Johnny Robinson’s Magnifying Glass

Saturday, November 10, 2018.   8:53 AM

This story could have many titles; as many titles perhaps as there are beginnings to every human life that has ever begun on earth.

“A Memory of a Magnifying Glass”

“A 60-Year Reunion on Sweet Avenue . . . maybe”

“Returning to Sweet Avenue”

(This story began as a Facebook Message to Lorraine R. about a Walk.  Lorraine lives thousands of miles away from Woonsocket now.)

Hi Lorraine, I’ve been wanting to take a walk on Sweet Avenue, where I grew up, for several days lately.  But we’ve had some rain this week and I’m also not feeling young lately, with abdominal and shoulder pain, so, I’ve been putting it off.  At 3:58 this afternoon October 12,[1] I checked my maybe 7-year-old wrist watch that no longer has a band because I cut it off and wear it in my pocket instead (the battery on this old Timex watch just keeps on keeping on. Maybe this old watch deserves a name: The Watch That Never Dies.). Walking out the back exit of Kennedy Manor, and leaving my route up to the Lord and the leadership of His Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth,[2] the Spirit of Understanding,[3] I began my return. Read somewhere that repentance means returning.

Headed down Clinton Street toward Cumberland Street where I took a right at the corner. At Kendrick Avenue Bridge, turned onto the bridge and walked almost halfway down and stopped and looked toward Kennedy Manor. The river is high after much rain. A tree on the left was in the River but still standing strong. The wind was blowing a cool air down the river. The sun was shining. The far end of the footbridge doesn’t afford the same clear view up Villanova Hill that it did when we were in High School, Lorraine, because of the Middle School that is partially in the way now. I turned and looked down the opposite view of the River toward the Hamlet Avenue Bridge. To the right of the River, from this perspective, is another Middle School building. Both of them were built about the same time. There is a very spacious bright green lawn next to this second school building.

Turned back toward Cumberland Street and resumed my walk toward Cass Avenue. Remembered Dunkin’ Donuts near the corner of Cass & Cumberland Streets; and thought that it would be sweet to be walking with a lady friend (who I don’t have) and going with her to that coffee shop for a cup of coffee or tea and quiet conversation. Reaching Cass Avenue, began walking that way. At Wood Avenue, I looked up that hill to see the red house on the left. My brother Dale told me decades ago that he met my classmate from St. Charles School and Woonsocket High School when he was out knocking on doors as a JW. Lorraine D., he said, lived in that red house on Wood Avenue. Then reached Mailloux Street. Remembered Charlotte, a registered nurse dated briefly who had lived on Mailloux Street. She had shared an apartment with her dad there in the 1970s. She was a few years older than me. Next came the big parking lot where St. Ann’s baseball field had been before I was born. Dad told me about it. Saw a photo of the green fencing around home plate at the corner of Dulude and Cass Avenue on Facebook months ago. My own memory of that location was of A&P Supermarket being there in the 1960s; and going shopping with my older sister, Lesley, after school once a week. Two cousins old enough to be our uncles worked there: one in Produce, the other in Dairy. Koch Eye and several offices of Landmark Medical Center are at that location now. Took a shortcut to the right of those offices and walked up a private driveway to the near top of Emerson Street where it meets Heroux Avenue. Emerson Street goes down to Sweet Avenue. At Sweet Avenue, stopped at the corner for a minute. Remembered Gary’s dog Brownie biting my ankle at that corner once. I was standing there as a boy and a few other children about my age were there too. I didn’t know them. I saw Brownie the dog across the street on his own property. And I told the other children, “That’s Brownie.” So, Brownie comes walking across the street to where we were all standing and he just bit my ankle. I pulled down my sock to see if I was bleeding. There was no blood, just a slight breaking of the skin. (“OK Brownie, I guess you’re having a bad hair day. It can happen to anyone. I forgive you, neighbor.”)  Took a left onto Sweet Avenue and walked, reminiscing about all the friends and acquaintances I remembered on Sweet Avenue as a boy living there for the first 18 years of my life.

When I reached the property that my grandmother, Memere Wilbur (Dora Depot) owned and where we lived, I stopped across the street to look at the two houses she had owned: the three-story tenement house in the front where I lived on the third-floor with my family until 9-and-a-half; and the single-family house down the driveway in the back yard where we moved to in May of 1961, the Saturday night before Mother’s Day. That’s how mom remembered the evening we moved. A man came walking down Sweet Avenue at this time about my age. As he was just across the street and right in front of what had been Memere’s property, our eyes sort of met and I just said to him from across the street, “I grew up on this street and lived in that house,” pointing to our former residence. He stopped and asked, “Which house?” “That one,” I replied pointing again to the house behind him and to his left. He asked my name; so, I told him. He repeated my name like he recognized it and could hardly believe it. He told me his name, “Johnny Robinson” (a pseudonym). I crossed the street. Told him that I remembered the name “Robinson”; and pointed up Stanley Avenue, explaining that I remembered that two boys lived in a house up that street back in “our day” and above a big wall over there. He said, “That’s me and my brother. We lived on Heroux. I still live there, now.” So, we talked for about 15 minutes, mentioning the names of all the kids our age that we remembered in our childhood neighborhood from long ago. Johnny was in my Boy Scout troop at St. Ann’s,  and went to school there, he told me. Turned out we were in the same patrol, The Hawk Patrol. He recognized the names of all my neighborhood friends. He remembered even more of them than I did because he went to St. Ann’s School; I did not. We shook hands and eventually said goodbye. So, now I have a new sweet memory of Sweet Avenue; even 48 years after moving away from there Sweet Avenue continues to be “a sweet avenue.”

Listening now, at home, to Petula Clark singing “What Now my Love.” It just ended . . . now she’s singing “Kiss me Goodbye.” Love songs make me feel like crying; but, it’s a very sweet feeling. I like it.

As I was returning to Kennedy Manor at the end of my walk late this afternoon, was thinking of the word rain in Lorraine and the word ark in Mark and was thinking: “It’ll take a lot of rain to lift this old “ark” and make it float.” Something about The Flood and Noah’s Ark and the Bible. And this evening was remembering another thing from Sweet Avenue long ago when I was about 6 years old. Memere gave me an old magnifying glass. I was already intrigued by them. Me mere must have known that. This magnifying glass that Memere gave me had a leather case built in. All you had to do was turn the glass into the two-piece leather sleeve on a hinge, like the blade on a pocket knife. Well, I was on Sweet Avenue with my gift from Memere; and a boy I’d never seen before about my age came walking up Sweet Avenue from the direction of Cass Avenue. And he stopped when he reached me and asked to see my magnifying glass; so, I handed it over to him. After it was in his hand he just ran away with it. After a moment’s hesitation, I ran after him up Stanley Avenue hill; but I couldn’t catch up with him. So, I stopped chasing him and walked back down the hill a bit dejected. Later, told Memere what happened. A sad look came across her face. Never saw that magnifying glass again. Never saw that boy again, either. Maybe that old magnifying glass had been a keepsake to her. Maybe her mom or dad had given it to her when she was a child. I don’t know.

And this evening was remembering something “Johnny Robinson” said to me today on Sweet Avenue. He was mentioning one of the many boys he remembered from childhood. And he mentioned . . .  think it was someone named Benny, not sure of the name. And Johnny was saying the boy wore eyeglasses.  And Johnny made a circle with his index finger and thumb before his left eye like someone peering through an eyeglass lens, or maybe a magnifying glass lens.

And later this evening, I was wondering if, perhaps, today, for the first time in 61 years, I finally met that boy again. And then again, maybe not. Maybe it wasn’t the friendly man I met today. And maybe that boy in about 1958 needed that magnifying glass more than this boy did. God bless him. He can have Memere’s magnifying glass. And my forgiveness, too.

***

Lorraine, the picture accompanying the following song reminds me of Norman Rockwell’s beautiful artwork that appeared on the covers of the Saturday Evening Post magazines so many years ago. Do you remember . . . Lorraine, do you remember?

I lost the link to the song and, for a while, couldn’t remember it, myself. And then it came back to me. Thank you, Lord, for Your Help. Thank you, God:

 

Lorraine and me were in the same homeroom in high school, senior year. Her desk was right behind mine.

Was just imagining being in Mrs. Hatch’s homeroom on a Monday morning in early autumn, back in 1969 senior year. And we’re waiting for the bell to ring to go to first period of the day. And I just turn around at my desk and say: “Hi Lorraine. How was your weekend?” “Why do you ask, Marky Maypo?” you reply with your eyes lowered in natural genuine virtuous humility of a young lady–and, maybe a touch of . . . of something I don’t understand and can’t see yet. “I just want to hear the sound of your voice, Lorraine; and enjoy the experience of you talking to me; and seeing your eyes looking right into mine, that’s all, Lorraine.” “Thank you, Mark. You just made my day,” you smile while looking shyly into my eyes. “You’re welcome, Lorraine. And you just made mine. I’ll be remembering this conversation all day. I’ll be remembering you all day, Lorraine.”

And then I turn around and wait for the bell to ring. And all of a sudden I feel your hand softly touching my shoulder and resting there for one magic moment. And it feels so comforting. All my anxieties and tension just melt away. And I feel at peace like I never felt peace before. And then I feel like crying. And it is a sweet feeling. As if I’m melting. As if frosty the snowman is going away. And I wonder who or what will take his place in me.

 

[1] Believe October 12 used to be the official date of Columbus Day.

[2] “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself;  but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.” -John 16:13 KJV of Holy Scripture.

[3] Isaiah 11:2 “And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of the knowledge and the fear of the LORD.” -English Standard Version Study Bible.

Thank you Randy Van Warmer for your very beautiful song: “Just When I Needed You Most.”

Thank you, Leonard Cohen, for your very beautiful song: “Suzanne.”

And thank you to those who made the beautiful videos accompanying these beautiful songs. God bless you. God bless everyone who has contributed to these beautiful songs.

Thank you, YouTube.com for playing these beautiful songs from your website.

 

 

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