Memoirs of a Brighton Beach Childhood

by Judith Meyerowitz

I grew up around the corner from the beach in Brooklyn, that magical borough of saltwater and Dukedom.* And for two sweet months I was free from school—clothing, immovable desks, performance anxiety. I sat in the beach chair recliner with top shade surveying my land while reading an adventure book. I was above— the people on blankets, the hot sand, the wrappers and gulls, raised up to wave height.

And it was all about the waves. The magnet that pulled me beyond fear, beyond my non-swimming mother. Then, I belly surfed with abandon not worrying about knees; I tanned without hives. After the delicious waves, I waited for the Good Humor man in pith helmet, freezer strapped to the body. He seemed never to get closer, trudging through sandy desert mountains, distorted by sun rays— lost in heat waves. Finally! And my parents’ choice- huckleberry? I must be adopted! There was only one flavor in my genes—chocolate. Now to collect bottles under the boardwalk. Was it for two cents? The sun slated through creating patterns in the sand but also fears of the darkness and what dangers lurked under the boards, the people who never came out. And teenagers— what did they do under there? And then there was night on the boardwalk…

Ah, Brooklyn in the fifties and the Dodgers affectionately the Bums. I not only had sightings of the now extinct Ebbetts Field, but I sat in its belly—the bleachers. The two of us, my father and I would take the subway— the Franklin Avenue shuttle. I remember being startled going from the dark, to the sudden sunlight and the green expanse. And I remember the crowds moving with us, the noise— people cheering and jeering in the rising stands behind us.

There were all sorts of customs in Dodger territory. We got hot dogs and peanuts by signaling and your row passed money to the hawkers in the aisles who sometimes threw the food to you- played catch. We bought a program, and I learned the secret codes to record the history of outs. But when the seventh inning stretch came we were all hushed with expectancy. Then the sacred music and the pipe organ began and we community of Brooklyn Bums stood joined together and yelled “for the home team” and paused after one… then two… and finally “three strikes you are out”. They never sang it more than once and the words eventually echoed hollow of a relationship and closeness that belonged to that time and place and became as extinct as the stadium.

*Duke Snider, Brooklyn Dodgers

Judith Meyerowitz: Judith has written prose through her participation in the LP² Writing Workshop and is pleased to share it in Voices.