I used to sit in a coffee shop on 7th and write letters to my Mother….
She moved to Florida after The Old Man passed. Said she promised him she would go. So she did.
She was on her own for the first time in more than twenty years. There was no one for her to care for. There were no clothes to lay out for anyone. No wash to do, no dishes or meals to make.
All she had to do was take care of herself, which I suppose was frightening.
I stayed in New York and found employment in the Garment Center. After a string of bad jobs, I put on a suit and tie and took my chances with a sales position for a label manufacturer. The company manufactured identification items such as woven labels and emblems for different clothing houses. Before this, my experience was wasted on network marketing scams and door to door sales. I sold triple pane windows to homeowners, but that only lasted two weeks. I was fired for calling the sales manager a rat. And apparently he was. After the company fell under indictment for money laundering, the sales manager acted as an informant for the district attorney.
I was also tempted by the stock market demons. They sold me on the idea of huge commission checks and trips to Vegas. I had never been to Vegas, or Cancun, or Fiji. But before any of that could happen, I would have to take a test. I hated tests. I hated tests more than I hated being poor. The more I looked into it, the more I realized I hated stock brokers as well, so I chose not to accept the offer. Years later, some of the brokers I knew found themselves in federal prison. Fortunately, their time was spent in minimum security. They spent time with white collar criminals and non-violent offenders. Had it gone differently, I don’t believe any of them would have survived.
As for me…
I was trying to find myself. I hated my job, but at least it paid. It never paid much though. I never received a commission check because I never covered my draw. I would make enough sales to keep my boss quiet and then I would spend the rest of my time walking through the streets of New York City.
This was when 42nd Street was still 42nd Street. The porn shops were still open with flashing signs in the window that blinked the words, “Live Girls.” There were stores that sold fake identification and stiletto knives. There were the tourist shops that sold overpriced items to out of town visitors. Then of course, there were the Three Card Monte games and those were the biggest sucker traps. I walked through the streets of Midtown Manhattan with a briefcase in one hand and a hot dog in the other. I did nothing else but waste my time.
My boss would complain and tell me to make more sales. I would try, but I was easily discouraged. I grew tired of the rejection and having doors slammed in my face. There was too much competition and too many companies offering the same thing for lower prices. As it was, we were at the low end of the business. I was compared to the nuisance of telemarketers. I was often yelled at. I even had a stapler thrown at me by a man threatening to hang me from my tie.
I had no idea what it meant to work for a living. I was a kid. But I was a kid that needed to grow up fast. In some ways, I was pushed from my nest too soon. The home I grew up in belonged to someone else. The plans I had were changed, and not by my choice. My old Man passed, the family business fell to pieces and my Mother moved to Florida.
I was not resentful of her move. Intellectually, I understood why she left. I knew she had to get away from the constant memory of her husband. She needed a new surrounding, and furthermore, she needed to heal. Emotionally, I was afraid. I was young-minded and immature. I felt misplaced and struggled to learn my way around a checkbook. Aside from the credit mistakes of not paying bills, I made an even bigger mistake when I told Uncle Sam to scratch during tax season. I did that until I received a letter in the mail. The letter was from Uncle Sam himself and it explained that it was me that needed to scratch.I had to grow up and grow up fast. But of course, I struggled.
My Mother went through her own struggles. Her attempts to find companionship never seemed to work. She made friends, but friendship never covered the loneliness of losing her husband. I suppose I grew without her. Perhaps, she grew without me as well.
As the seasons would change, and 7th Avenue covered with snow, I would sit in a coffee shop and write letters to my Mom. I would write about work. I would ramble about the people I worked with and reminisce about the house on 277 Merrick Avenue. I’d sip coffee from my mug and pen a description of what the city looked like. I would remind her of the times she took me into department stores, like Gimbel’s and Orbach’s. But those stores were long gone.
There, in a small coffee shop on the 7th Avenue side of 1411 Broadway, I listened to the music of Billy Holiday and Bing Crosby. I sipped from an oversized mug and tried to bring my Mother a piece of New York City.
Age is not always kind to us. And now, age is doing its unkind work to my Mother. I suppose someday she will be able to stand up straight again. I suppose the loneliness will stop and she will be reconnected with The Old Man. But for now, she struggles. And for now….I’m just a kid that’s sad about his Mom.