As James and I continued our journey through Williamsburg, we headed north on Metropolitan Avenue. Directly diagonal to my old building, still sits the tiny square, corralled in by the very same cast-iron posts. In spite of the fact that the poor little square sat directly under the BQE (Brooklyn-Queen’s Expressway) as the only patch of nature in the area, it was where all our outdoor photos were taken. In my mind’s eye I could see us kids posing for Easter Sunday photos as well as my sister Maureen’s First Holy Communion.
A short walk under the BQE and we emerged at the playground where we kids would go to cool off in the community sprinklers. Occasionally… and I DO MEAN occasionally, we were permitted to go to the playground alone (well as a group of kids) and have fun swinging to and fro on the swings or blistering our butts and thighs on the shiny steel slides that sat heating up in the oppressive summer sun! Hahahaaa…No coddling back in those days. We kids climbed iron monkey bars 15 feet high with nothing but the pebble studded concrete to break our fall, should we be unfortunate enough to miss our grip. There was also a sand-box and of course, those cursed wooden see-saws where a big kid would always hold a smaller child hostage in the air, until they sufficiently begged for release. What I liked most about going to the park as a young child was that it had trees around its perimeter. They weren’t terribly big, and for sure not the healthiest specimens but still, they were trees in an area where trees were scarce. Ironically, fifty years later they have not seemed to grow one iota larger!
James and I continued our northward trek, towards North 5th Street. Within moments we were standing before The Church of the Annunciation. Two of the most significant events in my family’s life were marked by services at this majestic house of worship. It is where my parents were married on Saint Patrick’s Day in 1963 and were my brother’s funeral service was held in November of that same year. It was 10:30 AM and James and I wanted to attend mass there this Sunday. Unfortunately for us, the eleven o’clock service was to be held in Spanish, so we went inside the church to say our prayers privately.
Annunciation was exactly how I remembered it. I had long wondered if the reason I thought of this church as a small cathedral was due to my childhood memory recalling things larger than life, but it was indeed as “cathedral-like” as I remembered. From the tile floor in the vestibule, to the original pews, which still have the clips once used to hold a man’s hat, to the statues, to the stained glass windows, the Church of the Annunciation was, is, and I suppose always will be, a magnificent tribute to a time when such glorious workmanship was commonplace, especially when building houses of worship regardless of religion.
Something quite unexpected happened to me that morning as I knelt to pray. I felt as if I had been somehow transported back to the day when my mom and dad were wed there. I could feel my nana’s hand holding mine in the vestibule as the doors opened and my mother entered (backlit by the bright afternoon sun) on the arm of her dad (my Poppy). I recalled looking up at my nana to ask, “Nana… doesn’t mommy look like an angel?” I remembered thinking that my mother (as a bride) was the single most beautiful vision in the entire world. I relived taking my place in the first pew with nana as we watched my gorgeous mother slowly “glide” down the aisle all dressed in white, holding a lovely bouquet of flowers in one hand while she held Poppy’s arm with her other. Outside the church, by the tall, black iron gate that still surrounds it, I could see my Aunt Del (in her pillbox hat and new coat) bending down to tell me what a handsome little man I was in my tiny tuxedo! It was as though time stood still for fifty years to be rerun again at this moment just for me.
I tried my best to tell James what I was feeling, but foolishly, found myself crying as I did my best to explain. These were not by any means tears of sadness, but more tears of joy. Joy because of all the good things that began for my family on that day, and joy for having such a wonderful “forever memory” so clearly etched into my mind.
As it turns out, today (July 21st) is the tenth anniversary of my mom’s passing. As I sit here writing this blog I can’t help feeling blessed beyond measure to have had Trudy Wilson-Massetti-Abate as my mother. Although it is mostly due to luck that such memories are so instilled into my brain… it is without a doubt because of my beautiful mother that they are so safely tucked into my heart.
More about Williamsburg to come in my next blog!