Grasshopper Assaults Builder of Constitution news@11

I Build the Constitution

In Brockton, we lived in a second floor apartment on Spring Street. Its entrance was via a stairway at the back whose last flight came up between the bathroom on one side and the kitchen on the other. It was a kind of shotgun affair – as in, if you fired a shotgun from the back door there was nothing to stop it all the way to the front door (which itself opened onto the front balcony porch). So it was all one big room from front to back, except for the bedrooms which were all on one side in line with one another, with their doors opening onto that area.

It was a real living room, for there the family lived life together, watched TV, ate meals and carried on the other chores and pleasures of life. And though the blur of everyday living condemns the history of that time to oblivion, one happening in particular stands out. It was a lunch.  Mom had fixed us all sandwiches, the main ingredient of which was lettuce. There was probably mayonaise and possibly some form of luncheon meat. I only remember the two eyes staring back at me from between the lettuce leaves after my first bite. The head of the grasshopper peeped out from the apex of the U created by my teeth. It was as green as the lettuce, and no doubt why my mom missed him when preparing the sandwich. And I only saw him because he moved (thankfully it wasn’t half a grasshopper). I turned green myself and put the sandwich aside, calling my Mom’s attention to the critter. I was distrustful of lettuce for a long time afterward.

It was also the site of my ship building. I had built a couple of ship models in Salem, little affairs that you could hold in one hand. As I mentioned in a past post, one was the US frigate Constitution. Now I had a brand new version of the same vessel, this time about three feet long, including the bowsprit; and over two feet high. It was fun and a challenge to build, what with the decks, masts and the intricacies of the rigging to put in place.

And it was a treat when our folks took us into Charlestown to see the ship herself. I remember the towering masts, the heavy timbers of the hull swathed in layers of paint, and an overwelming sense of history that upon those white decks, the story of our young navy was acted out. Little did I know then that one of my ancestors had trod the same decks, not as a sailor, but as a Massachusetts Militia volunteer, placed aboard with his unit to see the ship safely to New York City from Annapolis in 1861 (the subject of my ET series).