In Buenos Aires as a boy I lived in two homes. One was in Martinez and the other in Coghlan, on Calle Melián. Both houses were within walking distance of the train station that went from the outskirts of the city to its core at Retiro Station.
All I remember of Martínez is the gate to the street, and the tan coloured baldosas (tiles) of the sidewalk. This ubiquitous Buenos Aires sidewalk baldosa would quickly loosen up randomly and when women (in particular) walked home (from work, perhaps) after a rainstorm they would find parts normally unseen to men suddenly wet from water that would squish upwards from the loosened baldosa. But since I was only no more than three or four, a baldosa was only an item I had to avoid falling on from my four-wheeled bike. A baldosa was hard and short pants did not protect my knees.
I may have been five when we moved to Melián. I have memory of three beds. The first was a crib. And the crib was in my parent’s bedroom. Our house had a living room and a dining room next to the bedroom plus a kitchen, and a bathroom beyond the kitchen. The bathroom had a device that shot water with force up into the ceiling. I did not know what a bidet was. There was an upstairs (access through outside stairs) which had two rooms. One was occupied by whoever was our housekeeper (first a couple called Celia and her husband Abelardo, both as black as betún, shoe polish as my mother often said, and then by Mercedes and her sister Enilse who lived in the adjacent room).
Somehow I have a few memories of being in that crib during the day with either a cold or some perennial stomach problem (the Haywards were prone to stomach problems). What is strange is that I remember being in that crib while sketching a cover of el Llanero Solitario (The Lone Ranger) comic book. I drew and sketched with skill until I was 14.
The bedroom (the house had been built in the early 1900s so it had very high ceilings) had a large door to the back garden and like most houses in BA at the time they were protected by massive steel shutter with horizontal louvers.
I was put to bed on my parent’s wide bed for siesta and I could see flickering movement beyond the shutters. Perhaps it was Mercedes hanging the wash to dry. The flickering lights and shadows were magical and would eventually put me to sleep. Many years later I would associate those siestas and the flickering shadows with Plato’s Cave.
At some point (was I five or six) I may have become precocious so my father banned me and the crib (it could have been a bed by then) to outside the bedroom, adjacent to the living room. By then I remember listening to evening radio programs while in bed.
Right after Christmas and the Epiphany (January 6), I was usually carted off to camp (as Anglo Argentines called the country). One place was called Glen Rest in the province of Córdoba. It may have been upon my return (was I 7 or 8?) when my father told me there was a surprise. Enilse had married her Tram 35 conductor so the room adjacent to Mercedes was empty. My father had installed a bed and decorated the wall with strips cut from my favourite magazine Billiken.
My father looked at me firmly knowing I would have to retire in the dark and go up those outside stairs to my room, and told me I was old enough to be brave and to sleep alone.
I don’t remember anything more but I have that lingering memory of sketching the Lone Ranger in my crib. And it was a pretty good likeness. I was good.
Originally published at blog.alexwaterhousehayward.com.