Updated: Jul 25
"hey mister, have you got a dime..." -Donna Summer
My mother didn’t know much about Englewood other than it was close to her new job at The Riverside Church Center in Morningside Heights and that she got a good deal on a three-bedroom house within walking distance of an elementary school, a middle school, and a high school. "Three miles as the crow flies" to the George Washington Bridge, Mrs. Keller, the owner, told us after my mother signed the papers buying the house. After the ink had dried on the contract, Mrs. Keller also told my mother that they were moving because the school system in Englewood was "horrible." My mother calmly replied, “Oh, well that’s interesting.”
On June 1st we pulled up to the house with a moving van full of our worldly possessions. Ever since I can remember, my mother has always insisted on doing everything herself: plumbing, sheet rock, electrical wiring. This work ethic, or at least this aversion to hiring outside labor, also meant that when we moved, we also moved every piece of furniture and all of our personal belongings by ourselves, which left the bulk of the heavy lifting to her children. The “fun” started when we couldn’t fit the couch through the front door. It was nine a.m. and already about ninety degrees outside. But as New Yorkers love to say, it wasn’t the heat, it was the humidity. The morning felt like a recurring nightmare I had about being choked with a wet hot steaming pile of my Spiderman Underoos.
We had been trying for at least forty-five minutes to get our newly reupholstered orange couch in the house. We turned it sideways, upside down, pulled the legs off, pushed, twisted, and squeezed and nothing was working. Sparked by the inevitable frustration of moving day, the fireworks started when I suggested to my mother that maybe getting the couch through the door was impossible.
With sweat streaming down her face, she screamed, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT CAN’T BE DONE!’ GODDAMMIT! PICK IT UP AND PULL HARDER!”
Fortunately, before she got to the real cursing, the Birdman showed up. The longtime local mailman, the Birdman was a constantly whistling bird-imitating muscular, tattooed Vietnam veteran with a red scarf wrapped around his forehead. Right as my mother was about to tear the door frame out, the Birdman came bounding up the front steps, flexed his muscles, whistled a bird call and hauled the couch and every last remaining piece of furniture into our house. God Bless the USPS.