Much of the time we lived on Bay 14th I was pregnant. I gave birth to two more children within two years, Jimmy and Kyra. Bringing the total up to three children. Two girls and a boy.
During one of my pregnancies the girl upstairs, Dana, was also pregnant, and in fact had a baby girl about two weeks prior to my having my son, Jimmy. He is the middle child. Dana and I spent a lot of time eating popcorn, drinking alka seltzer, and playing cards while waiting for the blessed events. She was a nice young woman. Her husband was a sleazy jerk.
Dana and Tim were in the same age range as Jim and I. He was also a Transit Policeman who worked out of the same District as Jim. This was prior to the merge with the NYPD. Dana and Tim already had a six-year-old boy, and we had our five-year old girl, Crissy. The children usually played together. Since we were in the same building it was all pretty convenient. We could socialize and never have to go anywhere or hire a babysitter.
As I mentioned in prior posts I was often alone when others had their spouses home. This was the case even though the men worked the same job out of the same District. They were on different shifts. This one evening shortly after she had given birth, Dana invited me to come up for dinner with she and Tim. I was still very pregnant and very hungry. My swollen belly preceded me up the narrow stairs. I was looking forward to having someone else cook dinner. The pregnancy was beginning to weigh heavily on me, no pun intended.
Dana was not a Brooklynite, nor was she even a New Yorker, she was from the South. A native Floridian with a deep Southern accent. The accent was tempered at this point since she had been living in New York for about seven years. I once had a conversation with Dana’s sister who was visiting from Florida. We conversed for about an hour and I didn’t understand not two words in a row. I doubt she understood me either, but it was pleasant.
Now I must mention that my ancestry is Greek/Italian. If you know anything about these cultures you know that eating is a sacred religion to us, and if two extra people are coming for dinner we cook like it’s a feast for ten. I have been known to make a sixteen pound turkey for just Jim and I with the excuse that we wanted some leftovers. After all the courses and sides the left overs would feed a family of four for a week. My Grandmother and Mother were on intimate terms with Benny the butcher who would deliver to the fourth floor apartment in Harlem when they lived there. Benny needed to deliver because the meat they purchased each week was so heavy that my Grandmother couldn’t carry the full shopping bags up the stairs. That’s when only four women were living in the apartment. Over cooking and over eating is in the genes.
Anyway I digress. This one evening I was invited up to Dana and Tim’s apartment for dinner. It was just me and the baby I was still carrying, and I was hungry. The table was set beautifully. I was invited to sit down while Dana brought out the food. She carried it all in one trip. Oh my God, it was most assuredly culture shock for me. Then I thought, this must be the appetizer. Errrr no.
She placed a soup bowl with about six chicken wings in it, a pint of peas, and an ice cream bowl of mashed potatoes in the center of the table. Barely, dinner for one! My eyes widened and you can well imagine how traumatized I was that I still remember the menu more than forty years later. It was fortunate that I didn’t go into labor on the spot. I was worried to take more than one wing, a few peas and a dollop of potatoes on my plate. I could have been in a French restaurant and left feeling more satisfied. Truly, I was lucky that had my stomach begun to gurgle I could have blamed the baby.
They did offer me a second wing, by the way, the first was delicious, but I refused politely. No I couldn’t eat another thing, thank you. I waited as long as good manners would allow after DINNER was over, said goodnight and ran back downstairs where I promptly built a beautiful salami and provolone hero on Italian bread.
That night I went into labor and gave birth to an eight pound, 10 ounce bouncing, baby boy. How fortunate that I had eaten all of my after dinner hero. I really needed it to endure the hours of labor :).