Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella
So, it’s Christmas in my ‘hood, the place I thought I’d squat for a few years until I moved away to cheerier, safer byways. I planned on the change – leaving all the Kelley Square, Green Island and Interstate 290 noise, tail pipe fumes and dirt behind me. Shake all this neighborhood’s cussin’, anger, sadness, scrawny kids, wildness, displacement, unemployment, dysfunction, midnight screams from my shoes! And my coats and jackets – and face! I clean my ears and the “wax” comes out dark grey! (What’s happening to my lungs?? To my neighbors’ lungs?? All of us here??)
Rent a little nook where Jett can roam…
… to his coyote heart’s content – (true! he’s from Appalachia, land of the coy-dog) – and not be dressed in cheap tinsel on my bed, for my amusement! A foil and comfort for my tired old heart…
A kind of cliche, if the feelings aren’t real. But magic, if they are!!
All the homeless people on the streets with their belongings few and far between, fitting perfectly onto the traffic islands where all the cars whiz by and they walk up and down, subtly, even delicately, begging for money. “What beautiful dogs!” one toothless street woman coos to me as I sit in my car in traffic, with Jett and Lilac. She is kissing up. I understand. Screw the City Manager’s admonitions! I look into my cubby by the brake for spare change… At the bottom of the sign post, on the traffic island, leans her life: in one paper holiday bag, two sandwiches, one pair of new fuzzy purple gloves; in the other paper holiday bag, one brown knit scarf popping out … Christmas gifts from motorists? It’s all so neat, compact – perfectly organized for her life. Amazing Grace! How sweet Thou art!
All my hood’s pain for me to see every day and to cry over – just a few quick tears I wipe away in seconds flat. Because I call myself jaded.
Worcester, more segregated than ever.
More poor versus trendy than ever.
So unlike my Green Island childhood when these now forsaken neighborhoods, Piedmont, South Worcester, Lower Vernon Hill, Green Island had the factories, the jobs and the shops and stores that catered to the people who lived in and owned the three deckers here. And all of Worcester was welcome in my neighborhood – Charles Restaurant, the Deb Shop, Kiddie Kastle, Widoffs Bakery! No such thing as gentrification back then cuz these neighborhoods worked back then, we’re self-sustaining!
TODAY, here, we need: JOBS THAT PAY A LIVING WAGE, FREE COMMUNITY AND STATE COLLEGE FOR RETRAINING AND GOOD JOBS, A REAL FOOD HUB WHERE LOCAL FARMERS SELL THEIR BRUISED FRUIT CHEAP TO US BRUISED PEOPLE! EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT!
NO MORE RACISM IN CITY SCHOOLS, CITY HALL, CITY LIFE!
We will never heal here unless this ALL happens. Everything else is Band-Aids. Rich folks’ feel-good charity…
So this Christmas I get it: I am here to stay. I have no choice. But my fate is sealed by my heart, as much as it is by my purse strings!
Because this banged-up place makes me happy! The crush of it! The fury, the joy, the whacks, the deep kisses. It is all here! What I have loved all along! The kids in their jackets in the cold, on their rickety bikes, doing wheelies outside the ancient dry cleaners. The loud hip hop booming from cars. The sweet 15 parties with the beautiful Hispanic girls in their pink taffeta dresses! The African guys visiting each other to go partying and calling to each other under their three decker windows… making clucking sounds in between their words, just like in Africa! I try to do the same but can’t! And the skinny Vietnamese kids running around the house their parents just BOUGHT!
The sweet sour symphony of my neighborhood! The whole of it!
Have you ever listened to this album? It’s terrific!