Queens Walking: VI

The sixth in my series of walking meditations on various neighborhoods in Queens.


South onto 48th Street, past the Home Depot and the Old Navy, past Northern Boulevard and the grimy asphalt, past the bodegas and the train tracks — there is green. Sunnyside Gardens, preserved with care and intention, unfurls its petals and welcomes me into its splendor. Fields of clover and purple daisies cover the yard of number 3932, same as my childhood home in the suburbs of Chicago. My mother was an avid gardener, and as a child, I rejoiced when our house would trumpet call to spring with lilies and tulips, wandering tomato vines and prancing carnations. To be in Sunnyside is to hear the clover make its proclamation, to see the red tulip burst forth with joy, to watch the daisy flutter its eyelashes at the coming spring.

South down 48th Street, past the courts and the gardens, past the weekend cyclists, past the buds drifting off waifish trees — there is worship. Sunnyside Reformed Church, A Christian Community established in 1896 on the corner of Skillman Avenue. The marquee sign with the changeable letters calls out, “ALL ArE WELcOME!” I shield my eyes from the light reflecting off the faded mint green belltower. An older woman with close-cropped hair moseys out of the chapel. There are others, but I see only her, smiling and firmly clasping her companion’s hand — a Sunday morning gesture. Peace be with you; and also with you. It’s the kind of church where you find the God of your own understanding. The God of your heart, the God of the flowers, the God that emerges in spring from underneath melted concrete.

South to Queens Boulevard, past the fire escapes and vines, past the coffee shops and strolling sidewalks, past the mint-and-cream tiled pharmacy — there is the gate. Rungs of metal curving and climbing to form a miniature sloped skyline, its white surface cloudy with decades of car exhaust and the weathering of seasons. SUNNYSIDE, it proclaims. SUNNYSIDE, it reaches out. SUNNYSIDE, it grabs hold. I slip under the gate with a child’s abandon. Under and through into the weekend throngs, where the neon ice cream truck calls to the suits and dresses streaming out of the Jehovah’s Witnesses Assembly Hall. The streets are jumping and grooving with celebration. Light beams down on us, kind and sweet. The sun meets us in union, and if I could draw Greenpoint Avenue, rays would spread from the center and graze the ground beneath my feet. Just enough sun to beckon the flowers open.