Park Ex, by Silvia Fiorita-Smith

Post date: Aug 14, 2020 6:44:34 PM

Where did you grow up?

I answer Park Extension,

Eyes widen, jaw drops,

You don't look so tough!

Oh, but I am...

And unpretentious too,

In my neighbourhood,

We spoke our mind,

Mothers screeched in a dozen 

Different tongues,

Home now or you'll get it!

No family secrets,

Arguments resolved on balconies,

Where we spent summer vacations,

Peeling away at grey chipped paint,

While we slurped dripping purple Popsicles,

Bubble gum blowing contests,

Reading Marvel comics

And swapping hockey cards,

Dickie Moore one of our own,

Hot like hell in the middle of a city,

Where the air doesn't move,

Trapped in concrete,

No one has a lawn but

Every backyard is overrun with

Beans and tomato plants,

One kid, the blond English one,

Actually owns a bike,

He gets to ride after we all

Take a turn,

One girl on each block owns

A pair of rollerskates,

She never knew what it was like

To skate on both of them,

I had the only wading pool,

Six of us squished in

And barely got our feet wet,

Shake a few apples

Down from someone's tree

Then run like the dickens,

Please no more sour green apples,

Sick to our stomachs

With pirated treasure,

No one phoned ahead,

Everyone just showed up,

My house was Central Station,

My Mom fed half the population

On our street,

An old man stopped by everyday

For his espresso and Italian sandwich,

No idea who he was or where he came from,

He just came and went and then disappeared forever,

We didn't know names,

Everyone had a moniker,

The Polish lady

Across the lane, the crazy family,

The Mayor of Jungleville,

The Queen of Sheba,

We knew instantly who they were,

Kids ran amok the busy streets,

Stinkbombs in the Legion,

Hide and seek until midnight,

Dads swilling cold ones

Molson Export Ale,

In between drags of Export A,

Bike deliveries from the grocery store,

Horror movies in the church hall

Saturday matinees,

The one bad boy we all looked up to,

Offering a ride to school

In a stolen car,

5 cent bags of candy

From Beliveau's on the way

Back from school,

Ducking frozen snowballs,

Crossing traffic at the age of seven,

Only heard of one kid being hit

The whole time I was there,

The Catholics in Catholic schools,

Everyone else in Barclay's,

The Protestant stronghold

Even if you were Jewish,

No distinctions anywhere else,

We hung out with each other,

No religion, race or language mattered,

Except the one time we tormented

The French girl who ran from us,

And dropped her ice cream cones

Splat, all over the cracked sidewalk

She tripped on,

Her whole family showed up to protest

And I tried my best to live it down,

We got along after that,

I soon knew how it was to feel

Marginalized and pushed aside,

The famous fence went up

Along the length of L' Acadie,

The townies claimed it was to

Keep their youngsters safe,

It was the sign that showed up

The disparate lives we led,

On one side the big rich houses

And on the other the working class,

It didn't keep us out....if anything 

It was a lure, 

Then finally it happened,

The boys of summer saved us,

Crowds milled through Park Ex,

Off the 80 and onto St. Roch,

Past the piggery, scaling the overpass

To Jarry Park,

We were there in '69,

Learned all about America's 

Favourite pastime,

Heard accents from Louisiana

And Arkansas and other exotic places,

Sat in Jonesville and cheered them on,

Like old pros we were,

Then they blew away like dust,

And moved onto bigger and better,

Like those in the old neighbourhood,

Who scrimped and saved their pennies

To stop renting....buying homes after 

Years in factories or building roads,

And seeing how the other side of the fence lived,

Desiring a little corner of their own,

I left only to get married at 

The age of 24,

Park Ex followed me,

It is not a place really,

But a state of mind,

An experience that becomes you,

My parents stayed on,

My children getting a glimpse

Of what made me who I am,

I grew up in Park Extension,

Grew older somewhere else.

Copyright Silvia Fiorita-Smith

August 14, 2020

Published in Growing Up In Park Extension

Photo from 1969 by Mary Pappas Pagano