Monday, September 26, 2011

*** Spaldeen Dreams # 200 ***

Almost exactly three years ago, inspired by a new friend  from my old neighborhood, I began writing Spaldeen Dreams. I wanted my kids and their kids to have some idea what it was like growing up in Brooklyn when I was young. I think most of us, as we get older, regret not having talked more with our parents and grandparents about their lives before we arrived...I know I do. While it's true that my grandparents spoke little English, if I could have learned some Italian, maybe there would be more stories to tell. I have no excuse for not asking more questions of my parents, except maybe laziness and the arrogance of youth in thinking they had nothing to tell me.

Although I have tried to set down my stories honestly, there may be times when my imagination has filled in the gaps in my memory. If so, it was unintentional.  Sometimes I am dead certain that something is so only to find out it's not. I think we don't want to admit to ourselves that we are starting to forget details; the implications of that are too ominous. Luckily, the ability to do online research to capture information and images of the 1950s helps compensate for aging gray cells. Also working in my favor is the tendency for long term memory to be better than short term. I sometimes see an image or hear a song associated with my childhood, and the memories of the far away past come flooding back.

I have written mostly about small, everyday events as seen through the eyes of a 10-year old. The street games we played (mostly invented for want of money); what school was like and some of the teachers who made a difference;  the magic of radio and its influence on our lives; the movies and TV shows that entertained us; neighborhood characters; family holidays, picnics, and just eating together around the table every evening; my parents, grandparents and other family members; the mistakes I regret and the breaks that lifted me from the streets; my good fortune in marrying the patient and loving partner who helps me be a better person; and my children and granddaughter whose lives, if nothing else, justify my time on earth.

In the days before widespread literacy, family oral histories were a common way to pass along traditions. As more people learned to read and write, these stories and bits of family history began to be documented in family Bibles, annotated family trees, and even photographs. The other day we were looking at old 8mm home movies from 40-50 years ago. My kids are lucky to be able to see themselves as children growing up, as well as images of their "young" parents and others they barely remember. This connects them to those who came before in a very special way. Technology is helping too, with websites like the Ellis Island records archive, the U.S. Census Bureau online, and genealogy researchers like; I was able to find out so much about my family using these resources.

I loved growing up in 1950s Brooklyn. The world was full of promise and America was leading the way. Things are different now, scarier. I want my little blog to preserve that simple time before cell phones, the Internet, I-pods, plasma TVs, microwave ovens and terrorists. Maybe this is my way of reaching back through the years to recapture lost youth. For whatever reason, I'll continue to write as long as I have something to say. I want to thank my wife for her ongoing help, and those other angels who have encouraged me along the way.


Children's Craniofacial Association


Joseph Del Broccolo said...

I think Spaldeen Dreams is an essential part of my life. It helps me transcend the years to my childhood, and renews the fact that I am part of a very special time and place in my life. What a wonderful idea to bring those memories back. Thank you a million times over. Your loyal follower and fellow Brooklynite.

Jim Pantaleno said...

Joe: You made my day. So glad there are people like you who can share my memories of growing up in 1950s Brooklyn.