Hashtag Throwback Thursday. I am trying to get this all down. I am trying to capture the essence of the place where I was born and gave me definition. The distance from then to now seems so short, but the amount of history in every extinguished flame of life that has been lost is significant, so I feel like I must rush to define that narrow space so as not to lose it completely. Everything that comprised the few blocks of the east side of the Buffalo, New York of my youth was compact. My parents grew up on the same streets I roamed. The houses were separated by a narrow band of drive. They were nestled close together with low chain link fences in the backyard that encouraged conversation with your neighbor. My parent’s parents had settled here too. They came from Italy and Poland. They dug gardens in their yards and had children who spoke Italian but became fluent in English and they, in turn, had children who spoke only English. Because of this, there was a sense of the old world in the neighborhood. The old world where people built things with their hands, used flour and water to make bread which they broke with their family over conversation every night. That distance somehow narrowed with the rituals they brought from those small towns. I sometimes wonder, was this the uniqueness of the place? The hardship and longing in the heart of those who left what they knew and remade that place on the streets and in the neighborhood where I grew up. It was this longing and closeness that was passed on from generation to generation. It was the lives and families that were built on the backs of hard workers, the clipped lawns, the money in the envelopes that went into a basket passed by your neighbor. It was more than this too, it was the overwhelming influence of the women of that neighborhood. My mother and grandmother. The mothers of my friends and their grandmothers. It was the old stooped women who walked with their kerchiefs on, who knelt and prayed the rosary every morning and stopped for a minute on the way to the grocery to watch the children run and play. It was the remarkable ordinariness of them. It was an ordinariness that became extraordinary.Their constancy as the economy in Buffalo turned. Their worrying and thinking and getting the pen out, the writing down of figures after figures hoping everything would turn out right after their children were safely asleep and then there again in the morning bright, their husbands already at work. The quiet dignity and emotional strength they imparted with the most ordinary of tasks. In those days the big heavy industry, the steel plants that sustained the economy, was disappearing, but it was the women of that neighborhood who stood in defiance and refused to give up hope. They had come from people who had endured more difficult moments and stood making soup with the vegetables from their gardens as if to say our times are hard, but no matter how hard times get, if you have a family and you stick together you can make the best of it. It was this emotional strength that permeated the place. This idea of closeness, of how we are all connected, poured out of them like a light and allowed us to see. It was the women in our neighborhood who were strong and carried us forward without ever letting us know their strength. At parties I would see them huddled together in a kitchen, smoking and drinking, talking in a conspiratorial way before rejoining their husbands who they made laugh. I often wondered what they said to each other, but looking back at a photograph I found from the old neighborhood I like to think that what they were doing was simply listening to each other.