When I was a little kid, my family lived in Brooklyn Heights. The Heights is a very nice neighbourhood directly across the East River from lower Manhattan. A different area, Washington Heights, inspired the Broadway musical, “In the Heights.” Brooklyn Heights is much nicer.
I’m not sure how my Dad wangled this, but we took possession of a five-story brownstone, due to be demolished to make room for a hotel. I believe he paid $125 per month for rent.
It was not in great shape, though. One day Dad and I were playing chess when we heard a deafening crash. The third floor bathroom ceiling had collapsed. This was my bathroom, so I guess if I’d felt nature call, instead of the challenge of chess, I wouldn’t be writing, now.
Daddy said there were wolves in the attic, named Thiefer and Hagen. I was not to bother them. I didn’t, but I was always curious and stood by the door, listening. We had a cat named Lellow, but I wanted some wolves, too.
The brownstone in Brooklyn Heights had a great backyard. I fell out of the tallest tree and lost my wind for nearly an hour. No one called EMTs, in those days, unless you were having a coronary. I lay on the couch gasping for breath, which eventually returned.
When I was six or so, I did the marketing for my family. Mom would give me a check. I’d take the cart and walk down to Bohack’s to buy food for the week. I felt quite grown up. I can attribute this to a gentler time, but I have a feeling Mom would let me do it if I were six now. It’s how she rolls.
I used to sit on the stoop watching cars and checking for out of state licence plates. It was fun and very Zen, since we didn’t have a television and I wasn’t into reading until later, when Nancy Drew came along.
One night there was a fire directly across the street. People died. I watched in horror, as it was across from my bedroom. I went to bed shaking for several months. Then we went to Fire Island and I was scared of bees; I shook about the bees, then, and I still do.
I went to Packer Collegiate Institute for first and second grades. I was dyslexic. I would sit and write my name backwards, Ydnew. I liked it better. I hated the name Wendy.
Once, on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, which is the park along the East river and the pride of the Heights, I got bitten by a little Drench dog, a Poodle mix. It belonged to a friend of Dad. Its name was Cynthia. Dad didn’t make a stink. After this, I was afraid of dogs for forty years. Then I met a nice big one named, Mr Ferguson, and got over my fear.
When Mom took me to Ebbinger’s Bakery, they always gave me a cookie, no charge; I looked either cute or troubled. I’m not sure which; maybe both. When I see two-toned bakery twine now, it takes me back to the Ebbinger Bakery.
When I was nearly eight years old, we moved to Greenwich Village. Moving to Manhattan seemed sophisticated. My great Aunt Jane lived there; she had French manicure.
Manhattan was okay. I went to a progressive school with children of famous people. My classmates included the sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg as well as the children of Woody Guthrie.
Most of my classmates were Jewish. I didn’t know from Jewish. We were Catholic, at least until Mom and Dad broke up. When I was eighteen, I found out my real father was Jewish. Wish I’d known earlier, as it might have helped me fit in.
I still take the subway to Brooklyn Heights, now and then. If I win the lotto, I will move there. I hear it was a good place to have watched the events of 9/11.
When I got to Brooklyn Heights, these days, I wander the streets and sit on the Promenade. I watch the boats and helicopters as well as the Statue of Liberty. I think of that terrible day, 9/11.
The brownstone we lived in is still there; no hotel. The apartments are probably two million apiece, now. Outside, our brownstone looks the same, exactly. I can see myself in my yellow pinafore, little Ydnew, sitting on the stoop counting cars; so independent, at such a young age. How I wish I could go back there to that gentler time.
Wendy Vega ran the board for radio legends "Cousin Brucie" and Dan Ingram, at WABC-AM, and Zacherle at WPLJ-FM, all in New York City. At WNEW-AM, Jonathan Schwartz stole her lunch and she became great friends with the legend of radio legends, William B Williams. Then Vega moved to news, first WINS-AM 1010, in New York City, later television stations in Los Angeles. Today, she is a former television news editor replaced by a machine. She's a writer living near the train station in Larchmont, New York. Joan Rivers came from Larchmont, NY. Maybe the same fate will befall Vega as befell Rivers. Watch this space.
Click above to tell a friend about this article.