Friday, May 10, 2013

Living in One Place for Thirty Years

While I was growing up my family used to move every four years. Like Stephanie and Thelma, I read a lot and learned to rely on my own company as a result of this. I had an odd view of other people, too. Four years isn't long enough for people to change very much, so I had a sort of flat view of what other people were all about. When I think of my sixth grade teacher, for example, I see him as he was when I was in sixth grade, handsome, charming, fresh out of the Navy, with his cleft chin and sparkling eyes. We left town at the end of that year, so I never had a chance to see him grow old.

Now I've been living in Lambertville for thirty years, longer than I've lived in any one place. (And in the same house, too. You can imagine what my attic looks like.) The townspeople are all thirty years older than they were when Harold and I moved here. (Good heavens! So are we!) The babies in diapers who used to run around underfoot at the tee-ball games where our son played have all grown up. The young cheering parents have gray hair now, or dyed hair, or no hair, and a few of them are no longer with us. Some of the young children of the town have left and become wildly successful. Some of them are stuck. Some have gone to the bad. Babies. I think of them all as babies.

There was a little girl living down the street when we first moved here, a thin, waif-like little creature who came over to visit sometimes to play with John's toys, one of those little girls who makes you want to take a hairbrush and get the tangles out of her hair. I didn't think much of her mother, who used to stand in the street making out with strange men. They left town about the time that real estate values got so high. A lot of the locals couldn't afford to stay here.

In yesterday's paper we read that a man had tried to snatch some woman's purse on Bridge Street, in broad daylight, and when he failed, jumped into a car, driven by some woman, and sped away. Since there were plenty of witnesses the police had no trouble apprehending the pair on Route 29, headed for Trenton. Their eighteen-month old baby was in the car. Drugs were involved. The moll was my old neighbor, the little waif. That makes me feel really sad.

Kate Gallison


  1. Ah, Kate- you shoulda untangled her hair!!!!!

  2. Perhaps Leanne is right, but I think sad is the proper response. Not guilt. How could you have known? The clarity of hindsight might be a myth. Memories are dynamic. You cannot know what untangling her hair would have resulted in, good or bad.

  3. Ah, those "what if I'd. . ." moments can lead to such intricate stories. Kate,you lucky devil. You have your next novel!

  4. Stephanie and I must be on a similar track... I had the same reaction... there certainly is a strong story there - it is haunting... TJStraw

  5. That poor child needed her whole life untangled. She was experienced beyond her years in ways I don't even want to get into. I'd be lying if I claimed that none of us knew that, the other wives on the block, but what could we do? Your mother is your mother. And it was thirty years ago, when Lambertville was a much rougher town.

  6. I run into many of those girls and boys in the criminal courts. Babies, all. At least, until the System has skinned that baby sheen from them at whatever age it occurs. Helps me to think of them like that. Babies. The 17-year-old for whom I negotiated 10 years in State prison rather than the 25-to-Life that awaits his accomplices in a robbery-murder. The young woman spending the night in a hotel room with her boyfriend and his backpack full of heroin. It helps when I can get angry at the cops, the prosecutors, the unfairness: it's fuel. I'm often asked: How can you do the work? See it all and stay at it? I answer that I find satisfaction in my work, and mean it.

    1. We are the best of species and the worst of species. You, Mr. Knightly, are one of the best!