“My bedroom was small and had the old furniture of the very poor. The dark wood would make the room darker.
“That morning with the room having only one window, I laid there watching the heavy snowfall….It had begun to fall early in the evening of last night. Yet, all through the night my sleep was awakin’ by thoughts of falling snowflakes, tomorrow and him, my Yonnie. My teen sweetheart; a boy I’ve known all my life here in Fishtown of backstreets.
“The city that we then lived in was Philadelphia, in the second year of World War I.” Joan stopped, became silent, looked at Ginger again and realizing the age of this woman and the history to the story she was reading, then began again.
“Fishtown is a section of North Philly, a poor section of small narrow streets, some so narrow only horse-drawn wagons can enter. To venture out onto any main street, would be only to shop for something the small open-air garages up the winding backstreets didn’t have. The poor knew everything small, small houses with small rooms. What existed inside was sparing. The children played in side streets where the sun never warmed. Small front steps in summer is where the grown-ups sat from morning to night, even slept on when the summer heat seeped from their tiny homes.
“Ah, but the winter and snow. The winter white would turn Fishtown, its veins of thin thoroughfares, into a white wonderland for the deprived.
“When I thought the morning hour right, I dressed. Was very polite to my parents, did my chores, then went out and about Fishtown by ten, my splarkling blue eyes searching. Searching along beautiful empty narrow streets of snow. Snow that passed my knees and at times my thighs…
“All my life, even as a child, when clean white snow pound those gray streets, life had meaning. And much more meaning when you’re young and in love.
“In time, longing of minutes….I’d find him. He’s there. At the turn of a red brick corner, he’s there, Yonnie, dressed warm as I. But we cannot run into each other’s arms, the snow slows our legs but not our racing hearts.
“Ginger!” he calls, oh, how I love to hear my name whence from his lips….In the middle of a barren Fishtown way. I am finally in his arms. Each kiss he gives is like the first. All warmth and softness come together….We stand there with lonely buildings and unclear empty windows looking, but we are alone. For on that particular street, no one lives. Only the warehouses of the struggling business men of the poor. It is our favorite way, the wide wooden doors of rag shops and smelly, small factories that make cheap soap and other wares that are sold for pennies and dimes. This particular street was the dirtiest narrow street most of the year. But when God sends his pure snow, it cleans all and becomes a small world for two young hearts in love.
“Now don’t fall,” my young Yonnie says to me….There before us is the dye shop’s alley. No wider that my arms can spread and the snow has filled it waist high. So with each passing year, we do not want our footprints to show. So he helps me climb up to the cement ledge that runs along with the alley. Oh, it’s only four or five feet from the ground, also above it, higher, runs a thin copper pipe. Our hands move along the rust pipe as our boots tip-toe along the ledge. And in time, we are there.
Alone in the small empty yard behind the dye factory. Where the snow is blanketed three feet high. And with no footprints, no one knows we are there. There’s an iron step heading up to a back door. It has an old roof slanting down above it. As I sit there watching, Yonnie starts digging around for the old bucket with holes. He’s found it by a tall weed….He pulls the coal out of his coat pockets and starts a fire in the corner of the iron step. In time, it’s warm there. In my pockets I’ve brought small sweet things to eat. We laugh and talk and kiss….In time, the very first time, our coats cushion the steel below. My young lover’s face is above me, and we look into each other’s eyes. I feel his warm hand upon my wanting flesh. The snow and wind speak softly as in a song….As the coals burn, I hear it pray. He enters me and all is anew, I am reborn, a woman child.
“Yes, here in the poor section of town and the angel’s winter snow. This private place, we love, make love. For it is right. It is a place we’ve been coming since we could roam. And now, his hips move against mine and I love him so. And I know the wide world is rich and fine. And I know there are other places more lovely. Yet, this fresh clean snow hugging down upon Fishtown, here, a patch of yard, is the most enchanting place in all the universe.
“Yonnie, will you always love me?”
“I love you as snow shall always fall…”and he kissed me so…”
As Joan’s eyes blinked with moisture. She saw, saw as in slow motion….The hand of Ginger rise and gently touched her cheek, to wipe away the tears.
“…my!” was all Joan said as she warmly squeezed Ginger’s hand.
Doing so, Joan felt a return…One finger of Ginger’s was moving, awkwardly pointing up to her own face, mouth, Ginger was trying to say something.
“What is it….?” Joan bent her ear down to the poor old woman’s lips.
Slowly and ever so softly, Joan heard the words, “The Shameless Snow.” TSS,’ it hit Joan all at once. TSS, mean, “The Shameless Snow,” and the winterly tale of young love.
By: George Martorano