Marge and Charlie were an Irish Catholic pair with 6 kids. Charlie worked on roads for the State of New York, driving one of those giant rollers. Charlie’s mom (my great-grandmother) lived in their upstairs apartment and was a very old, tiny woman who spent her days crocheting and watching game shows. She had come over from Germany and made the best linzer cookies I have ever tasted. Charlie grew a fantastic vegetable garden in their Levittown postage-stamp lot. Marge was funny, absent-minded, and tall with big feet. Their house was so boisterous- I had many cousins who lived nearby- and such a change from my home environment that it always took some getting used to.
A 5-minute drive away…
Dick and Esther: Esther was Finnish; Dick, Italian. Dick never got in a plane after WW2 and was a difficult man to like. He did not understand why people liked to travel. We are not related by blood. My sister and I were not allowed to make noise or touch the walls in their house (at least until we were old enough to not have sticky fingers all of the time). Esther never drove and after a certain point stopped taking the bus out of fear for her safety, and I think a certain amount of resignation; she stopped fighting the power of my grandfather’s thumb. She had once been a singer in New York and Chicago and worked for the phone company in NYC. In Chicago she got pregnant and returned to NYC where she took the identity of my mother’s father to her grave. I took her shopping several times towards the end of her life. She would check the stitching on washcloths and underwear, always judging them of low quality. She taught me to find joy in solitary pursuits.