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Dreams and Reality

Story ID:2797
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family Memories
Writers Conference:$500 2007 Family Memories Writing Project
Location:Oak Park IL USA
Year:1948
Person:Nancy Julien
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Dreams and Reality

Dreams and Reality

Dreams and Reality

I remember....

I remember so much of my childhood days. Incidents, events, people, and places return to me over and over, sometimes in my dreams. I so often am the age I am now, but the dream takes place in someplace of long ago—a place where I might have been as a child. My childhood home figures prominently in my dreams and memories.

I grew up in a 3rd floor apartment. Six of us crowded into a 2 bedroom apartment which also had a small kitchen, pantry, dining room (which is where I slept) and a living room with a small sunroom extension on it and one bathroom with a clawfoot tub, no shower. We also had an outdoor balcony, very small and scary when you leaned over the railing and looked way down below. We never had a chair or table on the balcony like people would today. It was a place we were seldom allowed to go actually. A good spot for taking pictures, and that was about all. It was reserved for those Kodak moments.

We climbed the three flights of stairs carrying so many things. Laundry baskets, grocery bags, the live Christmas tree we had each December. Whatever we needed or wanted was toted up those three flights. The enclosed front stairs were carpeted, and as we climbed we could smell dinner. Sometimes it was dinner cooking and sometimes it was a lingering odor from yesterday's dinner. We had to pass four other apartment doors to reach our floor, and the dinner smells from all four mingled and blended. I use to try to single out the aromas to see who had eaten what that day. The back steps were outdoors and wooden. Up a big double set to the first floor, then split off to a single width set on either side, then onto another double set, and another single width set on either side leading to our floor. One more double set of steps and we landed on our backporch. There were four apartment doors on that big porch. And above the railing on our side was a clothesline on a pulley. My mother often did handwashing and hung the clothes to dry on that line. When there was an infant in the family, diapers fluttered in the wind every day of the week.

I never knew what it was to be alone during my growing-up years. With three younger brothers and living in a small apartment, privacy came down to my alloted ten minutes in the bathroom each morning. The only place I can remember being alone is when I walked to the library, which was at least once every week. Down the three flights of stairs with a load of books in my arms and away I went. Past the conservatory in the next block, past the city park, and across the double set of railroad tracks. One was for freight trains, the other for Chicago Transit Authority "els" Once across the tracks, I turned onto a cinder path that ran behind the train station platform. I loved that cinder path. It made me feel as though I was in another world. The feel of concrete under my feet was the norm, but crunching along the cinder path was different. The back of the train platform was to one side of me and a field of tall weeds bordered the other side of the path. Today I would probably think it was no place for a child to be walking alone, but I did it thousands of times over those years and never had a mishap. Maybe an angel walked with me.
The cinder path ended all too soon for me, and I skipped along the remaining block and a half until I reached my home away from home--the public library. While I made the walk to and from the library, my thoughts ran to so many things. I had time to think, to plan, to dream. It was my only private time, and I cherished it as much as the wonderful books I carried with me.

I remember so many good things my mother cooked and baked for us. Food was something to be enjoyed in our home, not just to eat to stay alive. Money was scarce, and Mother skimped on many things, but food was of primary importance, and we ate quite well. Steak did not appear on our table often, but occasionally it did. And we knew if we had steak one night, the next night was something like tuna casserole, or a pound of hamburger stretched in any way possible, and some never even thought of before. My mother baked a lot, and she passed the love of baking on to me. She had learned from her own mother who had a neighborhood bakery for many years. My daughter is a good baker, too. Must be genetic!

Memories feed an old soul. Memories entertain the younger generations. Memories are priceless.

Yes, I remember so many things from those childhood years on Garfield Street in Oak Park, Illinois. They helped make me the person I am today, and they've made me appreciate all that I have as an adult.

Photo 1: Nancy at age 10

Photo 2: Nancy today
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