The Stoop

Note: It is only appropriate that today I share another of my Mom’s pieces. I am off to visit her and accompany her to the doctor. Unfortunately, Mom has had a serious health issue come up that is made more difficult to manage because of COVID. Any positive vibes, karma, or prayer is appreciated. Meanwhile, here is another slice of her life. We hope you enjoy!

A stoop is not a porch. A porch has rocking chairs or other seating where folks sip iced tea and relax. A stoop is a wide staircase that leads to a multifamily home, usually in a city.  I had a stoop. It was in front of the house where I grew up, on Rochester Avenue in Brooklyn.

The stoop was our playground, like a town center for all the kids on the block.  We sat on the steps of the stoop and played jacks or all kinds of card games.  The boys would trade baseball cards or play knocks (don’t ask).

We sat on the steps and took turns playing jump rope or double dutch (if you were brave) on the sidewalk.  We played hit the penny.  We’d put a penny on the crack in the pavement, you and your partner stood on either side, trying to hit the penny with a pink ball called a pensy-pinky.  One point if you hit it; two points if it turned over.  11 points to win. The boys also played punch ball and of course stoop ball, which took some imagination.  We sat on the steps putting on or taking off our roller skates with a key on a string attached to our neck.

After school or in the evening we would sit on the steps talking about our teachers.  Were they fair? Did they have favorites? We talked about who we liked or disliked. We sometimes did our homework and if we were in the same class, we might compare answers.

A group of us would meet on the stoop and then go to the movies.  Afterwards we’d come back to the stoop and the boys would act out sword fights (from the movie Robin Hood). The girls would be the damsel in distress – I might be her best friend. They would play cops and robbers; or, they would be the US and its allies fighting the Nazis or the Japanese.  We would see news reels at the movies which gave us reports on the progress of World War II.

We would sit on the steps singing war time songs like The White Cliffs of Dover.  We would watch the night sky and follow the search lights until the warden came to tell us to go home for dinner or bed.  The blackout had to be obeyed and we’d go home to pull down the shades and leave the street in total darkness.

It was the 40’s and some of us had relatives in the armed services so we knew of the Second World War and the stories of concentration camps.  But, in general, we did not talk about it.  So it was a time of innocence and change. If we knew of the horrors or the turmoil in the world, we did not talk about it then.

Our conversations did become different in the 1950’s.  We got older; we got married and moved away; we got jobs and had children.  Then different people sat on the stoop, playing the games of their youth.