J. Michael Lennon

Archivist, Biographer, Educator

Category: Memoir

44 Bark Street

I was ensconced in utero on the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and not long after my birth in June 1942, my father went off to war. John Michael Lennon is my full name, but from birth I was called Michael to avoid confusion with my father, John Charles. I am the eldest of four children (my brother Peter, is approximately five years younger, and my twin sisters, Kathleen and Maureen, six), and the oldest of 34 first cousins. For my first five years, I lived with my mother, the former Mary Mitchell and her parents at 44 Bark Street in Fall River, Massachusetts, until my father’s return in April 1946 (the same month Mailer returned from Japan).

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The Dark Closet

My grandparent’s four-bedroom house at 44 Bark Street, in Fall River, Massachusetts, was slightly larger than the others in the neighborhood, but small by today’s standards. The porch, or piazza, as it was called, wrapped around two sides and made the house seem larger. The piazza was my coign of vantage to observe all movement on the street and in the yard. From the front, I waved to cousin Preston, who pushed his wagon up the hill while crying out, “Any raaags, any bones, any bottles.” I also met the mailman, who handed me letters from his leather bag with a smile. But when my grandmother’s friend, an old crone known as Peggy-with-the-Long-Tooth, came walking down the hill, I hid. She squeezed me hard and kissed me whenever she could, and I could feel her tooth against my cheek.

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