When we moved to 418 West 17st in the Robert Fulton Housing projects we were moving from a pretty large apartment (by New York standards) to a pretty small apartment. One of the most dramatic changes for Rob and I was the necessity to now share a room, and a pretty small room at that.
We had one closet and one dresser for both of us, and again, we are speaking of a small closet and small dresser. Looking back, I actually have a hard time remembering how we managed that, but manage it we did.
One would think that such an arrangement would have a negative effect on two young boys, but, to the contrary, it actually turned out to be a positive.
First, we did have some experience in sharing a room in that when we spent our summers in Lake Hopatcong New Jersey, we shared a room of roughly the same size for most of the summer, and, for those of you out there who remember childhood summers, they seemed to last forever.
What I recall most vividly about sharing a room were those moments before sleep came. We had both taken our showers and had tucked ourselves in to our adjacent beds, prepared for our night’s sleep. The obligatory night kisses from Mom and Dad, a few short prayers and the door to our room was closed. Mom and Dad were night owls in many ways and I remember hearing the television on until the wee hours of the morning on most nights. We heard their muffled conversation over coffee and cake before they finally retired for the evening. Dad was always last to take a shower in the small bathroom that was right next to our room. On many nights I remember falling asleep to the soothing sound of Dad’s shower water running so close by.
But, it was after the door to our room was closed that our conversations began. I don’t think we ever fell “right asleep”; this was our time to review the events of the day, the TV shows we had watched or to anticipate the next holiday or event we were both looking forward to. It was also time to lament another loss by our Mets and to vilify every opposing player that was causing our demise.
We laughed a lot, trying desperately to keep our voices down, most of the time unsuccessfully, causing the door to open and Mom sternly but lovingly saying; “boys! Get to sleep, you have school tomorrow.”
Of course, we would be silent for a few moments, but when we felt mom was comfortably nestled back in front of the Television, the “conversations” would pick back up.
We would relive the actions of our favorite TV characters, whether it was laughing uncontrollably over the antics of Corporal Agarn or Barney Fife or speaking in awe of the courage of Sergeant Saunders and his squad as they assisted in the liberation of Europe;we had mountains of material to talk about. We would replay the episodes in our minds and then share with each other all the cool or funny things we had seen, each one of us trying to outdo the other with our “and how about when ………..”
The dialogue would flow over to baseball very easily during the baseball season and we cheered (rarely) and cried (often) at the performance of our Amazing Mets. On many occasion, after we were supposed to be asleep, Rob would breakout his beloved Transistor radio and we would listen intently over the static to a late game going on somewhere in the country. I vividly remember the sound of that transistor radio cracking away on a warm night during the baseball season.
We talked about things we were looking forward to: Christmas Eve, Summer vacation, trips to Bertrand’s Island, visits with our Cousin Chris, a new James Bond movie soon to be released or a new single by the Four Seasons ( enter Robs transistor again!)
I believe one of the more lasting memories was conversation about nightmares Rob would have. He had some whoppers and he has referenced them in other posts, but they were scary, pure and simple. As the older brother, I always felt it was my job to comfort him when he would wake terrified from one of his classics. I would ask him what he had dreamt about and in detail he would relay it. I pretended, probably unsuccessfully, not be phased by what he related, all the while frightened as hell myself. He had reoccurring dreams which made them more frightening and he can expand on “The Wizard” and the “Red Man” and others if he chooses. Suffice it to say for our purposes here, he would relay the dream and I would make a sorry attempt to talk him down and explain why there was nothing to be afraid of.
There was a magazine called Monster Magazine published for a short time when we were kids and we kind of got into scary movies (again, almost comical by today’s standards) and would get one of these magazines from time to time. We are speaking of classic monsters here, not the twisted, slasher, demented, sadistic villains of today. I’m speaking of Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy, the Wolf-man, etc.
One particular issue had a series on the Wolf-man with photos from Wolf-man movies. One such photo had a bad effect on Rob. It was a shot of the Wolf-Man’s face, looking pretty predatory, with blood on his teeth and droplets running from his mouth. Well, Rob had a terrible nightmare about that dammed photo one night, and, I do not exaggerate (Rob, correct me if I’m wrong) we spent the good part of the entire night talking about how it was all make believe and the blood was not real ( it was the blood on the teeth that affected him most). I came up with some stupid explanation that they used Ketchup to give the appearance of blood. A pretty lame explanation indeed, but, after this marathon conversation, Rob calmed down and we were able to get about twenty minutes of sleep. (I can picture Rob reading this today and exclaiming; “Wait! You mean it was NOT ketchup??!!”
Another memorable conversation was concerning Frank Sinatra and his Christmas album. As spoken about in other posts, this album was literally a big part of our childhood. We still play I every Christmas today, so many years later. Anyway, Rob absolutely loved listening to this album (as we all did) while enjoying t the lights on the Christmas tree. At a very young age he was enthralled with Sinatra’s voice, especially when combined with the magic of Christmas. On the memorable night in question we had settled into our beds before “the conversations” started, however Rob seemed upset, he was close to tears. I quickly asked what was wrong as this was odd and it worried me. Do you know what it was? He had such an attachment to Sinatra via his voice and Christmas songs that he was honestly and completely sincerely concerned that Frank was not making enough money to get by. Thus began one of my “never leaving me” memories. We spent a good part of that evening talking about the fact that Frank was well taken care of and that he would make plenty of money, even from this one album alone to get by. Absolutely priceless. In addition to Rob’s sensitivity at such an early age, the thing that I remember most fondly is that we didn’t take this situation as funny or foolish in anyway. It was real and it deserved the time for one of our “conversations”. It was important.
So, I hope you get the picture. I have only fond memories of sharing a room with my brother, especially our nightly conversations that covered every aspect of our childhood; our joys, our fears our fantasies and our hopes.
Even today ,sometimes when I’m drifting off to sleep, I can see that window over Robs bed that looked out upon the Hudson River, I can hear the wind outside our 23rd floor apartment and if I listen real carefully, I can hear his transistor radio……
Freakin Mets lost again……… I hope the Four Season come on……..because…ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.