Off in the distance, midway across the channel but perfectly visible, even in the falling snow…
The lady is there! Floodlights shining from the base up and her crown down, in the distance the lady appeared to glow an almost eerie green.
“…The Statue of Liberty! Oh, my God, Mitchell, she’s beautiful! I can’t believe it!” Her head turning to the right, continuing to look as they drove on. “Why didn’t you tell me you were going to drive all night? You should have woken me! At least I could have kept you company.” Quiet a moment, then, “We’ll be home soon, won’t we?” she asked softly.
“Yeah, Marcie, we’ll be home soon.”
“God, Mitchie… home, our home.”
Though the simplest of statements, it filled both their hearts….
December 19, 1955: 3:55 AM
he thickening snow was beginning to lay on the streets as the dirt-coated convertible turned off the Shore Expressway onto Ocean Parkway, went south past Neptune Avenue into Brighton Beach, made a right turn on Surf Avenue and drove slowly past the darkened and desolate, skeletal-like amusement structures of Coney Island.
“Marcie, just wait until summer.” He’d dreamt of this moment, of showing Marsha Coney Island, and it didn’t matter that it was four in the morning, nor that it was the middle of winter and snow was falling. “You’ll love it! We live close enough so we can walk to the boardwalk whenever we want, and every Wednesday during the summer”—although he had told her all this before, now, his voice animated with excitement, speaking rapidly, he told her again—“they shoot off fireworks from a barge out in the ocean. I used to watch ’em from the tower at Rockaway. And boy, I can’t wait till you try a Nathan’s lobster roll!”
“I’ll never eat lobster.” Shaking her head, “they’re so ugly!”
“I promise,” looking at her, “you’ll learn to love ’em!”
A block from Brighton Beach, Surf and Neptune avenues angled towards each other to become one street at the guarded entrance to Seagate, then continued through the small peninsula as Neptune Avenue.
Having been told about it before, more than once, now, seeing a gated, guarded community for the first time, the sight of it made Marsha feel protected, and a bit pretentious.
As the Ford came to a stop, sliding the window open, “Good morning.” the guard inside the heated shack poked his head through.
Rolling the window down, “We’re, uh”—now being the first time he’d ever said the words—“Mister and Mrs. Lipensky.”
Never having seen Mitchell, or knowing the car, studying a clipboard…
“We live here, on Neptune: 2915.”
“Yeah,” the guard said, “here you are.” Lowering his head so he could see into the car, “Nite, folks.” The man pushed a handle, and the barrier rose.
Putting the shifter into D, Mitchell drove into Seagate, where older brick and wood-frame structures, many with twinkling Christmas lights even at that hour, intermixed with modern houses and newer one- and two-story apartment buildings. Coming to the end of the long block, pointing to his left, to an older, three-story, wooden structure, “There’s Aunt Ida’s, and this…” turning right, “is where we live.” Parked cars were scattered along the curb of the long, two-story, yellow brick cul-de-sac building and Mitchell was able to park almost directly adjacent to the front door of the well-lit lobby.
“So, you like it so far?”
“Yes, I do,” looking at him, “very much!”
“Honey, if you don’t mind, I’ll take just what we need for now and get the rest later. Okay?”
“Sure.” Opening the door, “I’m glad you said that,” Marsha stepped out.
“Oh, God!” He’d been sitting in the same position for so long, standing, moaning, having to force himself into an upright position, pushing his hands into the small of his back, “Just your green case, okay?”
“That’s fine. It’s got everything we’ll need for now.”
Taking just the green case, walking up the three concrete steps, Mitchell opened the plate-glass door to the pushily carpeted lobby.
“You never told me there’s an elevator.”
“Yeah,” stepping inside, “there are few things I didn’t tell you.” Pushing 2, the door slid shut.
“I knew it would be nice, but never thought it would be so…”
“Yes,” she said. “Classy.”
Coming out of the elevator, he led Marsha down the carpeted hall to, “Here we are.” the door marked 219. Putting the case down, fishing in his pocket for his ring of keys, “You ready?” he asked.
“Mitchie, yes! I’ve been ready for months.”
Knowing how he’d dreamt of doing this, “Okay, don’t look till I tell you. I want the lights on before you come in.” Unlocking the door, “Your eyes closed?”
Knowing he’d planned this, going along with him, “Yes.”
“Good.” Going inside, he turned the lamps at either side of the sofa and the ceiling light in the kitchen on. Sitting on the sofa, so he could see Marsha’s reaction when she opened her eyes, “You’re right in front of the door. Simon says, ‘take two steps forward and open your eyes’.”
“Oh, my God!” Said softly, her eyes widening, “Oh, my God, Mitchie, it’s beautiful!”
Looking from right to left, Marsha saw the double dresser on the short wall, the door leading to the bathroom, then a waist-high room divider with lilac- and lavender-painted one-inch dowel rods that went from the divider to the ceiling. Beyond the divider was the kitchen with a pine-colored, wood-grain Formica and chrome table with four lavender-padded chairs. To the left of the kitchen, centered on the adjacent wall, were lovely drapes on either side of the double-hung window. Beneath the window was the sofa Mitchell was sitting on, with a lamp table on either side and a coffee table before it. The lilac-painted walls and lavender carpet contrasted beautifully. All in this one-room apartment, in this first home of Mitchell and Marsha Lipensky, appeared to be new and beautifully, tastefully appointed.
Holding her breath, her eyes returning to Mitchell, letting her breath out, “I can’t believe you did this for me, all by yourself!”
“Well, I didn’t do all by myself. Mrs. Tennenbaum helped pick the colors and stuff and had it done. But you like it, Marcie? You really like it?”
“Like it?” Coming into the room, closing the door, “My, God, Mitchell, I love it!”
Now that they were home, and now that he had seen Marsha’s reaction, her long awaited reaction to the apartment, Mitchell’s adrenalin flowed in the opposite direction, and as he lifted himself off the sofa to go to her, a total, complete fatigue overtaking him, “Marcie,” draping his arms over her shoulders, “I’ll carry you over the threshold tomorrow, okay?”
“You poor baby,” stroking his cheek. “Sure, come on, I’ll help you open the bed.”
Moving the coffee table, removing the two cushions from the sofa, pulling the bed open, Marsha was surprised to see the bed neatly made and covered with the feather-down quilt given to them by her grandmother.
Going to the closet, wearily taking two pillows off the shelf, he laid them on the bed.
“Go on, Mitchie, you use the bathroom first.”
Putting the green case onto the kitchen table, “Thanks, baby; I’m about ready to pass out.” Taking his kit only, he went into the bathroom.
Marsha drew the drapes, then, going to the kitchen, looked through the drawers and cabinets. Having spent quite a bit of time thinking about how she wanted her home kept, Lots of organizing to do here, she thought, and, I know how we’re going to spend tomorrow! Really, today.
Done in the bathroom within minutes, except for his shirt, which Mitchell draped over a kitchen chair—actually disappointing Marsha—he was still dressed.
This being the first time she’d handled it since the hotel, surprised at its lightness, taking the case into the bathroom, “I’ll be right out, Mitch.”
“Yeah, honey.” Removing his clothes, crawling into bed wearing nothing, “I’ll wait for you.”
When Marsha came out of the bathroom fifteen minutes later, the lights were still on and Mitchell was sound asleep.