Southie: the protector, the defender and the neighborhood that wasn’t mine
I look out onto the street from my second floor window. I’m not quite sure what I’m looking for, but I know it’s different from what I see.
Silver Street is dirty and filled with jagged memories. There are the stairs I sit on longingly waiting for my dad to drive by. I watch the corner with an eagle eye hoping the tough girls don’t come around. The gym where the nasty boys hang out and where Atilla and Finegan (two very large and scary dogs) reign sends shivers through me. I’ve spent more time running into this house and away from the world than living in it. I’ve confronted meanness and aggression too many times, I’ve had to stand up to protect a friend only to bawl my eyes out from fear the minute I’m alone.
Yet I sit here watching – remembering the laughter, the singing, games of kickball, and the old man who comes by every day to give Rags bologna. I think about the flames breaking out from behind painted wood windows during a warehouse fire across the street that fascinated and terrified me. I’m reminded of the many special 4-leggers who have come and gone; my beautiful Vicious who wandered into our lives introducing us to love bites – gentle nibbles of gratitude on the cheek, our handsome Bruno – a stunning tramp of a Shepherd who let us adopt him for a couple of months then moved on, Medford Tom downstairs who’s wild stories of his harrowing life scared the pants off us and his rottie Eric who stole my heart, Buffie my best friend whose belly was my pillow, and Rags – the most well lived dog I’ll ever meet- he knew more of Southie and its secrets than the many humans who live here.
I picture how beautifully Silver St. lives up to its name in a thick snowfall. The light sparkles over the uninterrupted drifts of snow covering the grittiness. There is a quiet sadness in my observations. This place is my foundation. My parents are from here, it’s in my blood. I am so different than this world. I don’t belong and I want nothing more than to leave; to run far and fast from the hardness of it. I am a stranger here and yet, it is a part of me.
People in Their Environments 056 – South Boston 1983 by, Sage Sohier
In my search for an old photo of my hometown, I came across this picture and was immediately awed. I reached out to the photographer to tell her how much the photo moved me and reminded me of my childhood. I asked her if she knew the girls in the photo, she did not. As an artist and photographer myself, I wanted her to know she had captured something visceral for me. In the poem above I mention the “tough” girls. While this isn’t all of them, it is some of them…the actual girls! That is the corner of the street I grew up on, straight down across from that car was my house and the fire I mention was in the warehouse the car is parked in front of. I have personally destroyed a bike and my nose on that very pole these girls are sitting behind.
I want to share how much a simple photo by a stranger can unexpectedly move someone even years after it is taken. I am nostalgic of the location itself, but also by the girls. These girls terrified me as a child. They were hard, mean and often cruel. Looking at them now as an adult knowing so much more about life and considering those around me, I see their pain their longing and their dreams of escape. I see now that their anger was not at me, I just happened to be the easy target.
I love this photo. I wish I could afford it. Its only available through a gallery for quite a hefty fee, so I will simply admire it from afar. I highly suggest looking up the artist. I am grateful to her. This photo allows me to look back at where I came from. To see the pain of my past in a new light, to see and forgive that hardness of life and to remind me of how fortunate I now am.