One Year Ago – 2020
On our final night in Brooklyn a year ago, my husband and I took a walk on Court Street. We headed through Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens to our favorite pizza joint. It was grey and rainy. A fine mist fell over everything as we sat at the outdoor table, pretending to enjoy our food. There was already an ominous emptiness on the street and we wondered if we should have ventured outside. Yellow caution tape warned anyone trying to enter Carroll Park that it was no longer open. The statue of Saint Lucy, at the corner of Court and 1st Place, was being pelted by sheets of rain as we made our way home. We left Brooklyn the next day for our home in LA.
The Present – 2021
I had no idea what to expect when I returned to Brooklyn after an entire year. What would the tragic losses sustained as part of the pandemic mean to the neighborhood I had grown to know and love? Would Caputo’s, the hundred- year -old bakery with stacks of fragrant sesame seed loaves still be there? Would Esposito’s Meat Market, with the life size pig dressed in a natty blue chef’s apron still greet customers? Would the statue of Saint Lucy still watch over the crowds of shoppers on Court Street?
My heart pounded as I walked down Bond Street, past the Gowanus Housing Projects, past bodegas that seemed to have survived, past a neighborhood “sharing store,” evidently a place to bring books and items one wanted to give to neighbors in need. I turned right on President Street to the heart of Carroll Gardens. I saw my first robin of spring hopping on a wrought iron bench around which hyacinths were beginning to show their lilac blossoms.
“New Yorkers Are Tougher”
The first thing I saw as I turned right onto Court Street was a chalkboard sign that said, “Times are tough, but New Yorkers are tougher.” The pig in front of Esposito’s beckoned me inside.
The shop was bustling. Caputo’s had a Springtime scene painted on its window and the familiar smell of freshly baked bread was tantalizing. I purchased a bag of pignoli cookies to munch as I made my way to Carroll Park.
The playground was a hive of activity. Children squealed with delight, parents clutched cups of coffee and chatted. Adolescent boys played a game of pick-up.
Everyone was masked but it made no impact on the joy of movement, of camaraderie, of a community doing normal things in a park on a late spring afternoon.
A Hopeful, Watchful Eye
Daffodils outlined the tiny sidewalk that led up to the statue of Saint Lucy across the street from Carroll Park. As I stood contemplating her benevolence, a neighborhood denizen came up to me and introduced himself. “I’ve lived here for 71 years. Tuddy Baldasaro placed this statue here. Saint Lucy is the saint for eyes. When he was going in for eye surgery, he prayed to Saint Lucy and it came out fine. He put this here and his son maintains it.” Saint Lucy had indeed watched over Court Street. And with my eyes, I saw signs of hope and renewal everywhere.
Kate Fuglei is an actress and singer who divides her time between Studio City and Brooklyn. She has appeared in over forty episodes of television, including most recently in one of the first episodes of STAR TREK/PICARD. She is a published author with two novels based on the lives of the physicist Enrico Fermi and the educator Maria Montessori. The greatest blessing in her life is her marriage to writer Ken LaZebnik and her two sons, Jack LaZebnik and Ben LaZebnik. They inspire her every single day.
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