By Rosalie Tirella
What do I especially find heartbreaking about wintertime in Worcester? Seeing parents, usually moms, pushing a baby carriage down an inner city street, the baby stroller covered in a plastic wrap, zipped up, snug as a bug. Yup. They make plastic coverings for baby strollers. A tool for poor parents to buy so that as they make their way through the city landscape, with their little kids or babies in tow, usually up Chandler Street, or around Main South, the little one is protected from the cold.
Growing up in Green Island years ago, I was one of those little kids, but a bit older, maybe six or seven. My mom was raising us alone. She was poor. We never had a car. We walked every where. Even in the dead of winter, even after or sometimes during a snow storm. Funny, but if you have a great mother and are well fed and bundled up against the elements, you survive it all. You even have fun.
After a heavy snow fall in Green Island … I remember … I am a little kid walking in the big tire treads in the snow, on Lafayette Street, as my mom pulled her shopping wagon full of groceries. She is in the street too because there is about three feet of snow pushed onto the sidewalks. There was a huge snowstorm the day before. We are walking against traffic, since Lafayette Street is one-way and we are going down it the opposite way to go home. Every time a car slowly approaches us, we stop walking and push closer to the sidewalk, stepping into a ton of snow. We stand engulfed in the beautiful fluffy white stuff until the car passes. Then we go back into the street. She has just gotten out of work at the dry cleaners and had gone grocery shopping at Supreme Market on Millbury Street. My sisters are following behind her, too. I feel safe even though we are walking in the street. A slippery street covered in snow that has been churned brown from all the cars and sand and salt. I feel playful even though if you drove by our raggedy little caravan you would have thought to yourself: Look at this pathetic sight. A woman all alone in the dark night of winter, up to her ankles is snow, in the middle of Lafayette Street followed by her three little kids. Lugging food in a rickety shopping cart.
But we kids didn’t see it that way at all. We were playing follow Mommy! Stay in the tire treads and woosh, let’s slide and skid all the way home on Lafayette Street, named after the great French general who helped us during the Revolutionary War my mom used to tell us. I have no idea if my mother got the war right (was it the French Revolution?), but she did make us kids feel we were living on a very special street! I am running and sliding and getting all silly with my sisters. I keep thinking of the little bag of cashews my mom bought me at McGoverns Package store, cashews, my fave treat. . Each Friday, after Ma got paid and we went grocery shopping, she would cap off the night with a trip to McGoverns for treats for her girls and a flask of Muskatel for my grandfather from Poland. A bag of cashews for me. A bag of pistachios for each if mt sisters.
After the walk in the snow, cashews! Still my favorite winter treat.
Poverty is weird trip. Brutal, but if you are with people you love, like my fantastic mother, who died this summer at a ripe old 85, it can be soul expanding. It can feed your soul on the coldest of days. It can provide you with a moral code that never leaves you. And gift you the most precious winter memories.