Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Coming Home

By Robin "Red Hot" Kaye

For those of you who don’t know, The Romance Writers of America’s National Conference starts today in New York and for me, it’s a homecoming.

I was born in Brooklyn and yesterday, my critique partners, my husband, and my youngest daughter packed up the SUV and went to explore my hometown. Of course, the first thing we did when we got to Brooklyn was eat. We went to L & B Spumoni Gardens and had great Italian food—and for me to say it was great is really saying something.

Then we were off to the Kensington section and Minna Street—my childhood home where my family lived for over fifty years. My grandparents’ house was on the end of the short street—only a few blocks long. Even the sections of the street had names. Our section is called old Minna. I looked at the two streetlights that formed the boundary of my little world as a young child, the place I could play stoop ball, kick the can, ride my trike or bike, and skate with one skate. Okay, I guess the one skate thing requires an explanation. My grandmother would allow me to only use one skate, which would be on the street, while my sneekered foot would be on the curb pushing me along. That way my sister and I could skate at the same time without falling—much. We were allowed to play between the lampposts at the far side of my house and the end of the row of homes my grandparents’ lived in. I realized the distance was only about 100 yards—I remember stepping beyond the lamppost wondering if lightening would strike me dead—it didn’t, but then I didn’t spend much time testing the theory. For a woman who was five foot two and one hundred nineteen pounds, my nanny could be pretty scary—she knew how to wield a broom like no one I’ve ever seen.

The planter my great-grandfather made still stands proudly out front of my grandparents’ house—not that there is any choice in the matter, the darn thing probably weighs a ton—literally. What I would give to go to the door and buy it from the new owners. I’m just not sure how I’d get it home. My husband figured it would take eight men just to move it.

After driving through Kensington and Park Slope we were off to Red Hook—the area where my next series will take place.

Red Hook, at one time not all that long ago, was the crack capital of the world. It houses the largest public housing project in Brooklyn—the Red Hook Houses. Ten years ago I wouldn’t walk through Red Hook in broad daylight. Now, the area is going through resurgence. It’s still gritty, but Ikea moved in—bringing folks across the river from lower Manhattan on a free ferry to shop. The Fairway Market—the world’s most awesome grocery store took over one of the old docks—condos were built above it with views of Lady Liberty (which faces Red Hook), Governors Island, the Verrazano Bridge, and the Manhattan sky line. Restaurants and art galleries are springing up, and the waterfront is coming alive.

After hanging out at the Fairview and buying more food—okay, we eat a lot. Who can resist miniature connoli cake? We got back into the car for a ride to Brooklyn Heights where we walked around looking at all the great brownstones and worked up an appetite.

After yet another nosh at the Height Restaurant and Bar, we walked the Promenade—a long park that runs the length of Brooklyn Heights all the way to the Brooklyn Bridge--and took in the Manhattan skyline at night.

The conference begins today, and for the rest of the week I’ll be working non-stop. I’m so glad that I went home yesterday and had one of the first relaxing days I’ve had in a long time. Whenever I go home to Brooklyn, I’m at peace in a way I am nowhere else. I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to show my daughter her roots, to get a picture of her by the lamppost where four generations have now been photographed and to share the place I’ve never forgotten.


Danielle said...

Looks like you and your family had a good time. Aren't memories wonderful!

Mary G said...

Wonderful post bella! Hope you're having a blast at RWA.

Gregory Payne/Alex Carreras said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading that post. Have a great time!