The house facing us on the other side of the street, was cursed. Every family that moved into it wound up divorced. Strange, but true. Yes, there were a couple of other houses on the block that had seen a divorce, but those houses had seen only one. The house across the street had seen several, one after another. Each time we got to know and like these new neighbors, suddenly they were divorced, sometimes after quite acrimonious exchanges in the street. It was sad, because it meant that the house had to be sold, and its occupants disappeared, possibly never to be seen again.
The corner house, the one facing the Coles, was home to a family with three little boys and the tallest dog I had ever seen. While their name was Italian, the lady of the house was very Irish, and much involved in her Irish heritage, making sure the rest of the family shared her enthusiasm. They attended every Hibernian gathering they could find, marching in parades, getting dressed up in green on Saint Patrick’s Day, attending dinners honoring this or that worthy, and doing all those other things that the Irish do with apparent relish. They enjoyed the parades the most as they enabled them to take their Irish wolfhound, which was their pride and joy, with them. His name was Guinness, and he was a gentle beast. Occasionally, when the mood struck him, Guinness would take it into his narrow Irish wolfhound head to leave his home and gallop through the lawns and backyards of the neighborhood, leaping gracefully and effortlessly over rocks and fences. Neighbors would try to help and head off the fleeing hound, but with no success. That dog could really move! Pat would rush out of her house yelling for Guinness to come back, but usually to no avail. Finally, in desperation, she would stand at the top of the stairs of her split-level waving a large, raw steak and yelling for Guinness. This usually did work, and got Guinness to return home.
Pat and Paul had three little boys, one of them a baby, the others five or six years old, who in the company of another little boy who lived further down on Woodside, wandered freely up and down the block. They generally wore parts of military uniforms, playing military games, sometimes with a helmet, sometimes without, but usually with toy guns of some type. Their specialty in the spring was the ceremonial beheading of tulips, which did not make them popular with the gardeners of the neighborhood, and enraged their parents who loved their tulips, but the boys were impartial as to whose tulips they decapitated. I didn’t have tulips, so when they stopped near my house it was generally only briefly, just to have pissing contests near the hydrangeas. They were fun kids to have in the neighborhood, and their verve and spontaneity made them favorites when they weren’t busy destroying tulips. But they and their parents moved out for the usual reason, along with Guinness, the leaping Irish wolfhound, who died quite suddenly of some kind of stomach condition peculiar to the breed.
Later in life, two of the boys, the oldest and the youngest, became soldiers and served in Iraq. Ironically, the one who died tragically, the middle son, was never a soldier, never went to Iraq. While driving to his mother’s house in Colorado, his car went over a cliff. His body was not found until days later. It is always sad when someone so young dies, and his family and all of us who knew him when he was just a little boy on Woodside Avenue were hit hard by the young man’s sudden and unexpected death.