Thursday, December 25, 2008

Oh How She Carried the Flag

Len Klein
February 23, 2001

She had a very playful look to her, I thought; maybe it was her blond hair all in shaky curls. The expression on her face, however, was quite serious. Clutched in her hands was the staff of the American Flag, which she carried into the center of the circle. All eyes were upon her, but I alone looked at her with my heart. Did she look back at me? I don't remember. The teacher started us off on the pledge of allegiance and I tried to repeat the lines she spoke. With my hand on my heart, I looked at the girl holding the flag and mumbled my allegiance to her. Did she know that I was pledging my heart to her? I think not. It was a secret pledge, mumbled in a low voice, not for her to know, but only for me to feel. It was the very first time I felt such excitement for a girl, and it took me by surprise. I had never suspected that I would see a perfect girl on my very first day in kindergarten.

When I came home I excitedly told my two mothers about the experience, even to confessing how much I liked her. Their faces were all smiles, sort of looking at each other knowingly. There must have been other days in kindergarten when similar events were played out, but I mostly remember that one day. I never got out of kindergarten in that school, because we moved away before that could happen.

(Len with Beatty on Bristol St)
If it seems puzzling that I refer to having two mothers, I will tell you how that came to be. We were living on Hinsdale Street in the area between Brownsville and East New York in the borough of Brooklyn. At that time we didn’t have our own place but shared a four room apartment with Uncle Jack and Aunt Beatty. My mother called Uncle Jack her brother, but he was actually her Uncle. They were almost the same age and had been brought up together, as brother and sister. Jack was the youngest in the family of Zayde and Bubbe, and was a brother to my mother’s father, Louie. Louie was somebody I hardly ever saw, never knew well and never called Grandfather: he was always just Louie. I don’t think I ever really believed he was my mother’s father. On the other hand, Uncle Jack and Aunt Beatty I loved very much. Since we lived together, both Beatty and my mother looked after me. The neighbors, observing that there were two women who mothered me, passed the word and I became known on the block as the little boy with two mothers.

(Jack & Beatty)
I have some memories of playing with Beatty in the apartment. She was lying on the floor and I would climb over her, run around in a circle and climb over her again. I thought it was a great game. One time, when we played, I was wearing only a hemdle with the rest of me just flapping in the air. At one point I decided it would be a good idea for me to sit on Beatty’s face, so I attempted to execute the maneuver. Each time I tried, she would thwart me by pushing me away, and I became quite frustrated. I stopped running around and admonished her to stop pushing me away because I wanted to sit on her face. She said something like, “I know, and I’m not going to let you.” The game ended without my ambitions being fulfilled, but the story was repeated by Aunt Beatty for many years, to the obvious delight of all who heard it.


"Hinsdale Street" is 398 Hinsdale Street

No comments: