My name is Larry. Officially I’m named Lawrence, after my mother’s father, who died in late August of 1959, slightly over two weeks before I was born. Although I never got a chance to get to know my grandfather, I grew up constantly in touch with my Uncle Larry and my cousin Larry, on my father’s side. Among my father’s relatives there have even been nine Joseph’s, and a bit too much repetition of other names too. Throughout the years, in order to differentiate from among us Larry’s, I was too often referred to as Little Larry, and even Baby Larry. My niece and nephews, knowing that my full name is Lawrence, have often asked if I have ever gotten any mileage out of that variation of my name. I remind them that under official circumstances it frequently comes up, in school, work, and anywhere else that may require me to be a bit formal. Sister Miriam Therese, of the Sisters of Charity, was my fifth grade teacher at St. Gabriel’s in East Elmhurst. It was in her class that I was first reminded constantly that my name was Lawrence. She was quite strict about each student’s always being addressed and referred to by his first name. Around the time of my twelfth birthday we moved from Jackson Heights to Lindenhurst. When kids in my new schools, Copiague Junior High School, and then Our Lady of Perpetual Help, asked me what my name was, I took a chance on introducing myself as Lawrence. The Copiague kids stuck with it for around the next three years. Somehow after that it faded away entirely. In my Catholic school, though, things were a bit different. The first kid I met there was Jerry Antonacci. He asked me my name. I introduced myself as Lawrence. He then asked if he may call me Larry. I said yes and that was the end of it. Unlike certain other names, such as Anthony, David, Michael, and Peter, the name Lawrence simply doesn’t strike people as that interesting as far as always calling somebody by his full name. I see no point in ever bothering to change it. There have been times over the course of my lifetimes when it has struck me as somewhat annoying. In general, though, it’s quite nice.
On September 11, 1971, I moved from Jackson Heights, Queens, to Lindenhurst, in Suffolk County. It was five days before my twelfth birthday and I had a difficult time adjusting to my new circumstances. Always having gone to Catholic school, at St. Gabriel’s, I was forced, for two weeks, to attend Copiague Junior High School, the local public school,until I got into Our Lady of Perpetual Help. I ended up spending many decades in Lindenhurst but my early days there were quite a quirky trip.
On September 11, 2001, five days before my forty second birthday, the Moslem terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in Manhattan, and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.,also hijacking United Airlines Flight 93. People on the left still don’t quite seem to understand that Islam is ruled by Satan. I was at 9:00 a.m. Mass that day at Our Lady of Perpetual Help when Father Edward M. Seagriff told us about the attacks.
To this very day I can still remember my first day, on the verge of my twelfth birthday, in the seventh grade. My parents, Mary Anne and I had just moved to Lindenhurst from Jackson Heights. After six years of St. Gabriel’s suddenly I was in Copiague Junior High School, on Great Neck Road, where I was to spend the first two weeks of that year. I know it’s quite impossible to believe but I was such a square then. If I were ever to wake up tomorrow morning as an adult stuck in a twelve year old body, I should assume that all my discomfort would come back for different reasons. That’s not quite entirely true though. I should still feel thoroughly out of place. At first it might be a somewhat nice interesting experience, to be able to visit a bygone era of my life. With my perpetually obnoxious sense of the absurd I’d really want to let all the fun parts linger for as long as possible. At least then when I really was twelve I could blend in a little. Now, though, I have already been through all the experiences that an adult could be expected to have, and that would be well over a kid’s head. I’d be quite terrified of looking like some kind of a complete lunatic. The only way I could ever be expected to get through a day in that kind of environment would be if I were to pretend to be abnormally shy. I don’t know what’s going on in the lives of kids that age these days so I couldn’t possibly be expected to carry on even the simplest of conversations. When I was twelve kids were listening to Carole King, and Sly and the Family Stone. I could just imagine the stupefied smirks as soon as I started rambling on about “It’s Too Late” and “Everyday People”. Today no one’s even heard of them. I’d have all sorts of problems with things ranging from clothing to slang terms. I’m way out of practice with skateboards, bicycles and yo-yos. Being a kid, like anything else, is a Garden-of-Edenish experience in the sense that once it’s gone it can never come back. All of life is like that. My teachers, as well as other kids and their families, would catch on immediately. There are so many things separating this September from September of 1971.
When I was still only a youngster, still obligated to go to school, I’d always so thoroughly enjoyed it. Although, of course, it meant having to put a stop to all the uninterrupted enjoyment of summer, going back to school in September was always quite an interesting experience. The only time I truly let it bother me a little was at the beginning of the seventh grade, when, having moved from Jackson Heights to Lindenhurst, I was forced to spend two weeks in Copiague Junior High School, after which I went to O.L.P.H. in Lindenhurst for the rest of my time in grammar school. That was only because they were both new to me. Now that I’m an adult man, my feelings toward the end of the summer each year ultimately amount to mere passive resignation. Imo’ve always been quite smitten with symbolism and autumn and winter always abound with it. The last few months of each year always bring with them cold weather and dark gloomy skies. For a while autumn is quite nice. I’ve always quite enjoyed Labor Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was especially nice when I was in the habit of visiting my cousins in North Tonawanda. Eventually, though, the last few months of the year turn into a seemingly endless succession of mandatory concessions to all sorts of inevitable trouble. My mother died last September and my father died last November so from now on those times will also have quite a particularly sad twist to them.
I don’t know whether there’s any one thing I should desperately like to do which I have never done before. It would be really nice, though, if I could either learn to speak another foreign language or learn to speak Italian and Spanish better than I already can. I took three years of Spanish at St. John the Baptist high school and two years of Italian at Farmingdale college. That’s not counting the two weeks of German I took in junior high school, at the beginning of the seventh grade. It would be quite an exceptionally interesting experience for me to be able to be as fluent as possible in Italian and Spanish, or even to start another language entirely. As far as I know there most probably isn’t any insurmountable obstacle that’s preventing me from studying at least one language intensely, except for the fact that I haven’t made a definitive decision to do so. Because of the internet I now have lots of connections in several foreign countries. I’m constantly being confronted with phrases, sentences and even entirely passages in books and periodicals, that are in foreign languages. I have quite an interesting time looking up the translation of each passage in order to see what it means but it would be especially good for me if I could understand things like that really well without having to bother to cheat. In the city I live in, Long Beach, New York, there is an intense Hispanic population. Sometimes I have to talk to someone who spontaneously rambles on in Spanish and it gets me crazy. I still have no idea why so many Hispanics never bother to learn English in an English-speaking country. If there’s anything that would make things easier for me these days, it’s to become proficient in a few languages. At least I can be reasonably certain that I’d be able to handle it.
There were several episodes of the television show “The Twilight Zone” that dealt with a character’s traveling to a bygone era, whether before he was born-the most famous was the one about Willoughby-or to his much younger days. Those episodes always depicted drooling over the past as a nightmarishly dysfunctional thing, characteristic of a dissatisfied overwhelmed adult who couldn’t cope with his real life. If I could go back to an earlier part of my life, I should like to revisit any part of my school days. Although I most certainly recognize quite well that the time I spent in school wasn’t all one long halcyon era, looking back upon it has always been quite an enjoyable experience for me. By conventional standards I was never the least bit popular in school. In a way I was the kind of kid who could be classified as a square. Then, as now, I neither liked, nor was good at sports. My sense of humor was, and still is, entirely offbeat. When I was at St. Gabriel’s, in East Elmhurst, Queens, I was an altar boy and a member of the glee club and bowling league. The Sisters of Charity, De La Salle Christian Brothers, and lay teachers on the faculty were quite exceptional and the kids I knew were really good too. Then came two weeks at Copiague Junior High School, immediately followed by two years at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Lindenhurst. I’ve always remembered that part of my life as my especially uncomfortable transitional time, though I enjoyed it quite a bit. In high school, at St. John the Baptist, in West Islip, I had such a good time bluffing my way past the Dominican and Franciscan Sisters and laity on the faculty, and the kids I knew were really good too. I was involved with the chess club and student council. The time I spent at S.U.N.Y. Farmingdale was also quite exceptional. The professors and students were very good people and the campus was one of the nicest looking places I’ve ever seen. I lived in Lindenhurst all throughout my adolescence, as well as for most of my adulthood. From the point of view of negative constructive criticism, I should like to go back as a somewhat less shy, more confident kind of character. The neighborhoods I grew up in were quite fine too. Jackson Heights was populated by quite a cast of colorful characters, and approximately two thirds of the people in my neighborhood were Italians who spoke only Italian, and Hispanics who spoke only Spanish. Everybody was forced to get to know everyone there. Lindenhurst has always been noted for its emphasis on peace and quiet. My neighborhood there, known as the American Venice, was on a very small island that was perfect for someone like me who enjoys a relaxed environment. In each neighborhood the business district was very close and there were very many activities available. Everybody knows about the grandfather paradox. It’s a condition on time travel. Nobody can undo the very significant events of his past, or of the past in general. If I could go back to my past, I’d tell young Larry to loosen up a bit about all the hard parts, and that ultimately everything works out. I’m now back in touch, on Facebook, with many people from my youthful days. I’ve seen a lot of them in person over the course of my adult years too. I can’t literally go back to the days of my youth but there’s no harm in sneaking a peek or two at my younger persona every once in a while.
I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I’ve always considered September 11, 1971 quite a major watershed moment in my lifetime. I was on the verge of turning twelve years old and had virtually always, for as long as I could remember, lived in Jackson Heights in Queens until then. On that date my parents, Mary Anne and I moved to Lindenhurst, two counties away in Suffolk County, in the middle of Long Island, on the south shore. To this very day I can still remember having made up my mind, in quite a determined manner, to make it quite clear that I may have been in Lindenhurst but I would always consider myself from Jackson Heights. Some people, upon being bombarded with such a seemingly infinite supply of cold turkey irrevocable changes, seem to thrive on such an adventure. I found it all entirely too nerve racking. Upon my having said good-bye to St. Gabriel’s in East Elmhurst, I went to Copiague Junior High School for two weeks. From then on I went to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Elementary School, in Lindenhurst, until the end of the eighth grade. Perhaps I would always have been an excessively shy neurotic with all sorts of lopsided ways anyway, even if I would never have moved at the beginning of my adolescence. That much change, in that short a time, didn’t help though. Eventually by the time I started high school, I no longer minded all the new circumstances. The best thing about someone’s being a high school freshman is that he’s only one among many other freshmen. During my first two years in Lindenhurst, though, I was practically the only new kid there. There was a girl named Cindy in my class at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, who started the same day I did, but everyone else was already an established member of the old guard. The other most memorable moments in my life were when my parents both died, at eighty years old, within forty five days of each other, last autumn. In November 2012 my mother started getting very violently ill with cancer. She was forced to spend the next ten months constantly going back and forth to Medical Oncology Associates in Kingston, the Geisinger Hospital and General Hospital in Wilkes Barre, and John Heinz Institute of Rehab in Kingston. She died on September 23. My father died around a month and a half later, at the Veteran’s Hospital, on November 7, of a heart attack. Everyone knows this brings about quite a significant change in an individual’s life. I was forced into making quite a lot of significant decisions and changes that would have been otherwise entirely unnecessary.
Because of their having lived until I was fifty four years old, their having always been around had most certainly been quite a significant part of my identity. Their good and bad qualities, character strengths and defects are now all in the past tense. One of the properties this had in common with the move to Lindenhurst from Jackson Heights was its irrevocable, cold turkey nature. Surprisingly, although I’ve never dealt very well with stress, I got through all the hospital trips and both funerals fairly well. Whatever I was supposed to do, I must have done in an acceptable manner. What still boggles my mind is that things go on and neither of them is available anymore. All the things that transpired between November 2012 and November 2013 are now permanently embedded into my memory. Like a change of address this milestone marks the beginning of a new era of my life and even a new identity for me.
For my first twelve years of school I had virtually always gone to exceptionally good Catholic schools in Queens and Long Island. In grammar school, with the exception of two weeks in Copiague Junior High School at the beginning of the seventh grade, I went to St. Gabriel’s in East Elmhurst for six years and spent most of my last two years at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Lindenhurst. After that I went to St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip. I’ve always really enjoyed keeping in touch with people from those days. As Hope, one of the ladies from my class at St. John’s, once said on Facebook, just because we were classmates so long ago, doesn’t mean that we should be forbidden to try to be friends again now. Because of my having spent all my adolescence and most of my adult life in Lindenhurst it’s always been so much easier for me to get back to St. John’s reunions than St. Gabriel’s. During the very early days of the twenty first century I got back in touch with a few friends from Jackson Heights and I’ve been to a couple of St. Gabriel’s reunions with most of them. My parents and I got to see a lot of my old friends and their parents and families. The Sisters of Charity, de la Salle Christian Brothers and lay teachers who were on the faculty and administration were there too. I always have a really nice time at St. John’s reunions too with all the classmates, and Dominican and Franciscan Sisters and lay teachers from the faculty and administration. The hard part for me has always been having to say good-bye when it’s all over. Although I understand that the food, music and other circumstances at these events are never objectively any better than they are at other parties or occasions, being back with all the people from my early days, in the same place in which we first got together, is inevitably quite a thrill. Over the course of the past quite a few years I’ve been in touch with very many of these people on Facebook and e mail anyway but that’s never struck me as anywhere near as interesting as seeing them in person. It’s even better when we can get back together on the grounds of the school, though St. Gabriel’s was recently turned into a public school. It’s so interesting for me to be able to see how these people and places have turned out over the course of the time that’s passed since I was a kid. I’ve always been quite smitten by the grass-is-always-greener-on-the-other-side syndrome. At least I understand that though. It wouldn’t be the same if I could see them in person on a regular basis again. Then it would become a routine chore and would lose all its charm. Each of those specific times, precisely because they’re so infrequent and so temporary, is so very hard to let go of when it has to end. Because I’ve always had both an overwhelmingly good imagination and an intense interest in my past I tend to get really engrossed in times like this. The bookworm in me sees it somewhat as if I’m revisiting a previous chapter in my life story. Although no one can rewrite anything like that it’s still quite nice to see how all the characters, and the settings, have turned out. Each of us, though, has to make sure he leaves before midnight in order to avoid turning into a pumpkin.
I’m fifty four years old now but I can still remember my twelfth birthday , September 16, 1971, as if it were only yesterday. In those days, Richard Milhous Nixon was still in his first term as president. Carole King’s “Tapestry” album, John Lennon’s “Imagine” and Paul McCartney’s “Ram” were all on the radio. Up until five days before that, my parents, my younger sister, and I had always lived in Jackson Heights, in Queens, New York. This was during our first week as residents of Lindenhurst, in Suffolk County, New York. I had always gone to St. Gabriel’s Elementary School in East Elmhurst up until then. All the time I was in Queens I could count on good friends and familiar surroundings. Even back then I disliked change. For my first two weeks in Lindenhurst I went to Copiague Junior High School. My party was very small. The only friends-potential friends, so far-in attendance, were the three kids who lived next door, Tommy, Bobby and Karen. Their mother was also there. As a kid I had always been so very shy. I was having quite a difficult time getting used to the new environment and new people. Considering that I felt exceptionally uncomfortable with all the new surroundings it was quite a nice simple time. Nothing eventful happened that day but I learned to enjoy the new world that would be mine for the next four and one half decades. http://dailypost.wordpress.com/