A Bronx Girl

I was an adorable two year old when I was uprooted from my Brooklyn digs and transported to the hills of the Bronx.  My parents were convinced that the altitude in the Bronx was far superior to anywhere else in New York.  My Dad could never really explain this theory but he stuck by it for more than forty years.  My mother, Rose, went right along with Sam and bragged about the perfect air on the Grand Concourse.  She insisted that her building with its magnificent antiqued lobby not only had style but also healthy air.  As their family and friends were not brave enough to argue with this powerhouse of information it was up to our well informed elevator operator to mention that air at that time was “universal in nature” unless you were in Manhattan and then ours was better.

We lived in a spacious apartment on the sixth floor, the top floor, because Rose didn’t want people “Banging on our heads.”  The tar roof was above us and that caused horrific heat in the summers but as Rose said, “It’s hot but quiet.”

At Thirteen, I wasn’t pretty or popular or even well dressed.  I was the ugly duckling but I didn’t mind very much with my dog Sparky by my side.  It was time to begin riding horses at the rental stable in Pelham Parkway.  A visit to an equestrian outlet in Manhattan got me jodhpurs and riding boots.  Rose went somewhat berserk when she saw what my father had spent but Sam was adamant this time and said that he was once a great horseman in Romania and I would follow in his footsteps.

Every Sunday my father and I took a bus to the stable with me in my proud riding clothes and my Dad in his old pants and boots.  It was a glorious time in my life that lasted for three years until my dad got too busy in his business and needed a day of rest.

At age sixteen I entered that time in every girl’s life when falling in love with a boy was inevitable no matter how nerdy she looked.  Finally I had a boyfriend and he was a really swell guy.  I went to parties and dances, Jahns Ice Cream Parlor with other couples and the Paradise Theater on Saturday nights.  I was in heaven.  My friend Edith also had a boyfriend which gave us a special bond as we whispered on long telephone calls.  Phil was accepted to NYU uptown and joined the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity.  This was nirvana to me with frat dances and parties, new clothes and shoe shopping on Fordham Road.  How much better could my life be?

One afternoon at the Devon Theater I saw Rosalind Russell in Sister Kenney, a life changing movie, and I knew I would become a physical therapist.  I decided to spend the summer at a camp for handicapped children and adults in Hunter New York.  I was accepted as a junior counselor and was on my way to my destiny but sadly without Phil.  That summer I met Richy who thought I was beautiful and halfway convinced me that maybe I wasn’t as nerdy as I thought I was.  Phil was no longer in my life but Richy was. (He lived in Brooklyn and I was told by many that Brooklyn boys never took the train to the Bronx to date anyone, no matter how gorgeous they were.)  The camp was wonderful and the campers fabulous with an attitude of never give up.

I became a physical therapist in 1957 at New York University in Greenwich Village and practiced my profession for over fifty years.  Richy and I married but sadly divorced.  I had my nose fixed in 1961, lost weight and began to understand that no matter what you look like or how you change – the original Bunny is still the one you remember.

I drove by the Bronx some years ago but could not bring myself to visit my old apartment building.  The memories I have of my stoop and my lobby as well the roof my Father enjoyed on weekends are too precious to lose.  In my mind’s eye I can still see the stick ball games I was never allowed to play because I was a girl, roller skating down the hill in front of my stoop with my skate key flying in the wind around my neck, listening for the Bungalow Bar Ice Cream Truck and yelling for Rose to send down a dime wrapped in tissue from the sixth floor.  I have tried to play “A My Name Is” with a Spaulding ball but couldn’t get my leg to lift high enough for the ball to go under.  I haven’t touched chalk for years but remember writing on the sidewalk for Potsy.  Jumping rope would probably cripple me now especially double dutch that I was very good at.  I have played jacks but can no longer manage cherries in the basket.  There was a rather large old house just across the street from my window.  It had land with grass and trees and in all the eighteen years I lived there I never saw anyone come in or go out.  It is a vivid memory and I wish I had known who lived there as I created all manner of scary stories about the occupants.  Our neighborhood was all about apartment buildings except for this one old house.

I will always be a Bronx girl no matter where I live and very proud of it.

About Bunny Wingate Tavares

Bunny Wingate Tavares is author of Escaping the USA on Amazon.

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