It always seemed fitting that we lived on a street with an Irish name, given that the majority of the neighborhood had Irish names – Lanigan, Joyce, Gavin, Garvey, McGuire (times two), Durkin, McElroy, Doyle, McInerney, Tyrell, Fitzgerald, Dennehy, McGowan, Morley, Fahey, Hannigan, Finneran, and O’Ryan – to name just a few. Some foreigners did manage to slip through, however, with names like Graff, Milano, Dedo, Severino, Wargo. (Whoever heard of a name ending in “o?”) But I’m glad they were there, especially since my best friend for life, Carla Milano, moved in next door. Our other best friend for life, Marie Joyce, lived just a half block away. We were inseparable – and still are. I believe our 60th Anniversary is this year!
And what would I have done without Mrs. Graff? She was always there for me, and she is to this day. I still call her Mrs. Graff – I wouldn’t dream of calling her Dolores! It would be like calling your mother or an aunt or a grandmother by her first name. It just can’t – and shouldn’t – be done!
This is the house in which my sister, brother, and I grew up. I lived in this house from 1956 until 1970. A lot of “firsts” happened while we lived in this house – First Communion (I had to start by mentioning this most important event, otherwise Father Griffin would haunt me – and yes, of course, our parish priests had Irish names, too), first grade (and first encounter with a nun), first ballet lesson, first (and only) baby brother was born, first pajama party, first dog (Kelly!), first Nancy Drew book, first date, first kiss, first time [attempting] driving a car (stick shift on the column, tears of laughter running down my dad’s face), first marriage (sorry, Father G!).
It was a wonderful neighborhood, overflowing with baby-boomers, who spent all summer outside, playing games, riding bikes, roller skating (guarding our skate keys!), playing ball in the street. Our particular block was not a through-street, so there were hardly any annoying interruptions in the ball-playing activities. We all walked to school. When we had an important event – like Communion, Confirmation, or graduation – it was not unusual for one of the parish priests to make an appearance at your party. I think they were just looking for free beer.
I could go on and on (as if I haven’t been doing just that), but I’ll stop here. Thank you for traveling down memory lane with me!
Here is 8033 South Kildare Avenue in Chicago.