Thursday, June 9, 2016
On the Street Where You Live & Mrs. Steffy *Chicago Life in 1950*
When I am in a quiet state of mind, the past comes back on small running feet.
Thats what happened again this morning.
It was 1956 and I was 6 years old, living on Wellington Avenue, in Chicago, Illinois; just down from Wrigley Field, and blocks from Lake Michigan.
I really loved living on that street, among all the fashionable brownstones and greystones closed in by old iron Fleur de Lis fences, our house was the only tutor. We also had a backyard that was bigger than anyoe else's.
But the object of my attention was the green house with the wide front porch directly across the street. A two story cottage was the dwelling Mrs. Steffy called home.
I suppose her husband had passed. He wasn't around and it didn't seem peculair to me that he wasn't. She lived alone. On occassion one of her children would stop by for a visit.
Mainly I'd sit in a wicker rocker on her porch and we'd chat. Mrs. Steffy had long grey hair threaded with shades of brown which she wore in braids pinned together at the top of her head. She was a slight woman who always wore a simple cotton dress covered with a fresh apron.
Rarely was I granted entrance into the cottage where I ached to go to have a look around.
But on one particular occassion, Mrs. Steffy said I could come inside with her if I remained on the first floor and did not go up the steps to the second floor.
As I stepped into the dark, narrow hallway of the cottage, I was charmed by the steep steps and curve of the banister that led upstairs; the place I was forbidden to go. Tucked into the side of the stairs was a huge, old grandfather's clock. I remember reciting 'Hickory Dickery Dock' on the spot.
The living room was to the right, the dining room after that, and in back the kitchen. For some reason they held no interest for me, most likely because I had seen them before....but the upstairs was where I wanted to go. But I had agreed I wouldn't.
I knew I was faster that sweet, elderly Mrs. Steffy. And up I went on the steep steps and made it to the second floor within seconds. Mrs. Steffy ordered me back downstairs. I ignored her and opened door after door of the bedrooms to see what they looked like. I even pulled open each dresser drawer before my mother was called over to get me.
Yanked from the house by the arm, I was sent to bed soon after the dinner dishes were washed, dried, and put away.
Mrs. Steffy passed about the same time we moved to Delavan, Wisconsin, 8 years later. Sadly her house was knocked down in order to enlarge the street.
On the rare occassion I get to Chicago, I take a cab and walk down Wellington Avenue. After looking at my former childhood home, I turn about to see Mrs. Steffy's house. And for just a moment I am surprised to see it gone. I think of all the houses that are long gone along with the people we still love.
We have such treasured memories within us. In time we learn its more important what we have in our hearts than what we hold in our hands.
Do I regret racing upstairs to Mrs. Steffy's dismay?
I only wish I remembered the inside of Mrs. Steffy's house and those dresser drawers.