116 this memoir, I looked up the name Cobina and discovered that three infants born in the United States in 1941 were given that name. Our Cobina was one of them. I remember one other attempt to win my mother’s affections, and Roland was involved again. He had an old child’s wagon that we used to collect rags and newspapers that could be sold to the junkman. One spring day pulling the wagon along Andover Street, we passed a stone house with a garden full of the most beautiful tulips in the world. Our mothers will love them we thought, and before long we had a mountain of tulips in the wagon. After all we reasoned only God owns the flowers and the fields. I still remember some were black, others were yellow, a few were multi-colored, and others were white. We were in heaven as we hurried down the hill to give our bounty to our mothers. Roland’s mother was not pleased but understanding. She told Roland to go to confession on Saturday. My mother was furious and told me to bring my share back to the owner. When an elderly man opened the door he looked at me and smiled before he said, “you can’t put them back so you might as well keep them for your mother.” There are still tulips before that house, but I imagine the kind man is long gone. I don’t want to portray my childhood as Dickensian. It wasn’t. I have many fond memories of grammar school. The good Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart could be quite competitive at times. My teacher, Sister Veronica, who seemed to be very young, was not going to be shown up by Sister Raymond who seemed to be very old. She decided we would play MacNamara’s Band, using combs wrapped in wax paper at the parish’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration, and after we finished, our classmate Marilyn Teague would perform. Let the other classes try to top that. The whole parish would be there. Every morning for two weeks instead of our catechism lesson we listened to Bing Crosby singing MacNamara’s Band on the portable record player someone gave the nuns for Christmas, and then for another two weeks we practiced with our wax paper covered combs. I was surprised to discover that I could perform in a group. Our class, sister Veronica promised, would be a credit to “Old Ireland” as Bing Crosby sings of MacNamara’s band. I wonder now what Albie Dion and Pauline Forte thought of being a credit to “Old Ireland.”
CIRQUE The boys wore white shirts, green ties and green trousers. Black shoes if we had them. On each head, a green felt derby that was to be tipped to the audience when we finished. The girls were dressed in white with a green Papier-mâché tiara on their heads and green shoes on their feet. Did the nuns have a supply of green shoes and derbies for such occasions? That we actually managed to create what could pass for music on our combs left the audience, including my parents, speechless. A blushing Sister Veronica announced that Marilyn Teague would now perform an Irish step dance. Even today, I wonder why Marilyn attended our school. Her family was well to do. Most girls from those families, including my cousins, went to Notre Dame Academy in an adjoining town. Most step dancers are muscular and slender. Marilyn was neither. Her dance went well enough when she was taking small steps; however, when she leapt into the air for the first time, the old floor shrieked like a banshee when she landed. On her second leap, its shriek was even louder. Marilyn fled into the arms of her mother who was standing below the stage for a better view. When we left the stage, each and every one of us was handed a cup of ice cream and a small wooden spoon to eat it with. Marilyn was nowhere in sight. Another day I looked forward to was our annual trip when my father was on vacation to Captain Bob’s, a restaurant in the shape of a ship on a winding road not far from Lynn where he worked. My father had worked with Bob before he opened his restaurant, and they were still friends. I looked forward to fishing for trout in Bob’s artificial pond. I remember that it cost fifty cents to fish, but my father didn’t care. He was on vacation. I never caught a trout. Bob would seat us at a table with a great view of the pond before handing my father his hat and inviting him up to the wheelhouse. I could see my father holding the ship’s large wooden wheel, his eyes on something at a great distance. I wonder now if he was sailing into the future or into the past. On our way home from Uncle Bob’s on what I remember as our last visit, our new used car seemed to drift out of our lane more than usual. It was probably only alignment. My mother was silent while I watched Chief Pontiac on the car’s hood parting the air like the figurehead of a ship taking us safely home. They’d argued about moving again, but I liked the sound of Pleasant Street.
A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim