Blow to the Head

On the other side of our house, was a very similar home to our own except the porch was made with yellow brick instead of red. Both houses had wood siding and large, old-fashioned windows that whistled in the wind. The backs of our houses were different because of my father’s renovations.

Our yards were divided by a double loop ornamental fence that probably dated back to the age of the house. I’m pretty sure both houses were built in the 30’s, but maybe earlier.

Nonetheless, the house seemed to rotate families in and out of it, both from the top floor and the bottom. I’m guessing the house was a rental which would explain the revolving inhabitants. For about a year (maybe longer, I don’t remember), one of those families had a daughter my age. We played together as best we could, but she was not allowed to come over to our house when my mother wasn’t home during the day(my elderly father was my caregiver until he died and he was not deemed safe). As a result, she and I invented a number of games that could be played across the fence from catch, to a form of volleyball, and so forth. It worked out fine.

One day, we got into a different kind of throwing game that escalated into a battle of wills: who could aim and throw a rock over the fence and hit the other person. The game wasn’t created in anger but out of a typical argument of “yes, I can” and “no, you can’t.”

She could.

I watched the rock sail over the fence and I had plenty of time to move out of the way, but part of the game was holding still: a type of “chicken.” To dodge, whether struck or not, would be losing, yielding, giving in. That was not my way.

And so the rock, about the size of a fist, struck me solidly in the head at my hairline. We looked at each other in shock. We would be in lots of trouble. We ran, sobbing. She to the other side of the yard under a tree and me to the house.

When my father saw me, his nursing instincts did not manifest. Instead, he became angry and incensed that a neighbor child would hurt me. Blood poured out of the wound, down my face and onto my clothes. He grabbed me by the

From Astoria Oregon Rust

hand and we marched next door to show the girl’s mother the damage done. Since my father couldn’t speak English and I was screaming bloody murder, I can’t imagine what the poor woman thought or understood of what happened. There we stood at her front door, my father raving in Latvian, me hiccuping and crying while at the other end of the house, I could see through to the back, my little friend was splayed across their screen door screaming, “I didn’t mean to do it. I didn’t mean to do it.”

The memory folds there. I’m pretty sure there was no hospital visit nor a doctor visit. Perhaps the girl’s mother did first aid. I don’t know. I had no lasting scars, except for the blood and tears that neither of us could explain to the adults in our lives.

About Irmgarde Brown

Personal mission: inspire meaningful change, build faith in God and connect people with resources that make a difference in their lives.

Posted on July 31, 2011, in Memory, Writing Roots and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I was not quite three when we arrived in America and settled on E. 163 St. in the Bronx. But it wasn’t until about 2 years later that we moved to Bryant Avenue after my parents opened a (commission) bakery and lunch on the corner of Freeman St. By then my parents had learned enough English to conduct business, and I had already stopped speaking both German and Yiddish at my older sister’s insistence. I was old enough by then to want to have friends to play with, but of course I knew nobody in the neighborhood. After my parents had been open just a few days a customer came in who – it turned out – was somebody they knew vaguely in Berlin, Mr. Mansbach. The Mansbachs lived just up the street in the middle of the block on Bryant Avenue, and they had a young son who was six or so, a little more than a year older than me. So I became friendly with Jacob Mansbach, who also did not have an easy time making friends in the neighborhood, mostly because he still spoke German and home and wasn’t very comfortable in English. I used to go up their apartment and Jacob and I would play board games and chat about baseball and radio programs, and usually had a really good time. One time however we got into a dispute about some rule in a board game (was it Monopoly?) and neither of us would give because to do so would give the other an advantage. Our dispute dissolved into angry exchanges, then shouting exchanges, until finally I got my jacket and prepared to storm out. Jacob followed me to the door, maintaining his indignation, and as I exited I turned to say something conciliatory with my hand on the door jamb. But before anybody could say or do anything, Jacob had slammed the steel door on my fingers, crushing the nails and mangling the fingertips. I screamed and yowled and bled profusely. I might have passed out, because my memory of the event ends there. I can still see that door crashing on my hand, and I sometimes have a kinsesthetic memory of the pain. I don’t know what may have transpired between our parents, but I know that I never again spoke to Jacob Mansbach, ever.

  2. That hurts to think about. I remember slamming the car door on Lily’s fingers, but thank goodness, the rubber trim helps. Nothing broken. Now, of course, I will have to sneak a peek at those poor digits.

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