Category Archives: Green Island Grrrl

July 4th Musings …

By Rosalie Tirella

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The old Table Talk factory at Kelley Square is razed. photos: R.T.

The Canal District is a trend that’s destroyed my Green Island and the nearby Oak Hill and Kelley Square neighborhoods. These inner-city, older, ethnic neighborhoods’ working poor folks, young, blue-collar kids, seniors and children have been thrown to the curb, thanks to gentrification. … Displaced. Evicted by new, greedy landlord/developers. Priced out

The Worcester City Council has not understood the suffering or done much to alleviate the suffering, mitigate the situation. Because they’re stupid – and because they’re middle class and cannot relate to our struggles.

In 10 years when the “cool kids” have abandoned the Canal District and moved on to the newest, trendiest trend in another Worcester neighborhood and more founding Canal District business owners grow older, move on/sell out, we’ll have a neighborhood bereft of family housing, racial diversity and socio-economic diversity. The damage will have been done. … Green Island and Kelley Square will evolve again. But how? In what direction?

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Millbury Street: How are we supporting Green Island children today?

These days I drive down Green and Harding streets and already see fewer people at the Canal District “hot spot” bars and shops. Why? Visitors realize these shops are purveyors of dry cupcakes, overpriced skirts and dresses … average stuff/food that’s way overpriced. People try it all out, spend way too much of their hard-earned money in the Canal District – then move on to other neighborhoods in Worcester or other cute, touristy towns down the road, like Putnam, Connecticut. Even Westboro has a cool, trendy downtown area!

BUT WHAT HAPPENS TO THE OLD NEW GREEN ISLAND AND ENVIRONS? THE NEIGHBORHOODS’ WORKING FAMILIES, BLUE-COLLAR WORKERS, WORKING POOR, SENIORS AND CHILDREN? How do WE reclaim our beloved old neighborhoods?

One important thing: We Green Islanders and friends need to re-establish our long-gone Green Island CDC and Oak Hill CDC – our community development corporations that were squeezed out by gentrifier Allen Fletcher and fellow snakes. We need NEW iterations of our old CDCs, CDCs with new, diverse leaders, not our nice, well meaning but naive old timers: Lorraine Laurie, Sue Moynagh, Billy Breault, his pointless niece, etc … We need to avoid this crew, jettison the old and gather new CDC members who won’t screw up this time! Won’t turn corrupt! Won’t be flattered and then bamboozled by smooth talkers Fletcher, Bobby Largesse and the late, often sharp-elbowed 3G’s Johnny G.

WE NEED NEIGHBORHOOD PEOPLE TO TAKE OUR NEIGHBORHOODS BACK!

But we need to be smart this time around – not so trusting, not so willing to say “yes” just because someone invites us to a fancy “planning meeting” and shoves plates of finger foods under our noses. We’re dealing with gentrifiers … snakes! Money people! Their gentrification of our neighborhood has wreaked havoc on our housing prices, streets, relationships …

We need to be strong enough, organized enough, to HAVE A VOICE in new neighborhood developments, new happenings, whatever comes down the pike … the continuing evolution of one of Worcester’s oldest and best loved neighborhoods: my Green Island and beyond.

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Table Talk … the old becomes trendy

☘️BUCKLEY!!! …A sign👏 for Izzy ❤️ and Charlie!❤️

By Rosalie Tirella

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The Heywood shoe factory building with its famous heart

The other day I was driving by the Heywood shoe building – now a mixed use development and a Canal District staple owned by the sweet and handsome Tortilla Sam’s “Eric” – when I noticed this sign (pictured) at the end of Eric’s property: a kind of BUCKLEY WAS HERE, as in this is the spot where an Irish immigrant named Cornelius Buckley owned and operated a general store. The historical marker tells you Buckley and his family lived on the first floor in the 1800s and lists some interesting architectural facts. More Canal District IRISH history! With a mere mention of the Lithuanians and a few other ethnic groups who passed through Green Island, now the gentrified Canal District. It’s all about the Irish and their da*n canal – which is no where to be found in the Canal District!

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BUCKLEY!!!!

When I first drove by the sign and saw the word BUCKLEY I laughed. I couldn’t help but think of Spencer Tracy spewing out the word in disgust in his FATHER OF THE BRIDE movies. Big hits in the 1950s – and still fun to watch. Buckley! Ahhh! Buckley! Buckley the gangly and hapless man-kid Spencer Tracy’s beautiful daughter – ELIZABETH TAYLOR!!!! – was going to marry. Elizabeth had fallen madly in love with this skinny nerd and would make Spencer Tracy the Father of the Bride, no longer her first love and hero. Spencer had a distinct distaste for the nincompoop BUCKLEY and was flummoxed: how could his gorgeous daughter fall for a BUCKLEY?!!! BUCKLEY!! There was always a look of quiet exasperation whenever Buckley did something ridiculous – which was pretty much everything because Spencer couldn’t wrap his arms around him… everything Buckley did pissed of the Father who hated losing his “little girl.” Forever. Kitten, I think he called her, would leave home to build a life with … Buckley. These days Buckley was kitten’s master! Buckley was in – and Pops was definitely out!

So today I say: BUCKLEY!! BUCKLEY!! As in who cares? Why should Buckley get a historical marker in the chi chi Canal District, and my old, dearly departed friends – the real Market Kings of the Canal District, Izzy and Charlie GOLUB – get nothing? Get no historical marker on the spot where their sweet little store stood?

You kiddos may ask, Rose, who were the Golub brothers?

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The Green Street Market – along with owners Charlie and Izzy GOLUB – were here! For a half century! Their little ethnic gem is gone, but Canal District history buffs should put up a sign – WITH A PHOTO OF THE GOLUB BROTHERS – to commemorate the HISTORIC space, now a parking lot.

Why just across the way from Buckley, on Green Street, sat the iconic Green Street Market owned by Izzy and Charlie. For a half century. The sons of Jewish immigrants. The sweetest guys. Joined at the hip – “close” doesn’t begin to describe their relationship. These brothers loved each other and you felt the love every time you walked into their market to buy an apple or a can of soda. You’d go into the Green Street Market pay for a grinder and then maybe Izzy would give you a little wicker basket or two for the plants in your apartment. He’d ask you how you were doing – and listened as you told him about your new job or kitten. …The neighborhood wino would walk into Green Street Market and Charlie would give him a sandwich for free. Of course, they had an incredible business …a meat counter – cold cuts cut fresh for your order. They had soups and fresh veggies and fruits. They had special Jewish foods and other ethnic delicacies. They sold the local newspapers, and they always wore big white aprons. I’ll never forget they’re big aprons because Charlie was a tall, bigger guy. So he had a really big apron. Because they were working hard and the blood from the fresh hamburger sometimes stained their hands, their white aprons were smeared with the stuff of their business. The GOLUB’s were the nicest guys…it wasn’t all about money, though they lived in beautiful houses on Worcester’s West Side. It was really about the Kelley Square neighborhood, their families, education, serving their country in World War II, reading, writing letters to their special ladies …wives who would grow to love these two wonderful men for more than a half century.

Charlie and Izzy would charm you, kid you… reminisce with you. Always in quiet tones. There was nothing crass and loud about these two men who lived deep in their Jewish faith.

The tiny spot where the market was, now owned by Allen Fletcher who turned it into a parking lot, should get its own historical marker. Because IZZY AND CHARLIE GOLUB are Canal District history, too. No, they didn’t build a canal. No, they weren’t Irish, but THEY WERE HERE TOO AND ADDED TO THE VIBRANCY OF A TERRIFIC, IF POOR, INNER-CITY NEIGHBORHOOD. Give the GOLUB Brothers and Green Street Market their historical marker!

Their market and sandwich shop was bought by Fletcher about 24 years ago, right after he bought the Ash Street School, directly behind Green Street Market. Allen rented the building to an African entrepreneur who just couldn’t make a go of the place. By then the Golub brothers had died – both were in their 90s – and the magic was gone.

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Missing the late GOLUB brothers! The two men were life-long best buddies! It was a joy to see them working together!

MOM AND BUTTERCUP ON MILLBURY STREET🌞

By Rosalie Tirella

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Innocence. photos: R.T.

I saw this little girl today, she was walking down Millbury Street with her mom, and I fell in love with them holding hands, making their way through the inner-city, daughter dressed in butter yellow tutu, mom dressed in a grey burka. They reminded me of my mom and me decades ago … holding hands as we walked “under the tunnel” after having mass at Our Lady of Czestochowa Church on Ward Street … we were walking home to our Lafayette Street tenement.

When I asked to take their photo – together, holding hands like when I first saw them – Mom declined to be photographed … was adamant about not being in the pics. She stepped back a couple of yards to make certain I didn’t even get a teeny bit of her in the frame of my photos. But she allowed me to take a bunch of pics of her little girl, me high spirited and smiling, her little girl tentative, yet definitely enjoying being the center of all the attention in the middle of busy Lafayette Street, the cars zooming by, big kids walking to Crompton Park.

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🌞

I had given mom a copy of CECELIA when I first stopped my car and ran out to introduce myself to the pair – and to ask for a photo or two. To be published in the next issue of CECELIA. They made such an interesting pair! The American Dream writ large! Child in bright yellow tutu, the buttercup of Green Island, posing for pictures, open to the world around her. A little American. First generation American. Mom, a Muslim woman: quiet, modest, covered head to toe in conservative garb – a grey burka. Over her shoulders a navy blue cape. She was a mystery to all. Half her face – mouth, chin and cheeks – ensconced in a swath of grey cloth. No words for me, just nods and a shake of her head NO when I tried to coax her into the pictures. She pointed to her little girl as if to say: she’s the one! she’s the future! The mother seemed to enjoy the attention her child was soaking up like a sponge. I imagined her smiling when the corners of her eyes – her only facial feature exposed to the world – crinkled as I explained my job to her: writer! editor! owner of a newspaper! Mom seemed impressed – and game! Yet the layers and layers of cloth to hide her body from the world – as well as her face – were a wall between us. A pretty smile, an elegant nose? We’ll never know. How long was her dark hair? No one could tell on Millbury Street. Big-breasted or flat-chested? Her loose-fitting burka swirled around her like a tent. She was a triangle – in motion – not a woman. Yet she was a woman. Which is the point. Her culture wants her modest … and still there she was – herself. I liked her. And her daughter was the innocent buttercup waving to mom who was standing behind me. She was smiling at her mother who, she knew without having to see her lips, was smiling right back.

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🌞

Winners and losers

By Rosalie Tirella

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Rose’s Bapy, right, and auntie, in their tenement, in The Block, during World War II.

It’s true: the “winners” (usually the rich white WASPs), write our history. When Blacks were making gains in the South, laws changed to keep them down – and rich white people everywhere who didn’t want social change started building these HUGE CONFEDERATE MONUMENTS – to Robert E. Lee and his cohorts – everywhere. Even though General Lee, surrendering at Appomattox, was for peace and healing for ALL Americans after the Civil War, the rich white folks built the big statues and wrote the history books that enshrined “the lost cause.” In misplaced nostalgia and lies. The white money people controlled the towns and the cities: the Confederate statues were erected – life-sized, marble, granite Confederate soldiers on their trusty steeds, swords drawn, Confederate uniforms without tatters or tears. These monstrosities were built right in front of state houses, city halls and town halls and schools. Schools and other public buildings were named after Civil War confederate “heroes” like Jefferson Davis and pompous dedications were held, with the local newspapers covering the events, the manufactured history, the omissions and falsehoods.

With Worcester’s Canal District coming into its own, we must admit it’s been molded and run and is OWNED by rich white men who have never given Green Islanders what we’ve begged for: a fully staffed bank branch, a pharmacy, a supermarket … And these men, we now see, have rewritten or omitted Green Island history. They’ve chosen to forget, to omit, during their recent ceremonies and monument dedications and mural painting, the Polish/Eastern European immigrant experience that defined Green Island/Kelley Square/Water+Green streets from the 1920s to at least the 1970s.

A whole half century defined by the Polish and Lithuanian churches and three decker and The Block tenants like my Polish mom and my Polish immigrant grandmother, Bapy, and grandfather Jaju. All the Jewish small businesses of Water and Green streets, the ethnically beautiful mom and pop stores of Millbury Street selling made-from- scratch pierogis, jars of pig knuckles and large links of freshly smoked kielbasa (Polish sausage). The dance halls of Millbury and Water streets and Green Street where all the kids of Green Island danced to Benny Goodman in the 1930s. Millbury Furniture. Whites five and ten with Mrs. White and her jet black, foot high bouffant hairdo. All missing from the Canal District scene. As if they – this part of Canal District history – never existed.

Maybe it was all too earthy. Too grubby. Too poor. Not the story Allen Fletcher and Ed Augustus never wanted to tell …

You want a Worcester public market? Un-curated? Natural and springing up organically from the people of the neighborhood? Take a walk down my old Millbury Street, the Millbury Street of 1940 – 1969, and be enthralled. Eat like a princess, buy yourself a pair of slippers at Lisbon’s, visit the tailor with his large cage filled with yellow and peach and white canaries sitting next to his sewing machine, so he’d have company as he sewed … THAT IS HISTORY. THAT scene, that experience, deserves its own tribute, its own monument.

The great thing about the old Millbury Street – now one long stretch of dirty, garbage-covered, homeless shelter – you saw the WONDERFUL and the real, when shop keepers yelled at their young help, Mrs. White pushed those new polyester curtains for your kitchen …on Green Street the neighborhood “wino” got that free submarine sandwich from Charlie or Izzy Golub at Green Street Market.

According to Allen Fletcher, Ed Augustus and the other monument erectors, Green Island’s history is all about the Irish canal leaders, the Pickett’s and the Tobias’s … Little parades have been held in their honor, plaques hammered in walls, a tiny water fall with a grassy yard built by the ball park…all honoring the history these rich white men want us to remember.

OPEN-DOOR POLICY!

By Rosalie Tirella

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Millbury’s Saint Brigid’s Church. photos: R.T.

Miracle of miracles! As I was driving through downtown Millbury this morning I spied a CHURCH WHOSE FRONT DOORS WERE … OPEN! St. Brigid’s Catholic Church on Main. The light beige brick church with the big crosses had its big dark wooden doors flung wide open, as if to say: Hey, everyone! Come on in! Cone on in and pray!!

The church (and its rectory) face a busy street with lots of cars and pedestrians zipping by, yet it welcomes all, invites all to step out of the hurly burly and calm down in, bask in the quiet, dimly lit, pew-lined church. To meditate. Focus on a friend or family member in prayer. Wish, hope, dream … This is true for today, Sunday; it was true for yesterday at Saint Brigid’s … even Friday its front doors were open and I wanted to walk in and take a peek. Any one could walk in to take a peek …to pray to God, Jesus, Mary … Saint Brigid (whoever that is – and as an old Catholic grrrl, I know my saints)!

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Heading to Sunday Mass

In Millbury this morning it was 1955 all over again – a time when churches of all ilks all over America opened their doors to one and all pretty much from dawn to dusk – so you could pop in to say a little prayer before work, visit at lunch-time, stop in after your work day, especially if it was trying and you prayed for inner strength – or terrific and you were grateful to God and wanted to thank him for the raise or promotion. It was a time when churches weren’t robbed with a-holes fleeing, running out the back door with gold-leaf candle sticks or chalices or Holy Communion platters … or even sound systems and microphones with stands. We Americans were unafraid of being gunned down by some sicko – murdered as we were about the sing a hymn. Together. We were not attached to our smart phone and too lazy to join a real community. We were all a bit more spiritual, less rapacious. Money wasn’t so important: families were happy with modest houses, modest cars, basic vacations once a year. There were more rosaries among our middle class than more boob jobs. I suspect there are now more Boob jobs. We have Botox treatments and so many other body-enhancing but soul-depleting “treatments.” Yet we all die.

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Saint Brigid’s rectory

My Polish immigrant grandmother, Bapy, loved going to our Lady of Czestochowa Church – our neighborhood church in Green Island. There was also St. Anthony’s at Kelley Square and St. John’s on Temple. You really had quite the Catholic menu – the strict Poles of St. Mary’s, the cool Father Frank, the street priest for the poor, at St. Anthony’s or …the Irish of St. John’s. She was a proud parishioner, as was my late mom, as was I – up until college of St. Mary’s. Bapy, though poor, filled her little parishioners envelope with quarters every Sunday. Ma dressed us girls like dolls and together we walked every Sunday morning to weekend Mass where she always sat us in the pew directly behind a beautiful, beautifully dressed young woman and her daughter. The daughter had Downs Syndrome but was also beautifully dressed and so close to her mom who so obviously loved her.

I left the Catholic church when Freud, Erickson and Jung filled my brain, pushing God out of it – or at least the way I had been trained to “see” and worship Him in our working class household.

Now I say: God is pure love.

But what does that mean?

Pure happiness? Pure joy? Is God when you’re with people you love? Animals you care for? Nature. Is it feeling close? Understood? Cared about?

I don’t know. I try to be a better person every day to every molecule of life that wafts by, but I really liked believing in God decades ago when I was young. I was more optimistic, less burdened. Belonging to a parish and knowing everybody in the pews was cool. And looking up behind us, in the balcony of our little Polish church, sat our little Polish organist, dwarfed by our huge church organ with many tall golden pipes. He played the church hymns so passionately. I struggled to keep up with him! Ma always sang off key, her face contorted in pain. Sing along with our little maestro who strode into St. Mary’s every mass with his winter over coat or light jacket dramatically draped over his small shoulders was pure hell! And yet didn’t Ma love it when he strode by her and bowed ever so slightly and said in Polish, Good evening Pani. And he’d smile at Ma and her three perfectly dressed little girls, with our ribbons all aflutter, our Communion pocket books white and sparkling, Ma’s work-hardened hands covered, softened in her pale pink gloves that were so demure… so soft to the touch, going up to her wrists.

Ma used to tell me how often Bapy went to church when she lived in the Block on Bigelow Street: every morning. Every morning. She put on her cute blue hat with the fake flowers tucked in the band and walked to church in her black no nonsense shoes. Winter, summer, fall, spring. Every day.

Ma went to church every week day with the nuns at St. Mary’s School – they walked down Richland Street, where their little brick school was, and crossed Ward Street and piously filed into St. Mary’s church. On Sundays she made the trek with Bapy.

During my Green Island girlhood, when Ma and us three kids would be running an errand and just for the heck of it Ma would say: Do you want to go to church, to light a candle? Our Lady of Czestochowa was a little gold painted church on Ward Street, 20 yards away from the yet widened I-290, but I loved visiting. It always looked so cute, surrounded by pink and red flowers, the stairs painted white …inside the smell of incense was intoxicating.

Yes! we kids would shout, and we’d walk down to our church – whose doors were always unlocked – and we’d kneel once we entered the main area, Ma gripping the back of the last pew for support as she got back up from kneeling and blessing herself after entering God’s house … Then we’d walk softly to the right of the marble altar …to a huge statue of the Virgin Mary – Ma’s fave saint!- and Ma would place a dollar bill in a box, take a long stick and touch its end to an already lit votive candle and it would flare up and Ma would take the flame band ever so carefully light a votive candle that was a bit closer to the statue, closer to Blessed Mother. Then we’d all kneel on the long pale red velvet kneeler, bless ourselves and quietly say a prayer. Each of us saying our own prayer to Jesus. Ma probably praying to make rent. Me probably praying for an A on my book report. My two sisters murmuring their Hail Mary’s, too little to ask for anything … just happy to be boppin’ along with Ma.

When church doors were open …
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Ma as a young lady. She loved going to church!

BUTTERCUPS

By Rosalie Tirella

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Buttercups at the dog park. Photos: R.T.

Yellow is my favorite color, so cheerful, fun and inviting. Wild flowers are my favorite flowers, better than the ostentatious beauties you find at the florist’s, trapped in plastic vases or ugly bricks of foam, dyed, cropped, cut … some even invented in scientists’ laboratories!

So these are my favorite days, my yellow wildflower days, with nature literally right outside my car door!! Spring time, not judging me, but sighing “Goodbye, Rosalie!” as the forsythia fade, leaving their branches dark and naked and the clumps of buttercups thin out and the dandelions’ yellow Afros turn grey then blow away …

Summer’s at all our fingertips now, the way the buttercups were caressing my old hands yesterday at the dog park. Or popping out between my toes as I sat on my blue and white checkered blanket watching Lilac play. …

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☀️☀️☀️

There was a faint dusting of buttercup pollen on Lilac’s nose from sticking her face in the buttercups. I know my girl: she’s a hunter. Lilac was not smelling wildflowers, she was hunting for mice and moles and earth worms and snakes. To eat them! We people can’t smell a buttercup very well, but I bet a dog knows the buttercup aroma wafting beneath his belly. A dog’s nose – Lilac’s nose – unlike the noses belonging to us humans – has millions and millions of olfactory cells, receptors that smell a little buttercup quite nicely I bet. It must be fun to be a dog in spring!

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Lilac.

I picked a buttercup yesterday to admire its beauty more closely. One of its small yellow petals fell on my thigh, wilting almost as soon as it landed on my skin. It was that delicate.

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☀️

Aren’t we all buttercup petals?

The “old dog” and “small dog” side of the dog park has been allowed to “grow out.” So the grass stays unmowed, and Lilac and I play fetch in a mini field of beautiful buttercups. Jett, who has always turned his snout up at silly dog games, prefers to sit amid the buttercups and the dandelions, watching what could be the last spring flutter by him. He is 15 years old, deaf, a bit confused in the fields, looking for me to wave COME, JETT! or a loping Lilac to run back to him to lead and herd him back home – to me.

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Jett amid the buttercups.

I remembered yesterday the buttercups of my Green Island girlhood: a few tall handfuls growing at the base of the stockade fence. Our landlord was having an affair with our downstairs neighbor. He had fixed up the old yard for her: put up a new tall fence, stuck a bird bath in the middle of our dirt yard and built a little open shed for his three deckers garbage cans, several that, in the summer heat, attracted little white maggots that I used to run to and examine as closely as I did the buttercups by our stockade fence.

But it was the buttercups that I picked and brought upstairs to my mother, sometimes running them under her pretty chin to make it a faded yellow. She was always very busy so I quickly put them into the old Sanka jar I had filled with tap water in our bathroom. Our third floor tenement was my little life science center: jars of earthworms I had dug up in the field across the way, buttercups and dandelions in washed now empty jars of Sanka instant coffee that I had filled with water. Gifts from my Polish immigrant grandmother who lived with us. Bapy. Bapy drank about a million cups of Sanka a day – Ma made her extra cups and kept them on the stove. Bapy would heat her cups of Sanka by placing the cups in a little saucepan of boiling water that was always on the rear burner of the gas stove. As kids we couldn’t walk through the kitchen without old Bapy yelling from her floppy old easy chair set at the head of our old green painted kitchen table by our mother so Bapy could be in the thick of family life, butting in at every turn: Rosie!! SANKA!…Mary!!! SANKA!!! Trina!! SANKA!!! CECELIA! SANKA!! Then my sisters and I dutifully, sometimes grudgingly, walked over to Bapy’s coffee dribbled, boiled egg stained place mat and grab her old coffee stained coffee cup and place it in the pan of now cool water and turn the gas flame on beneath the whole grungy set up to make the water boil to heat up Bapy’s cup of coffee. So we had a ton of empty Sanka jars around our house.

Sometimes I’d give my Bapy a little SANKA jar full of the yellow buttercups I had picked in our backyard. She’d take it, hold it up to her crinkly old face, then proudly set it before her cup of Sanka and plate of boiled egg and say: Jenkua, Rosa! with gusto!! Thank you, my Rosalie! Bapy, 78 and worn out from life, was riddled with arthritis and claw-like feet. She had grown up on a farm in Poland – ran it as the oldest daughter of a dad who had remarried a wicked lady who made the young baby run the farm and raise her younger siblings. My Bapy did it all, so she knew everything about raising children, goats and cows and crops of vegetables … and she loved flowers! Bapy had a long hard life that was full of worry and strife in Green Island. At the end she had no teeth and hardly ever smiled. She stumped around the house, often cursing to herself in Polish at our ner do well father, Daddy!! RED DEVIL!! DOG’S BLOOD! she’d yell in Polish whenever she saw our handsome, womanizer Daddy waltz through the front door (I’m sure she knew my father’s true colors from the instant she met him). But, for us kids, all kids, she always had a nickel or quarter in her threadbare little change purse she sat on, hidden under the seat cushion on her easy chair. And was a big – the best!!! – hugger. So she grabbed me and pulled me to her flat old breasts and hugged me hard, for a few seconds, to thank me for the buttercups. That was my beloved Bapy: a pain in the neck but, ultimately, the Polish Queen of Green Island Buttercups!
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Lafayette Street: Bapy sitting in her easy chair at the head of our kitchen table. Her three granddaughters are celebrating Rose’s birthday.

DRONE TIME!

By Rosalie Tirella

Snack time…

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Jett and Lilac. photos: R.T.

… thinking about drones. So it’s drone time around here, too! I’m thinking it’s not enough that our faces, bodies and voices are captured 24/7 on miscellaneous cell phones – hand-held and sophisticated … or mounted store cameras and apartment complex cameras, city hall cameras, motel cameras, hotel cameras and barroom cameras or gas station cameras, traffic light cameras, school building cameras, corridor cameras, car dashboard cameras, public library cameras, college campus cameras, elevator cameras, office building cameras, your roommate’s cameras, your bank’s cameras, your drugstore’s cameras, your supermarket’s cameras, your dog park’s cameras, your next door neighbors’ cameras, your McDonalds and DD’s cameras…let’s bring on the flying kind, too! The real smart ones! The kind that can seek you out to take your picture! Not smart enough to bomb you to hell, like the ones being used by the Ukranian military – American-made and making a difference in the war – but just smart enough, if you close one eye, to take away your last strands of dignity.

Our proposed Worcester drones – which our city manager looks to approve – are supposed to help us. Flying over tree tops or Jordan Levy’s apartment complex, they’re supposed to make our city a better “community”: tracking down runaway boys or abducted girls or the old guy with Alzheimer’s who’s walked away from the nursing home grounds … or a bank robber, gun-wielding and desperate.

But helping the homeless? To scan a dog park or a homeless encampment and to take a photo. Of what? Of a dog shit*ing? Or a homeless person shi*ting? Of a dog chasing a ball? Or a homeless guy scratching his balls? In the woods where he thinks he’s got privacy, like the dog in the dog park. But he doesn’t.

This could get sticky.

What about the homeless lady taking a discrete pee on the outskirts of the homeless camp – or just on the edge of the woods where she sleeps with her boyfriend, wrapped in big comforters, covered in nylon sleeping bags. I once saw a homeless couple greet the day after spending the night on the Worcester Common – yards away from the City Manager’s Office in Worcester City Hall. Would a drone have alerted City Manager Ed Augustus to the two people stretching out from under their blankets, raising their thin white arms in the thin sunlight of dawn, with 40 cents between them? Would the drone have scooted them away from City Hall to a less conspicuous sleeping spot? Or would the drone have given them $5 bucks for coffees?

Would the few rotten apples in the police department or City Hall watch a homeless couple having sex in the woods? Hugging in the woods? Fighting in the woods? When to step in? How do you monitor a relationship between two people on the edge? What right have you to butt in?

I don’t mean to drone on and on, but I’ve seen how City Manager Ed Augustus has handled the homeless of Worcester, without the potential of drone-cruelty: he’s handled our most bereft carelessly, thoughtlessly, cruelly. With garish lights turned on bright in the Green Street tunnel, with manufactured work sites magically popping up in the exact same spots where the homeless are sleeping along Millbury or Green streets. With proposed city ordinances ordering the homeless to stop begging for money on street corners or highway off ramps. Or else it’s jail for you!!! Or simply by placidly sitting on the city’s federal COVID funds and refusing to use the money to build tiny home villages or communal camps for the homeless. To alleviate suffering. The federal COVID money was earmarked for this country’s neediest! It is supposed to be used to help underserved communities in all American cities and towns.

Worcester cops and DPW guys do Ed’s dirty work for him. The cops come to identify the problem, then the City of Worcester QUALITY OF LIFE trucks drive down to collect the homeless folks’ gear, like old sleeping bags and backpacks stuffed with a change of clothing, and the city guys throw them into the back of the old truck like garbage. They call it the city’s Quality of Life team, but they’re not thinking about the homeless person’s quality of life if they’ve just stolen everything that person needs to live their his or her life, fragile and frail and wispy as it is. City Manager Ed Augustus will do anything to push the city’s street homeless out of our city woods, our sidewalks, our parks …

Why give Ed a drone?

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Worcester’s Bell Hill. Make it a real tiny home – with heat!

MOMS❤️

By Rosalie Tirella

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Rose and her mom at Crompton Park, many years ago!

Mother’s Day…almost 10 years without a mom – my mom! Truth? The void hurts every day – not just on Mother’s Day. When I was a little girl I felt I had three moms! I felt so lucky! Three wonderful Polish women loved me – good, honest, resilient women nurtured me, encouraged me to read and write, be good and resilient, too. My aunt Mary, at the far left in the photo of the three St. Mary’s girls, was married to a school principal and made sure I got all the older books discontinued from my uncle’s school library: BORN FREE, Christmas song books with beautiful illustrations, books with illustrations of lambs on their cover – wreaths of flowers draped over their chubby necks. I thought the book title read: COME FLOWER ME! when it really read COME FOLLOW ME! (These days I like my first (mis)reading best.)

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Rose’s Aunt Mary, far left.

My other aunt, pictured here seated on the roof of The Block during a coming home party for my uncle, her brother, during WW II, was the trail blazer. She got her driver’s license and bought herself a car. She left home and became head housekeeper for the Bishop of Springfield. My mom said Aunt Lilly was a speed demon on the highway – and liked to drive with her shoes off, her right naked foot on the gas pedal, her left naked foot commandeering the brake pedal.

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Rose’s Aunt Lilly.

My mother looked to her older sisters for help in raising me and my two kid sisters since she didn’t have much of a husband, no car and very few resources. My two aunties stepped up! Aunt Mary’s husband, my Uncle Mark, took us – my mom, me and my sisters – to all our pediatrician appointments on Lincoln Street. He was always so wonderful to my mom and full of good cheer for us kids. He told corny jokes and laughed and kidded with my mother in Polish and in English. He too was first generation …both his parents came to America from the “Old Country.”

My mother was the baby sister of the family – the meek one who was underweight as a little girl and hospitalized. Ma used to say: “I can still see Bapy peeking out from behind the hospital curtain, looking at me, so worried about me.” Bapy had also been a good mother.

Often times Ma was clueless about getting us through stomach aches or soothing us to sleep. That’s when Bapy – my fourth mother! – came to the rescue with her block of white lard. Schmarluz we used to call it. Bapy, Ma’s Polish immigrant mother and my grandmother, lived with us and had a million opinions (pontificating in Polish for everyone in Green Island to hear) and a million and one solutions to every problem known to mankind. Her mom died in Poland when Bapy was only five. Her father, whom she loved dearly, remarried. But Bapy’s stepmother was cruel: beating Bapy and making her do all the work on their farm in Poland – including raising her younger siblings.

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Aunt Lilly, left, and Bapy

Bapy had a short fuse – but a big heart. Her love for all animals – my white hamster Joy, Mr. Ed the horse on TV, our cat Jimmy, later our dog Belle – was all encompassing. All our pets loved Bapy best, the dogs sleeping at her fat misshapen feet and the cat drowsing on the left arm of her beat-up old arm chair – parked at the head of the kitchen table where Bapy could see all the action of our poor little household.

Bapy would tear a piece of lard from that big block of lard and smear it all over my naked body – focusing on my stomach. What a relaxing, fragrant rubdown. My stomach ache went away and I smelled like a basted turkey.

Motherhood – the poor kind, sometimes the best kind …

Forsythia

Text and photos by Rosalie Tirella

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with the gorgeous forsythia. I have been snapping pictures of them wherever I go, getting out of my car to look at the butter-yellow flowerets up close.

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💕💕

Their yellow is so cheerful and full of zest…makes me smile. The flowers, running up and down strong slender branches are so touchable! A child could have her mother cut five or six branches for her teacher at school, wrap them in aluminum foil for a gift. For her desk, if the teacher has a pretty vase – and they always did when I was a little girl. The walk to school with the flower present, the wind blowing the child’s hair and forsythia, the child’s occasional caress. In the classroom her classmates’ poking them would not disturb the forsythia too much.

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❤️

They are without fragrance, which makes me think: bush or flowering plant? I don’t know. I never bother to Google/ research flowers, as I want to experience them in the moment – the way a child would perceive them. I know that’s impossible, but I try. Too much information stored below my old cranium! I think lots of it is useless and detracts from the important stuff like the ecstacy of flowers.

I love all the forsythia I see on the road, but the abandoned forsythia bushes on the side of the road, by old stone walls where houses once stood – in city and country – these forsythia are the ones I love best! No one has bothered to crop their wild blond crowns with Home Depot hedge trimmers. Or doused them with fertilizer so they grow abnormally thick and fat. No, they are in a pretty natural state…and I love them when they grow wild and free, long slender branches reaching to the sky, the sunlight pouring through the same big spaces between the branches. The forsythia look like a crowd of rowdy concert goers – all arms raised, together, hoping to touch the kaleidescopic lights and meet YES band mates after the concert.

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Rose’s favorite

They’ve struck a chord with me, that’s for sure. I’m remembering how they were all over the Green Island of my childhood – before it became all industrial wasteland or the Canal District, part 2. I remember how they signaled SPRING to me and how fun it was to walk down Lafayette or Grosvenor or Millbury streets and see them peeking out of backyards – or lining the grassy triangle of the City parking lot right outside the dry cleaners on Millbury Street. My mom worked at the dry cleaners for decades, as a counter girl, and I was always a little jealous of her view: loads of tall, yellow bushes just beaming sunshine on an already sunny person. My mom was a single working mom raising three girls and caring for her elderly mother, my Bapy, back home on Lafayette Street. She may have stumbled now and then beneath her heavy load but she was a happy person. She loved her mom and adored her three girls – the lights of her life. So often, after Prov Jr. High or even Lamartine Street School, I’d visit my mom at work and see her lugging piles of dirty laundry or working the old cash register on the Formica counter top or reaching into her vest pocket for her pen and little pad of white note paper to make a note. I’d look out at the forsythia, just a few yards away from Ma, and feel happy. It was springtime. My mother and the forsythia were spring!

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🙂

Worcester, Palm Sunday

By Rosalie Tirella

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Under the Green Street bridge, Palm Sunday. photo: R.T.

Palm Sunday. I remember walking under the now garishly lit Green Street tunnel as a little Green Island Grrrl a week or two before Palm Sunday. Decades ago … We were on our way to that icon of Worcester’s consumer-working class, The Mart department store: me, my mom and my two kid sisters. To buy us kids Easter Dresses! Yay!!! The Mart!! Wowza! Our mother often tried to buy us the best Easter dresses at Jack and Jill’s children’s clothing store on Green Street – and their pretty straw Easter bonnets with blue and white ribbon wrapped around their rims were to die for – but if it was a lean year – and it often was on Lafayette Street – we kids were taken to the Mart for our Easter dresses. They were not the beautiful dresses like the little girl mannequins wore in the Jack and Jill’s storefront window, the ones my mom wanted to buy for us, the pale yellow and pink dresses with butterfly decals sewn on them, all sparkly and robbins egg blue … but The Mart had a small pet section – aquariums filled with little mice, hamsters and gerbils and the cages, boxes of food and fun “supplies” for them like metal wheels that your little rodent jumped into to get some exercise. The mice and other small pets were right across the aisle from an excellent toy section filled with Barbie dolls, GI Joe dolls, packets of Sea Monkeys and baseball mitts. We kids longed for pet mice (which I got in grade 5) and baseball bats and balls (which my sister got in grade 3) and Skipper dolls (which my other sister got in grade 2).

The Mart’s dresses always looked a little rough and cheaply made from shiny polyester. Their pants hung from my skinny kid sisters’ bums, and their pants waistband – wide elastic – made the front of my pants pucker around my chubby stomach. I remember one day, as a sixth grader at Lamartine Street School, I wore my Easter pants outfit to school. I didn’t want to, but my mom made me wear this new outfit she liked. By then I knew the Mart fashion book was not on my classmates’ playbook. Sure enough, the kids began to mock me in the school yard, as soon as I entered: You’re wearing welfare clothes! Ha! Welfare! Welfare! My kid sisters had been transferred to St. Mary’s because my mom felt they were being bullied, so they just wore their school uniforms and missed the … pain. Well, I was ashamed of my outfit – it did suck – but I never told my mom. Back then kids never told their parents anything. You had to try to figure things out back home, as you were playing with your little pet mouse (Gigi) or listening to your Partridge Family record. You loved your mouse and your mom who bought you your ugly Easter pants outfit. You felt your friends’ moms weren’t as smart or special as your mom, who was very very busy at the dry cleaners and working hard at home so you you could eat and have a nice bedroom on whose walls you could hang your David Cassidy posters. So you shut your mouth … you averaged things out and felt … grateful. The opposite of the little kids who will now walk under the garishly lit Green Island tunnel to head to the baseball stadium. They jump out of their parents’ SUV and walk the several yards to the game … and all is well, I guess.

But back then, our Green Street tunnel walk was an adventure! Past Jack and Jill’s with their cute kids-wear, the fire trap ATLAS FABRIC shop where Worcester’s pro sewers got all their material for draperies, lined vests, aprons and wedding gowns … past Molly’s, the alcoholic hairdresser who cut your hair poorly and gave Ma her tight brillo pad curly “perms” in between sneaking out back for a few swigs from her pint of Muscatel …THEN THE GLORIOUS NOTRE DAME church…the first thing we saw that signaled we were in for something special in downtown Worcester – where now these Soviet Union-style apartment complexes stand, as you can see in my photo here. Today you see these cement debacles for rich kids instead of the glorious, hand-built-by-immigrants church – a monument, a tribute to Worcester’s French-Canadian working class, to their God, to trying to do right, to hope … to pray, to be charitable.

Notre Dame church was what we kids and our mom always saw at the end of the Green Street tunnel, after our 25-minute trek from our Lafayette Street apartment. It was so beautiful. It felt like Heaven … long, elegant steeples glinting in the sun, the huge gold Virgin Mary statue – Notre Dame, Our Lady – standing before its entrance saying hello to us, the church’s arches, framing its front doors, one arch over another over another reaching up into the sky. … Now that I look back, I think our poor little family purposely walked by Notre Dame church’s high entry way to see those high arches, to be physically close to this beautiful home of God, to brush the cheek of our Blessed Mother with our chafed hands.

Now? A red, blue and green carnival light show for this Worcester Palm Sunday! A pulsating show for the masses designed to shoo away the homeless that used to sleep there at night – Jesus’s people, if you’ve read the Bible.