The turf we played on was concrete and asphalt and brick. If we wanted to see some grass, we went to Sly Park. Or sometimes we went over to Copp’s Hill Burying Ground.
I remember one time I broke out with a mysterious rash on my face. A trip to the doctor’s office confirmed that I had contracted poison oak.
“Where would my daughter be exposed to oak trees around here?” my mother asked. The doctor wisely answered, “Do you know where your daughter is at all times?” Of course she didn’t.
We were roller skating all over the streets of the North End. With our skate keys hanging from our necks we flew up and down Hanover Street, Battery Street, Charter Street and all the other streets in our neighborhood.
But Holden Court was our own private playground. It’s a courtyard situated between 402 and 404 Commercial Street where I lived. In that safe space my friends and I played hopscotch, jumped rope, threw balls against the brick buildings and played Red Rover. We traded marbles that we called aggies or squirted each other with our plastic water guns.
My best friend, Irene Giuliano, would walk over from her apartment around the corner and standing below my second floor window, she would call up to me to come down and play. We would be joined by my sister, Angela, and our other friends, Elena, Juanita, Dolly, and Joey who lived on Holden Court.
If it were raining, we sat on the front steps inside my building and played board games like Sorry, Go to the Head of the Class, and Easy Money. Using a well-worn deck of cards, we would play War for hours. We had fun until my Aunt Mary, returning home from work, chased us back outside.
After supper in the summertime we would venture across the train tracks on Commercial Street and play on the loading docks of Battery Wharf or climb into the empty freight trains that were parked for the night.
We were imaginative and energetic in our play. The fire hydrant situated on the sidewalk at the entrance to Holden Court is a symbol of our childhood enthusiasm. We made a game of jumping over that hydrant again and again.
On a recent visit back to Boston my brother thought it would be fun to snap a picture of me attempting to jump over the hydrant. Alas, it wasn’t so easy anymore. But back then, in my childhood, it was easy and oh so much fun.