Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bronxville Days, Part 1

We didn’t actually live in Bronxville, N.Y. We had a Bronxville mailing address, but the town itself was just one square mile, and the people who lived in that square - "Bronxville Proper," they called it - were either rich or old, or both. Bronxville was where our fathers got on the train to go to work in New York City. It was where we went to church: Episcopal, Congregational, Catholic or Dutch Reformed, your choice. It was where we went to the movies, and to buy model cars, and to eat banana splits and to ride our decorated bikes in the Memorial Day parade, and, if we weren't so lucky, to the hospital.

There was a tall building in the center of town – the Hotel Gramatan. It was where all the rich widows lived. It was a great place to go trick-or-treating. You could see the sign atop the hotel - made from red light bulbs - for miles. One night some teenagers got up on the roof and knocked out some of the lights so that the sign read, “HOT GRAMA.” I remember my mother telling a friend how hilarious that was, and then catching me eavesdropping, changed her mind and called it disgraceful vandalism.

Before moving to Bronxville, we had been Catholics. Back in West Haven, Conn., I remember going to classes taught by terrifying nuns. I don’t remember much about it, other than being told by them that someone named “Mary” was my real mother. I deduced from this that that woman in my house who raised me, “Irene” as she was called by others, was a fraud.

Anyway, for some reason when we moved to Bronxville, or near it, we didn’t go to the Catholic church but rather the big, fancy Episcopal one. In my twisted 9-year-old brain, I figured that we had been promoted.

I’ll never forget the humiliation my parents put me through in that church. I had worn my good shoes to school on Friday and changed into my gym shoes, then forgot to change back and left my good shoes in my locker at school.
“Get dressed for church, young man,” I was told Sunday morning. “But I can’t go to church today because I left my good shoes in my locker.”
The parents were tired of this excuse. “Then you’ll go in your sneakers,” they said.
I was inordinately fashion-conscious for a boy my age. The idea of dressing in a gray flannel suit and filthy high-top white Keds was repulsive.
They dragged me to church. I felt like a clown. I was mortified.
I never forgot my good shoes at school again.


Anonymous said...

It's so nice to have your series. I feel full now. I've been lacking something and I just realized what it was. Your series.

Thanks Grump!


Paul said...

I have been to Bronxville a few times. It's idyllic. Beautiful little main street just a block away from the Metro North stop.