re upping who we are (for the new decade)

My mother and her friends opened an unusual children’s clothing store called “Gee, The Kids Need Clothes” catty-corner from Julius’ (a gay bar and one of the only neighboring businesses still going from that era – The Riviera on 7th Ave is one other). My brothers and I went to P.S. 41, and every afternoon when school let out, we’d race around 6th past Patchin Place, stopping at Sutter’s French Bakery at Greenwich and 10th for a snack, and then run down to “the store.” My mother always coming around the counter for a hug, she would send us to do our homework at the front and then in warm weather we’d all move outside. I played Jacks. My brothers sometimes played stoop ball or running bases in the street. “The store” was a messy, colorful manifestation of our mother’s imagination. Everything she dreamt about was on display: posters from France, drawings, children’s art, her art, postcards, pretty labels she couldn’t part with. My memories are mostly the sounds of children and adults talking talking talking. And the smell of coffee and gumballs mixing together. Chinese food coming in around dinner time. Walking home as a family – arms slung around each other other’s shoulders, no idea that the days’ end would ever end. My mother was a pottery and painting student whose work stopped for domestic life and getting through the day. Gee The Kids became her canvas and her wheel. It was a noble medium in that era. It was a time when having a mother with a store on 10th Street was something special.

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Poster 1973.

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Thank goodness today is Friday.

The medium blue linoleum sink counters at my elementary school are still there.  I remember this because I once transformed the whole nook into a model of the water and surrounding environment of Lake Victoria for a social studies project on a day that feels like yesterday though it was in 1972.

My mother died 30 years ago today, Wednesday, October 9,  between two curtains in the intensive care area of Saint Vincent’s Hospital across the street from school.  The hospital is now a condominium and this morning I could see a line of art-moving trucks emptying art into the building. It was the first semi-positive sign of the day.

I was at school today because I had signed up to help make applesauce for my son’s class. I walked up the old stairs to the 4th floor, through the doors and around the hallway.  Eli was at the front of the line waiting to go in.  He was embarrassed I guess because he didn’t look at me. So I stayed back with the girls at the table on the other side of the room and helped them carve the beloved Honeycrisps and the newly named Divas.  I learned that there are 7,000 different types of apples in the world and that no one knows why.

When we were finished and my son left the room without saying goodbye, I walked to the sink to wash my hands. Also to check that the linoleum was still there. Passing the guest chef I told her that even though I was a parent, I had also been a 4th grader there, too.  Looking into  the sink, thinking of my lake project, my weeks of preparation, my mother’s patient craftwork and good-natured guidance, I had to hide my tears while politely asking her name.  “Victoria,” she said.

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this is a link to a mr beller’s neighborhood entry about the store

http://mrbellersneighborhood.com/2002/02/gee-the-kids-need-clothes

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251.

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West 10th Street. 1970’s.

IMG_5360

My mother and her friends opened an unusual children’s clothing store called “Gee, The Kids Need Clothes” catty-corner from Julius’ (a gay bar and one of the only neighboring businesses still going from that era – The Riviera on 7th Ave is one other). My brothers and I went to P.S. 41, and every afternoon when school let out, we’d race around 6th past Patchin Place, stopping at Sutter’s French Bakery at Greenwich and 10th for a snack, and then run down to “the store.” My mother always coming around the counter for a hug, she would send us to do our homework at the front and then in warm weather we’d all move outside. I played Jacks. My brothers sometimes played stoop ball or running bases in the street. “The store” was a messy, colorful manifestation of our mother’s imagination. Everything she dreamt about was on display: posters from France, drawings, children’s art, her art, postcards, pretty labels she couldn’t part with. My memories are mostly the sounds of children and adults talking talking talking. And the smell of coffee and gumballs mixing together. Chinese food coming in around dinner time. Walking home as a family – arms slung around each other other’s shoulders, no idea that the days’ end would ever end. My mother was a pottery and painting student whose work stopped for domestic life and getting through the day. Gee The Kids became her canvas and her wheel. It was a noble medium in that era. It was a time when having a mother with a store on 10th Street was something special.

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The kids need clothes.

Wondering if anyone will find this blog. Or remembers this children’s clothing store from the 70’s. It’s not a lament. It’s a store.

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Hello world!

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