... The sweet dreams of my yesterdays faded from my mind as I awoke to find myself on the little, velvet settee in my grandparents’ house. Why wasn’t I waking up in our new house? I rubbed my eyes, stretched my arms overhead and became fully awake. Throwing the coverlet off , I got up and went into the kitchen where my grandfather and father sat at the table, talking. “Well, I don’t know what to tell you, Ralph—it looks like there’s not much you can do. You’ll just have to wait and see what Lorraine is going to do.” I didn’t have any idea what they were talking about, but whatever it was, it made my father sad. “Look who’s here; it’s my little Dutch girl,” my grandfather said, when he saw me at the kitchen doorway. I walked over to the table and sat on the chair next to my father.
“Your clothes and tooth brush are in the bag next to the buffet. I have to leave for work now, so you stay here and be a good girl,” my father said, as he got up from his chair and walked out.
My grandfather put a bowl in front of me saying, “Here’s something that’ll make your hair curly.” It was a bowl of hot Cream of Wheat, with brown sugar on top.“Thank you, Grandfather, this is my favorite breakfast.”
After I finished eating, I took my clothes and toothbrush into the bathroom where I washed up, brushed my teeth and dressed. I didn’t have a comb, so I used the comb that was in the bathroom to comb and braid my hair, hoping that my grandmother wouldn’t mind.
My grandmother was a serious woman; she didn’t smile much like Nanny. She was already busy at work in her sewing room when I asked, “Grandmother, may I go out and play?”
“No, you sit here, where I can keep an eye on you.” Looking up from her sewing, she handed me a jar of buttons adding, “Here, you can sort out these buttons.” I tried to amuse myself, but it didn’t work. I was still bored, just sitting there on the floor, while she worked at her sewing machine. “What’s the matter with you? Why the sour face?”
“When will Daddy be back? I want to go outside.”
“Enough of that talk, I’ll get you something to keep you busy.” My grandmother got up, locked the metal brace on her right leg, and opened the drawer of the gray dresser, where she kept remnants of cloth, threads and patterns. “Here, you can embroider a dresser scarf.” She handed me two wooden, embroidery hoops and a piece of cloth with a stamped pattern of a basket of flowers printed at each end. She sat back down at her sewing machine and gave me instructions on how to put the cloth between the two hoops and press them together to pull the cloth taut. Then, she handed me a little box of colored threads. I kept busy embroidering the dresser scarf, until it was finished.
“Now, what can I do, Grandmother? May I go down Duerstein Street and see if Jeanie Hart still lives there? Please, please,” I pleaded, with my hands held together, like I was praying.
“You walk down there and come right back. I don’t want you staying down there. If she can play, she has to come here, where I can keep an eye on you. Do you hear?”
I ran out the door to the corner and down the street. I was happy to be outside in the sunshine, going to see Jeanie again. She was the little red haired girl who lived across the street from us when we lived on Duerstein Street. I hadn’t seen her since we moved away, two years ago. I hoped she would remember me.
Back then Jeanie’s mother walked her across the street with her tricycle. We rode up and down the sidewalk together. When we got tired of riding our tricycles, we went into my backyard to play and do somersaults both forward and backward.
I reached the little white house where Jeanie lived and walked up the back porch steps. The kitchen door was open. I put my face up to the screen door. “Oh, Jeanie,” I called real loud.
Mrs. Hart came to the door. She was just as I remembered her, a heavy-set woman with red hair and blue eyes, like Jeanie.“Well, if it isn’t little Nancy Lee. Come in.”
“I’m glad Jeanie is still living here,” I said.
“We own this house, Nancy Lee. Jeanie will probably live here for a long time. What are you doing back here?”
“My father and I are staying with my grandparents today, and my grandmother said that Jeanie could come to her house to play. My grandmother lives at the corner, on Seneca Street.”
“Your grandmother makes dresses for me; I know where she lives. She lives across from our church,” Mrs. Hart said, walking to the sink to get a glass of water.
Hurrying into the kitchen from the living room, Jeanie, dressed in shorts and a striped T-shirt was bursting with excitement. “Hi, Nancy Lee, when did you move back here? Are you going to live back here now? Your hair got longer. What grade are you in now?” The questions flowed one after the other. She didn’t even give me a chance to answer. Jeanie’s excitement at seeing me again made me feel good. “Can I, Mom? Can I go with Nancy Lee, to her grandmother’s house and play?”
“All right, go ahead, but walk straight there and don’t cross Seneca Street or go into the park. Stay at her grandmother’s house.”
Jeanie and I headed out the door. We held hands and swung our arms, like the pendulum of a clock, as we walked down the steps. “I got a new two-wheel bicycle from Santa last Christmas. Wait till you see it,” Jeanie said, as she headed toward the garage. There was no door on her garage. I could see the bicycle standing inside near the side wall. It was shiny blue with chrome fenders. It had a basket on the front and a bell on the handlebars. Jeanie was so lucky; I wished I had a bicycle.
Before we headed back to my grandmother’s house, Jeanie showed me how she could ride it.“May I take a turn, Jeanie?”
“Do you know how to ride a two-wheeler?”
“Sure, where we used to live, Tommy’s friend and his sister had bicycles. Sometimes they let us ride them.” I gripped tight onto the handle bars, and my feet peddled a round slowly on the pedals. I rode down her driveway without falling off, to Jeanie’s surprise. Then, I got off, remembering that my grandmother was waiting for us. “We have to go, Jeanie, Grandmother will be worried.”
Jeanie put her bicycle back in the garage, ran into her house and brought out a deck of Old Maid playing cards. We skipped, hopped and jumped all the way down the street, happy to be together again.
Until her mother mentioned it, I didn’t know that Jeanie and her family were Catholic and went to St. John the Baptist Church. That didn’t matter to me, but it would sure matter to my grandmother. “Jeanie, don’t tell my grandmother that you go to St. John’s Church. She doesn’t like Catholics. She only likes Protestants.”