This week’s “Remember the Time Blog Hop” topic is supposed to be about the time we had an imaginary friend. I never had an imaginary friend. I have plenty of voices in my head, but none of them are very friendly and I work very hard to keep them contained. Rather than bow out of the weekly writing episode, I have decided to break the rules and write about my very first childhood friend, Tim Apwisch (Timmy). I know I am not the first in the blog hop to break this rule as my virtual friend Kelly has done the same thing so hopefully I won’t get kicked out of the club, (oh and real friends sure beat having a jar of pimentos as a friend).
At the age of 4 my parents moved from a rented house in Fairfield, Ohio and into another rented home that was within walking distance to a good elementary school in next door Hamilton, Ohio. We moved into 1029 Goodman Ave. Right across the street was the only boy that was my same age in the immediate area. His name was Timmy and he lived at 1036. We were told by our moms that we were going to be in Kindergarten together and so we should walk to school together. Tim and I were to become like US and Canada – getting along together was going to be very easy and we would ultimately never fight each other. The Hubbards who lived up the street were more like Mexico – you could coexist with the Hubbards but you felt like you needed a big fence up around their yard to help keep them contained.
Tim’s dad, (Art), I thought had the coolest job in the world – he was the guy who refilled all those candy dispensers. He had a service truck loaded with chocolate – how cool is that (or maybe they were cigarettes)! They had the coolest car in the neighborhood too – a giant Cadillac with a high beam detector and the rear tail light that when flipped up, showed the hiding gasoline cap. It was like owning a Batmobile! Tim’s mom….Tim’s mom I want to spend some time writing about. Tim’s mom name was Ginny.
Ginny was short for Virginia, but she was simply Ginny to me, (not to be confused with Forrest Gump’s Jenny). Ginny was not your typical ‘in-the-kitchen-Italian-mom’. No, Ginny was more of a Sophia Loren type of Italian mom. She was a pretty, vivacious, outspoken, dark-haired Italian girl. She was the kind of lady that I would love to hang around with today because it was never boring when Ginny was around. She loved to laugh and man, did she love her kids. You want to know why Italians have the stereotype that they do? Well it’s no stereotype – Ginny spoke her mind, she protected her litter and if you tried to harm someone she loved – God help you.
I got to witness this firsthand for myself one day when we were out in my alley playing. There were a few bigger boys who lived in the house across the alley from ours. One of them hit or bullied Tim one day and made him go home crying. I think we were in first grade at the time. If we were in 1st grade the other boy must have been in 4th because he was quite a bit larger than we were. Not 5 minutes later, here comes Ginny with Tim in tow, cutting through our yard walking directly into the alley and standing right behind the open yard where the bigger boys were still hanging out. She stayed in the alley and yelled at them, “you boys come here”. They did and then she looked at Tim and asked him, “which boy hit you?”. Timmy pointed out the kid and then Ginny directed her attention to the big kid. I will never forget this episode of my life as I just think it is so cool and perfectly characterizes one of the aspects I admired in Ginny. She calmly stepped forward one pace and told the big kid, “Tim has a big brother. His name is Ricky Buttery and he’s 15 years old (note that I am guessing – I think Rick was about 8-9 years older than Tim). Would you like me to send his brother over here or would you prefer to be hit back by Tim here?” Wow….I mean WOW!! I love this mom!
Well you know what happened next. Of course the big kid chose to be hit by Timmy. So Ginny told him to go on, hit him as hard as you can in the arm. Tim was a tough little guy for his age so he ‘rared back’ and punched this other kid just as hard as he could in the arm. I know it had to hurt a bit, even coming from a little first grader. The big boy overreacted a bit, (as I remember it today), but the dispute was calmly settled and a message was sent not only to these kids but to anyone else in the neighborhood – “mess with mine and you’re messing with me!” I got to see this same scene played out a year or two later with another kid who was seen being mean to Tim’s pet cat. Ginny was an amazing woman and when she loved you, you knew it. She always treated me like I was hers. Anytime I came over to her house, I was welcomed in and given anything she would give to her own children (including a flash peek at her stepping out of the bathroom after a shower with her not knowing I was there, oops, thanks Mrs Apwisch).
Tim’s older brother Rick came from Ginny’s first marriage. He was a good looking boy with a reputation for being a bit of a tough guy. My dad was maybe only 10 years older than Rick so I can remember a few times when they would go out at night together to do things like going gigging for frogs. I don’t remember ever eating any frog legs as a kid, but I like them today so maybe I did – after all, they do taste like chicken. The most important recollection I have of Rick is that when you have a much older brother, particularly one who is tough like Rick, it earned you instant respect – Tim got a lot of respect from anyone who knew he had an older brother. Ginny also had a hot younger sister named Edie. I only knew her as “Aunt Edie” and that’s what I called her. Those two must have really been a pair when they were growing up. Grandma Spada I remember visiting at least a couple of dozen times. She lived close by on Barnard. Let me just say that you could not get out of that house without an overfilled belly. I couldn’t understand a word she said, (Italian born I think), but I knew she wanted me to eat – so anytime we went there, we had to be prepared to stuff our faces (ok, twist my arm Grandma Spada).
Tim and I were always together when I lived on Goodman Ave. We walked everyday to and from school and he was there to go retrieve my mom when I got hit by the school bus (read me). When we wanted to play with each other, we had a “call” we would make. I’m not sure how the call began but it was common to do where I grew up. If I wanted to play with Tim, for example, I’d walk over to his door and instead of knocking on the door or ringing the doorbell, I’d lift my voice and sing, “Oh Timmy” and if he wanted me, the same – “Oh Robbie, come out and play”. It was a little like the Warriors Come out to Play call but a lot less maniacal (and of course we didn’t use coke bottles – those suckers were worth 2 cents each!). If we weren’t playing Army, maybe we’d be making Creepy Crawlers (read me), or we’d be riding our bikes to Millikin Woods or we’d be out collecting something. One year we collected cigarette wrappers, another year it was bottle caps, another year it was acorns and of course we were always on the lookout for pop bottles since they could be cashed in for Chum Gum.(read me).
I described Tim as being a protector, (like his mother), a George Harrison type of guy in one of my stories (unpublished at time of this writing). Once in first grade a big kid in our class who was a bit of a bully with his size singled me out as his target for a few days. I tried resisting him but he was quite a bit bigger and tougher than I was. I mentioned him to my friend Timmy and that was all it took. Tim told me to follow him and we went to find Mike (the bully kid). He was in the classroom after recess and the teacher was not yet there. Tim just walked right over to him, hit him hard in the arm and told him to leave his friend alone – that was all it took. (By the way, this same kid accidentally peed his pants in class once – what goes around, comes around I always say). Today I see that Tim still is trying to protect – he’s a vegetarian and he’s an advocate for animal rights. He always did love his pets.
There are so many other memories that I intend to write about as standalone stories involving Tim that I don’t want to spoil them by writing only a sentence or two here. When my family moved from Goodman after the 4th grade, I left behind a large chapter of childhood. Soon after moving out, Tim’s family also moved. They moved out of the urban and into the rural, into the Lakota school district back when Lakota was all a bunch of farm houses and country roads. For a very short time I also remember Tim living very close to LeSourdesville Amusement Park. We went a few year period there when we did not see much of each other due to the distance between us. Then around 8th grade or so he had someone bring him over to the Prytania neighborhood to hang out with us again. He’d spend a few nights at our place and would flirt with one of my sisters, (Toni). He and Toni got along pretty well and I always thought that maybe one day they might become an item, but that hasn’t happened (yet).
Then 1989 came around. Tim and I had not seen each other for perhaps high school. I am pretty certain he moved away right around our 18th year. I’m thinking he moved down to Florida because I remember he wasn’t to be found when I got married in 1978. He called me one day in ’89 and said he was in town and would like to come over to visit. We were living in a small house on Brookwood Ave in Hamilton and I had been asked to move to Louisiana that summer, (by my neighbors – not really, it was work). Kim & I had 8 and 3 year old boys already. Tim & I spent a couple hours just hanging out together that day and that was the last time I saw Tim face to face.
When I heard from my sister that his mom had passed away I was indeed deeply saddened. Luckily my sister had phoned me when she heard the news and so I picked up the telephone and called the operator to find his phone number in Florida so I could talk to him and express my sadness and condolences. That was maybe a dozen years ago. Tim had a special relationship with his mom; he was her little man and I’m sure he still misses her.
I hope to see Tim again someday before one of us passes and I’m sure the opportunity will present itself sometime and I’ll make that happen. In the meantime, I have a permanent reminder of days gone by and of simpler times of being a child, growing up on Goodman Ave and attending Fillmore Elementary school. In 1993 I talked my wife into having a third child. When he was born the following year, we discussed names for the little monster. I thought of a name that made me smile and brought back fond memories – Timothy. Yes, my third son’s name is Tim and I chose that name for my child as a way to honor another child who was very special to me when I was a little guy myself.
Just as our parents grew up in a simpler time than we, we grew up in a time much simpler than today. The mention of the name ‘Tim’ brings back memories of pop bottles and Sting-Rays, of The Beatles and Batman, of crab apple fights and penny candy and of all-day bicycle excursions to Millikin Woods in a time where kids could be kids all day by themselves without fear and without their parents worrying for their whereabouts.
- Who Needs Imaginary Friends? (perfectionpending.net)