Growing up on a dead end
Dropped Mom & Auntie Aurea at the airport yesterday afternoon. They're in CA visiting with their older sister. Afterwards, I drove to my old stomping ground in Jersey City on Nunda Avenue. I wanted to relive my childhood memories of the dead end blocked by a cemetery, the street on which I loved playing until late into the summer night. I looked at our old, maize colored, brown-trimmed house and remembered how much my Dad had worked on that house inside and out. Knocked down a wall in the livingroom, built the carport in the driveway, tended the garden in the back. I didn't see any of our old neighbors. I hoped that some of them might be out. Maybe I might inform them about Dad passing and reminisce about how neighborly he was.
Like how he was always willing to help out a neighbor with a home project. There were Mr. Conte's driveway and Mr. Rodriguez's vegetables. I loved Jack and Nell Harris who lived next door. They were like my adopted grandparents, who watched out for me when I returned from school in the afternoon. Growing up on Nunda Avenue was amazing. Liberatore, Conte, Rodriguez, Johnson and Harris families living pretty much in harmony. Ours was the only Filipino family. It was great to find community among the Irish, Italian, South Asian, Puerto Rican and Black neighbors and play with all the kids. It didn't matter that we were from different backgrounds, and it didn't matter to our parents.
Dad had a hard life, and he had a good life. He didn't come from wealthy means. Pretty much orphaned (his mom was a traveling business woman, his dad died when he was young), he was raised by his older brothers and sisters who let him run around like a streetboy most of the time. He worked hard and made so many sacrifices. A chemical engineer, he'd worked all kinds of jobs -- from manual labor (loading dock, pumping gas) to that of a marketing executive, his career ending as a lab tech at a paint company, figuring out formulas for paint colors. Mom always recounts the story of when Michael and I were just babies. She and Dad had to work different shifts, so that one of them was always home with us. How blessed I was that Dad and Mom were able to send me to a private, all-girls Catholic school for 13 years, college and grad school too.
Dad gave me more than just a good life. He gave me my love for Jersey City, and I will be forever grateful to him for that.