Yankee was married to Andy Yankovich, and had two children. Laureen, my age, and three year old little Andy. Women gathered for afternoon coffee in her kitchen. Children were always in her backyard, running among the chickens, but never, ever running in her vegetable garden. A section of the wire fence between our yards was folded back, and we had the run of both yards.
Events seemed to emanate from Yankee’s back yard, or be centered there. Summer afternoons mothers brought kitchen chairs and kids and we ate lunch at a long table—boards on sawhorses. I’m sure we had a variety of lunches, but I do remember spaghetti!
She was first generation; her immigrant parents lived not far away and Yankee and the children were there often, working in her parents’ garden. I was there once, and to a three or four year old, it seemed like fairy land. In a standard forty foot wide city lot, her parents grew everything in neat beds. The wonder was all the fruit trees growing up the perimeter walls. In my mind’s eye, all the leaves and branches touched overhead and made a leafy ceiling that was filled with sunshine. Yankee brought peaches, plums, figs, apricots, grapes home from her parent’s house.
Every so often some of the neighborhood mothers would go to the chicken market at the end of Dan Street. A little brown glazed brick building full of chickens. They came home with the neighborhood order, and then the bustle in Yankee’s yard was extreme as the women set to work. Only years later did I realized all those brown chickens hanging by their feet from the fence were being turned into chicken for dinner.
In the fall all the children were piled into the back of a pickup truck, and two or three mothers in the cab drove to the farms and orchards out on Quick Road. On the way home we squeezed around bushes of vegetables destined for the canning jar, to supplement the tomatoes from our own gardens.
Laureen and I started kindergarten together, walking hand in hand, supervised by the big kids. In a few days, of course, we didn’t need them anymore! We walked home for lunch one September day from our morning kindergarten. That afternoon Yankee took her two to her parents’ to work in the garden. At home my mom called us in when it began to rain. I never saw Yankee again. Over at her parents’, when it began to rain, Yankee reached up to unplug the radio and take it in from the garden when she went in. Yankee was electrocuted. I saw Laureen a few times over the next week, but she never went to school with me again, and then they moved away.
I heard that Mr. Yankovich remarried. I always hoped Laureen got a good stepmother.