Outsider

by Laura (Sparer) Lambie-Wallace

       I was one of only 5 Jews in P.S. 11, my elementary school that burned down when I was in 5th grade.

 

       Kids called us dirty Jews who killed Jesus. It was the first place where I realized I was an outsider when my teacher said, "If you like Russia why don't you go back there."

 

       My best friend was Johnny Conner, who was murdered by his father who killed the whole family. He lived across the street. Arthur Zizlowski, the only other Jew in my class, and I cried on Skillman Ave. when we learned of Johnny's death.

 

       I remember being an outsider when the FBI followed me home and asked me questions about my family, and when the friend I played with  every day after school said she couldn't be my friend any more.

 

       I remember riding my bike to the candy store and having it stolen while I was inside buying candy for my first love (7 years old) Billy Swinburne.

 

       I thought Macintosh apples were for progressives and red delicious were for all others. Politics were my parents' religion and social life.

 

       We were evicted from our apartment during the McCarthy years when the landlord used the excuse he wanted our place for a family member.

 

       I loved sitting on our stoop with my sister who always protected me on the way home from school through the big lot.

 

       The grocery delivery boy stuck his tongue in my mouth as did the father of one of our progressive friends.

 

       I looked forward to winning money every year when there were prizes in the park for sporting events.

 

       Being a Jewish atheist communist's child was difficult.