Friday, September 21, 2012

A Cousin Encounter of Another Kind (Two)

Communion Day in Brooklyn mid '50s
(To read Part One of this series, click here)

When I heard my long-lost Brooklyn cousin’s voice on my answering machine I knew I would redial and reconnect. Yet, I hesitated -  because I expected the worst.

After a deep breath and silent prayer I punched in the number.

“Hi  Joseph. Cousin Laura.” I was speaking very fast. “  I recognized your voice. What a nice surprise” I slowed down.  “How are you and your family?”

His  overall assessment allayed my worst fears. Neither tragedy nor triumph had provoked the call. Just curiosity. He had found me online on People Finder.
Yes, there had been some health issues, but no immediate crises.  His mother was well and he too, had recently become a grandfather – which meant the surname our fathers’ shared as brothers would carry on to another generation. His sister’s family lived close by his apartment in Brooklyn (all new addresses). Why, he said she was right there with him.

“Here I’ll put her on.”

And so another voice from the past, again oddly familiar, rang true. We giggled a bit, as girl cousins are apt to giggle. Her young adult boys still lived home. “Never a dull moment!” we agreed.

“How are you really doing Laura?” she asked, this time with the depth only a blood-related gal can dig down to. She referred to my life as a widow, fourteen years now. I told her more than most need to know.

*  *  *  *  *

Cousin Joseph didn’t drive. I said I’d come to Brooklyn.  

I had secretly considered returning to my Bensonhurst roots for some time - even with no one in particular to visit . I wanted to check out the old neighborhood – one which my cousins lived close to. The neighborhood that compelled me to ask every Brooklynite I  came upon, “Remember the show Welcome Back Kotter?”
          . . . and if they remembered I’d continue, “Remember the high school building they use to pan at the beginning and end ?”
          . . . and if they still remembered, I’d  declare, “That’s New Utretch High, where my dad went. We use to live right by there - up 17th Avenue.
New Utretch High on 16th Ave in Brooklyn

Yes, 17th Avenue. How I’ve longed to get a feel for its past and present again.  But I don’t think I would have made plans to return to Brooklyn, not this year anyway, without the phone call out of the blue from Cousin Joseph.
 (to be continued)



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