Growing Up, Jess the Giant

After World War II, most of our fathers were so happy to be alive, to have cheated Death, they fearlessly pursued their dreams creating little heavens on Earth with whatever time they had left before the real Heaven was ready to accept them.

The tide of ex-GI's began sweeping across the burbs, converting former farm land and orchards into carbon copy housing developments across the country, never receding as other oceans do.  Our little corner of the world in Bergen County, NJ was no different.  The former soldiers who became friends and neighbors raised their families at a fairly consistent rate, which was great for us kids, having extended brothers and sisters, as well as enough members to fill baseball, football, and basketball teams, with extras for substitutions.

It was great growing up in the 50's.  This was a lower middle class neighborhood, but what we didn't know about wealth made it easier to be happy with what we had, and that was all that mattered.  I have a list of stories about my neighborhood friends, and the first one I'm going to start with is Jess, who was the biggest kid on the block.

Jess's parents were both very tall, his father also very skinny.  Jess's mother was best described as an amazon.  She was well over six feet tall, well proportioned, not skinny or full figured.  When he was around 11 or 12, Jess was also around six feet tall, and never seemed to have lost his baby fat.  Compared to the rest of us, he could best be described as a biclops, since he had two eyes.  He was also very strong, with a temper, which increased his strength during anger.  I saw him once overpower his father while enraged, only to have his mother intervene.  She grabbed Jess by the back of the neck, like a lioness would her cub, and marched him home, he limply walking in front of her.

I guess the onset of puberty and racing hormones had Jess feeling his oats around the rest of us twerps, and he was starting to bully more than be civil.  One day he started picking on me about something, so I just left to go home, and started to plot my revenge.

I waited until Jess passed my house on his brand new two wheeler bike when I took a broom handle, and threw it spear like through the spokes of the front wheel.  He flipped over the handlebars, cutting his nose in the process.

With the potent combo of anger, rage, and tears, he said,  "Johnny, if I catch you, I'm gonna to kill you."

He would have, if I couldn't run like the wind in those days.  I could have killed him, ended up in a juvenile detention center where things would have turned out differently for me.

However, Jess lived, and I'm sure he still has the scar on his nose today, but we became the best of friends, sort of like a cat and dog seeking their own level.  In fact he sort of became my protector, intervening on my behalf when a confrontation was brewing.  I guess we did have our own laws of the jungle.

Over time, we all moved out of the neighborhood to where ever, losing track along the way.  I'd like to think, where ever we are, we from time to time think amusingly with fondness of these escapades, which somehow, we survived them.

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