in Madison and your sister in Vancouver! Perhaps you might enjoy a road trip someday. :)

Occaisionally I follow Lucky around, she finds really good things to read, some sad tales, some woe, but rarely NYC. My Grandma used to live on 68th Central Park West, at the Hotel d'Artists. We would come and enjoy NYC, while my mom and grandma would tell the tales of 9 dollar a week jobs and taking in laundry. I owned a section of Central Park near the Rocks and loved running past the cops on horses on our way to the museum. My horror show was back home, NYC was my vacation. It held a fantasy for me. My sister and I once vowed to come back to NYC to live among the tall buildings. She lives in Vancouver in a makes shift "green" house and I am in Madison, not on Madison avenue. Your story brought back many of the yarns my mom and her sister told.<br />
See to it you keep the big apple shined!

Oh please write it...I would love to read it...and thank you for your kind words.<br />
We all have our unique style and flow...and you will find yours as you go....I found it difficult to write in the beginning too.<br />
And I think it's great that in the beginning especially if we don't check out profiles we don't know much about the writer...Right on Sister<br />
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I don't think I could possible write as beautifully and eloquently as you did. Such a great flow to it! <br />
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But maybe i will, just might sound like a cat scratching a white board; you'll have to bear with that!<br />
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oh and the comment above about you not being a guy, def not I might add! <br />
I'm sorry, i didn't know. I guess that's one of the reason i enjoy ep, you don''t have any preconceptions of anyone, you just know what they feel and/or think. so...<br />
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Right on sister! <br />
Cheers!

The rescuing of animals was a highlight for me too. I'm glad you enjoyed my story...perhaps you'd care to write about yours? Thanks.

That was beautiful!<br />
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I look back at my childhood and actually find myself singing the same tune. It was great reading this! <br />
Especially the resquing animals part!<br />
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Right on brother!

Hi Soursweet, I wouldn't change my childhood for anything...it was a WONDERFUL way to grow up. It's true we all saw sadness and depressing situations but there was also a genuinely caring attitude so many had...people helped each other...they weren't isolated. I believe I learned at a very young age what's really important in life...what really matters. And you're right I had my parents' love and I learned my parents' values. Thanks. :)

I can relate to that. Maybe you had the love of your parents to help you make the best of it? And then the biggest mystery in life , a (mainly) positive personality?

Well it's true and no movie involved...and I'm definitely not a guy.

Mismadam...thanks...this is just 1 view of a New York childhood...there are so many different neighborhoods each with a distinct flavor and outlook...my early years would have been quite different living in a different area...one of the things I enjoy about EP is meeting folks from different countries where we can learn from each other. ")

Fabulous for a European to understand just a little of life in NYC!

I'm glad you enjoyed it Wiseowl....I'm pretty sure I had a smile on my face writing it. Thank you. :)

I had a real smile on my face after reading this..thank you for sharing. Loved the whole story .

Hi Shugabooga....when I was a little girl we used to take the train to Rockaway Beach...what a wonderful place for you to live...I grew up close to Manhattan...currently live in Northeast US. :)

i like your story a lot! i live in rockaway park on the beach now and work in manhattan. where did you live in nyc as a child? where are you now?

hope you dont mind me asking but what decade was this in???

Thank you Siennalilamarie...at the time we never thought of it as different...but looking at it with hindsight I believe we were fortunate.:)

seems like you had a wonderful childhood, the kind you read in advanture books.Real nice.

You just nailed it Gryfnn...there was...so very much. Thanks.:)

Thank you for your story---it sounds like there was a lot of love in your neighborhood. :)

Senditome, thanks you.<br />
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Fit2betied, they are mostly wonderful memories. Thanks.<br />
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Naughtyrenee, it's nice to meet another animal lover. Thanks.<br />
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Faucon, growing up I never saw it as unique, but in many ways it was. Thanks.

That is a differant world. Im glad you have those cherrished memoryies, and thanks for sharing.

Senditome thank you for your words of support and joy to you also. :)<br />
<br />
Neo7773 I'm glad you enjoyed my story...it was a very "full" childhood. :)

I love your story. You really had your great childhood days - you enjoyed it very much and I envy you. <br />
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I really enjoyed your story. :)

Tjsgirl, thank you. It was "rich" and I am so fortunate...I learned so much that has helped me throughout my adult years.<br />
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Salar, "vertical village" is a great visual image. I like it. And thanks to EP I'm again learning that despite what country we're from, we often have so much in common. Like you, so many seem to connect with this post. Thanks.

Great piece Frito ...... my upbringing was similar , brought up in a tenement four floors and for families per floor i liken it to a vertical village .... :o)

Sounds like you lived a very rich childhood, it's those memories that instill the very best in us. At least that's my thoughts. It's what we learn from our youth that makes us stronger. I am glad you shared this part of you with us.

Happy Sailor and LV thank you .:)<br />
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BigSistah...and I love Canada...traveled across it twice...thanks, it IS soo important to "appreciate what riches we do have...":D<br />
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ginadoe, what a change from Winnipeg to California...and I totally agree that our childhood years mold our adut lives. Cheers back! Thanks. :)

My father died when I was 6. We moved from Winnipeg to California where I grew up. I remeber getting off the plane and seeing Palm Trees for the very first time. I remember the exciting and disfunctional adventures I had growing up. How our formative years mold our adult life! Cheers