The Apartment on Buttonwood Street

The tenement house was three floors, covered in pink slate faded. Billy lived at number eight and mostly entered around the back door which was seldom locked and if it was he used the skeleton key hidden under the milk box.

The entrance door way had a pulley system with a length of iron attached to a rope which forced the door to close after being swung open. Billy liked to push the door as wide as possible and then try to run to the top of the stairs before the door slammed, resting on the top step breathing heavily and listening for the sound. This would prove to be good conditioning for the youngster’s future endeavor.

On entering you were in the kitchen, to the right a large gas stove providing both heat and cooking. On the left was the fridge, in the center a table and chairs.

The bathroom on the left with the toilet tank up top and a handle you pulled down on to flush also a bathtub only no shower. Billy’s older sister Annie had her own small bedroom, Mom and Dad had a bedroom and Billy shared a bed and a bedroom with older brother John and eldest brother Mickey who slept on a cot along with them.

Billy was the youngest and a real Momma’s Boy and proud of it. Billy attended St. Michael’s the Catholic Elementary School as had his brothers and sister who were now all in Conway High School.  St. Michael’s was across the Common where we played youth baseball, from the apartment.

At night Billy’s Dad would come home from work and first thing take off his white shirt and tie removing the pen holder from the shirt pocket. He would generally put on a turtleneck shirt. He would then take off his shoes and put on slippers which left the pungent smell of his feet in the air. He would grab his newspaper and a Black Label beer and sit with his feet up in his comfy chair.

Ma would make dinner Billy’s favorite being ground beef fricassee. 

Most nights after dinner Billy would pretend to do his homework or sometimes even would be allowed to watch television. Some nights he would sit in a chair with his Ma and she would ask “who’s boy are you” and Billy would respond “Momma’s Boy” while his brother John gave him a sly grin that meant Billy would get “noogied” later.

When it was bed time Billy kissed his dad on the cheek feeling the stubble of beard and the aroma of Black Label beer. It was comforting.

It was the 1960’s and Billy’s little world was complete and set and stable, so he thought. He was eight or nine years old and he didn’t understand, could not comprehend the universe. 

Ma had some medical problems that Billy didn’t understand. One day Billy came home and did his usual breathless run up the three flights of stairs. When he tried to open the apartment door it was locked. The voices inside sounded anxious and he recognized his aunties voice, Ma’s sister Bella.

Billy was frightened. He knocked on the door and his auntie spoke to him from the other side. “Everything is OK Billy, you just go outside and play and we will come and find you in a little while.

Billy went back outside and walked across the street to the common. He saw one of his friends throwing rocks into the Horse Chestnut Tree, trying to knock down the encased prized chestnuts.

Billy joined in and after a while he forgot about the drama back home. Later his auntie came and found him. She told him his Ma would have to go away for a while to the hospital in Manchester. Billy cried and his auntie bought him a pop.

Billy’s Ma never came home from that hospital and Billy never knew what happened to her. Billy was ten at the time of her death which was fifty years ago now. The family never talked about it.

Time does not, heal all wounds.