A few years ago, I moved out of a neighborhood I’ve lived in most of my life. It was one of those established neighborhoods where you know everybody’s name if they are the type of people who want to be known.
Alice and her daughter Pam (whom I may or may not have had a crush on) lived on the corner. Bisco and Sadie lived a couple of houses down from them. A retired war veteran named Kaj lived nearby. So did a widow named Germaine, Dennis and his family, a kid named Mike and his family, a man named Kazmir and his siblings, a couple of kids named Tommy and Lori and their mother, more kids named Bill and Phillip and their mother, Stan and Bernice, and finally, Tom, Karen and their children. A few other houses on the block turned over frequently, but for the most part, this was our core group.
Fifty-some-odd years later, most of them have either moved or passed away. But I’ll always remember little things about each of them. Today, I want to tell you about Bisco and Sadie. Maybe it’ll prompt memories of someone from your neighborhood when you were growing up. If it does, I’d love to hear about them.
Bisco (I never knew if this was his real name or not) worked in a packing house, and he was a fun-loving guy who loved to tease my sister and me. Sadie was demonstrative when she spoke, often drawing out her words, as if she were in a perpetual state of surprise (Noooooooo. Reeeeeeeeeeally?!), and she gasped between sentences. She was also as sweet as they come.
After my parents divorced, my mom, sister, and I moved into the neighborhood. I was eight and my sister was five. Mom had to go back to work, so she needed a babysitter. Sadie came to the rescue. During the school year, she walked across the street to make sure my sister and I got off to school in time. During the summer, we stayed at her house, which was always interesting.
Bisco and Sadie were Polish, and occasionally, Sadie would speak Polish. I always suspected she did that when she wanted to curse, but I was never able to confirm my suspicions. Out of curiosity, I looked up a few Polish interjections recently, and I can just imagine Sadie putting her hands on her hips and saying po moim trupie [over my dead body] or kak babcię kocham [as I live and breathe].
Bisco was much less tactful. He actually taught me a few Polish curse words.
He also brought home some of the craziest things to eat from the packing house – including pickled pigs feet, cow hearts and various other animal parts that should never be consumed in my opinion. If he could get me to say, “Ewwww,” all the better in his mind.
As a single mother, I don’t know how Mom ever afforded to pay Sadie, but I can remember Sadie denying money from Mom on multiple occasions because that’s just the type of neighbor she was. Even after my sister and I no longer needed a babysitter, we’d visit Sadie, or she would come across the street to visit us – especially after Bisco died. She’s been gone a long time now, but I’ll never forget her.
I drive by Bisco and Sadie’s former house occasionally, and in my mind, I can still see Bisco on the front porch reading his newspaper and Sadie sitting on the front steps with an iced tea in her hand, chatting with neighbors.
In an age when we barely make eye contact or simply offer a polite wave to neighbors, I want to do my part to be a Biscoe and Sadie in my new neighborhood.
I cross the street to talk to a guy named Mike whenever I see him outside. He would do anything to help anyone, even though he has a lot of challenges himself. And I enjoy chatting with Jerry and his wife Pat who live down the street. For years, Jerry took a widow in the neighborhood to get groceries. I’m also starting to get to know an elderly man named Joe who lives nearby. I won’t be able to speak Polish to any of them, but I can speak in my own language, using my own vernacular. Somehow, I think that would please Bisco and Sadie.