I happened upon some strange news the other day. Turns out the house that my grandmother once lived in almost burnt down last week.
It’s an odd thing, how families move, and sort of migrate. Maybe I think sometimes because I’m from the United States, that we’re a transient lot. We move about-we’re a migrant bunch. My family lived in Queens for a long time, in fact I was born there, but then moved away to go to points north, then later places west. But, the house in Queens? It’s still there, occupied now by some other family. Other children play in the yard, their family cars parked in the drive. And, I guess, last week, they experienced the fire.
My grandmother used to live on 96th Street in Woodhaven, Queens, back before I was born. I was born on 90th Street, just a few blocks down, from where this is. Last Thursday, there was a 5 alarm fire on 96th Street, probably a few houses down from where my grandmother used to live. She had a big house on the corner, with a front porch that had a great view of the sidewalk. The sidewalks were not a happy place last week. From what I could tell nobody was hurt, but the damage was considerable. Quite a few homes were destroyed.
I told my mother that there had been a fire in Woodhaven last week. I told her I didn’t know where it was, I could not remember. I don’t remember much about Queens-what little I do remember comes mostly from family snapshots and (believe it or not) some of my earliest photographic work, as a child, playing on those sidewalks, taking pictures with my small instamatic camera, in between bouts of jumping through hopscotch-shaped colored chalk outlines drawn on the ground.
I always thought I would go back to New York someday. I’d go back as a photographer and take all of those pictures I had taken in my head, as a child, walking those streets, playing those sidewalks. Those images are still there just waiting to be discovered. Maybe there would even be some chalk left on those sidewalks and I could visit my old hang-outs again.
Sometimes, now I wonder if there will be a New York left to look at when I finally do make it back that way. Someday, though, I’ll make it back to New York and I’ll take pictures. Lots and lots and lots of pictures, for all of us to enjoy.
Until next time…