“Maryanne Francis I knew you would be here.” I remembered looking up at the silhouette of my mother’s slender figure in the doorway. Her face was the next thing we saw as she advanced into Mr. Perchacelli’s ice cream parlor. 

Mr. Perchacelli and I stopped smiling. He was standing on one side of the counter handing me my ice cream cone as he had one hundred times before. I sat on the other side swinging my legs on the way too tall stool looking at my bright and shiny, black patent leather Mary Janes.

It was 1954 on a humid, hot summer’s day in Astoria, New York. Mom had been very cranky. She put me outside in the backyard on a blanket just because I nagged her for an ice cream cone. “Sit quietly” was all she had to say as she returned to our basement apartment.

Now I picture my four year old body sitting on the blanket with neatly placed paper and crayons. Our back yard was a long, hot, cement alleyway located behind the apartments and in front of the garages. I remember the voices of women yelling at their children and husbands and sheets  hanging on clothes lines that extended from one apartment window to the next.

My white cotton sundress had thin tie shoulder straps and a white bow held back my thick brown hair. Mom was always giving me Toni perms because my hair frustrated her, too.  To this day, I can still smell the ammonia fumes. 

The two ladies from next door stepped onto my blanket blocking the sunlight. Holding their hand was Peter, their grandson. Peter picked his nose, and whined all the time. “Maryanne, we saw you here all by yourself and didn’t want you to be alone. Play nicely now.” 

“Peter,” I screamed.  I pointed to the apartments far away and firmly stated:  “Stay off my blanket.  You play over there.” He sat down next to me, started to pick his nose and used my crayons.  He didn’t stop although I asked him to stop very politely many times.  When I took a pencil and stabbed him in the back I felt completely justified. Of course, he proceeded to wail loudly, even though there was no sign of injury.

“Maryanne, what did you do now?” I heard my mother’s angry voice and fear consumed my body. She had been preparing to take a bath and was in her slip when she heard Peter’s screams.

She dragged me off to the tub yelling that she couldn’t leave me alone for a second without my getting into trouble. When I was scrubbed she told me to lie down on the bed while she finished taking her bath. After a few minutes I got the stool, opened the front door, and strolled down the street to Mr. Perchacelli’s.

Handing me the ice cream cone Mr. Perchacelli was asking where my mother was when my mother found me. I sat there naked swinging my legs on the way too tall stool looking at my Mary Janes.  My mother took the ice cream cone and returned it back to the kindly man.  He accepted the cone too afraid to do anything else.

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  1. AN INNOCENT TIME « longislandpen

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