EIGHT TALES FROM A GIRLHOOD LONG AGO: #1

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Sunday Walk, 1936

On Sunday mornings, Anna’s father went out for the paper. The closest place to buy it was at a newsstand at the top of a long hill that ran alongside the park. When it didn’t snow or rain, Anna was supposed to go too. It was her own special time alone with him, her mother explained, and also a good opportunity to get out of the apartment for some fresh air and exercise.

Her father would stand by the front door while her mother put on Anna’s leggings, buttoned her into her winter coat with the velvet chesterfield collar and tied the strings of her hat under her chin. Then Anna and her father went down in the elevator and out into the fresh air her mother said was so good for her.

Her father always took her hand when they crossed the street to get to the park side. But after they began to walk up the hill, he let go. Soon he was far ahead, and there was no way Anna could catch up. “Wait,” she called, afraid to lose sight of him and be all alone outside. “Daddy, wait!” Her father would stop and look back down the hill at Anna. He didn’t tell her to hurry, but while he waited he pushed his lips together as if he were annoyed, and when she had nearly reached him, he would turn and continue up the hill. By the time she got to the top, breathing hard and beginning to sweat, he had already bought the paper from the man inside the stand.  Going down the hill was easier, of course, especially if she skipped now and then.  And when they were finally home again, Anna’s father would read the paper in the living room and Anna was free to play in her own room.

One Sunday morning, she refused to go. She threw herself face down on the living-room rug with her leggings, coat and hat already on, and kicked and screamed and cried that she didn’t want to. She had never had a tantrum before. She thinks she remembers her mother somewhere near, trying to reason with her, but mainly she remembers that the wool rug was wine-colored and scratchy against her wet cheeks and that little threads of rug tickled her nostrils whenever she stopped screaming to take a breath. Her father must have left to get the paper while she was still banging the toes of her laced brown oxfords up and down.

After that, he always went out for the paper alone.