It was at this turn that my parents, abandoning hope of the garden, moved us away from its outskirts forever. Twice daily my father rode on a trolley car that groaned to a stop at every other corner between our door and a subway entrance in Manhattan, and my mother, to save him that hour a day, set out in search of four rooms within a walk of the subway; she found them across the river in Washington Heights. She then made ready for moving-day, and the family toiled for weeks to meet it to her satisfaction.
. . . From the bins in the cellar, where each family padlocked its odder belongings, my father struggled upstairs with the two proud barrels which were part of our estate, for sole use on moving-day, and stood them in the dining room. In them our dishware was to travel, and nightly they commenced to fill, my mother kneeling at ten cartons segregated clothes, toys, linens, groceries, pots and pans, all our unbreakables gathered in reverse order to our need for them in the new house, trimly packed, and dustless under newspaper. For a month she was washing shelves and scrubbing floors, scouring everything from the exterior of windows--seated outside them on sills above five stories of clotheslines in tight-mouthed fear, until my father came home to take her place--to inside the oven, leaving the flat immaculate for future tenants. . . Item by item we withdrew from it our taste, colors, textures, love, and by breakfast time on moving-day, when my father unjoined the bedsteads and my mother hurried to pack the last dishes in a barrel top, the rooms were like the empty husk of itself a locust leaves behind. I hung out the window to see the van back up to our sidewalk--it was raining, a family custom--and soon the men were clumping upstairs and into the flat, three huskies in workclothes, who surveyed our knots of worldly riches, propped the door open, and hefted everything out, singly and in grunting pairs . . . Least intimidated by their brawn was our upright piano in the parlor, but it went too, swathed in mats and ropes. Dollied to the window hole and hooked to a tackle rigged on the cornice of the building, it was cursed and shouldered out, and for a dreadful instant swung in the air uncertain of doom, until a man on the sill steadied it with a hand, the sidewalk man began to pay rope out, and slowly the huge and precious instrument, the family's soul, descended . . .
With my sister she then boarded the trolley car for the new flat, to see our furniture set down in it by the huskies as prearranged in her mind and by nightfall have her house in order again, but my father and I stayed as overseers to the final suitcase. When the floors were bare of every echo of us my father locked the door, neither of us knowing it was the last flat in which I was to be my parents' child, and he went downstairs with the keys and a two-dollar leave-taking to seek the janitor in the cellar; the half-filled van labored away from the sidewalk into the future, but the drizzle had stopped, and when my father with his umbrella came out of the cellarway he agreed to hike into the new borough via the footbridge. Halfway across its redbricked span we had a last look at the neighborhood named for it, Highbridge, with its green bluff and the diadem of family houses along it and the grayed sky above it all, then turned our backs, and over a river stagnant as Lethe walked together out of my childhood. . .
-from A MASS FOR THE DEAD, by William Gibson
Photo titled "end of line" via the beautiful blog on montague ... also displayed at Flickr photostream.
History about Highbridge, Bronx
History about Washington Heights, Manhattan
History about High Bridge, closed for 40 years and expected to reopen in 2012