The Spaces Between Your Fingers

Click the image to flip

Flip
I interviewed my dad, Wayne, at our home in South Carolina. I asked him what his favorite game to play was as a kid, so he told me all about playing chess with his old friend Theodore Edison, the son of the West Orange native, Thomas Edison. This memory is so unique to my dad's childhood and perfectly captures the feel of our hometown.

“I’ll be back by 9:30!” Wayne yelled to his mom as he grabbed the creaky front door handle on his way out of the door.

He looked back through the crack of the almost shut, old wooden door to see her familiar nod of confirmation. He cheerily hopped down the handful of steps from the entrance of the two-family home. His gray Velcro Sketchers hit the pavement of the sidewalk and he looked up to see the busy 1970’s atmosphere of downtown West Orange, New Jersey.

It was around 6 o’clock, mid-January. Wayne dodged around the busy streets, thanking himself that he wouldn’t be in the cold long; the West Orange Community Center was only a block or two away. He jolts across the street – Wayne never waited for the crosswalk to turn green when he had somewhere to be. In fact, he never even waited for Johnny, West Orange’s most beloved cross-walker, to give him the go-ahead.

His excitement, and the mere quarter-mile walk, led Wayne to the Community Center entrance within just a few minutes. He creeks the familiar heavy metal door open to the maroon-brick mansion. It wasn’t that big actually, but a three-story renovated warehouse looked like a castle to any middle-school boy.

Wayne leaps through the double-doored entrance to find the recreation center flooding with kids from Edison Middle School.

He glances around until he sees his old friend, Theodore. Theo’s thick white beard initially caught Wayne’s eye, leading him to do a quick speed-walk to their table from across the open auditorium-style rec room.

Wayne leaps into his usual unfolded metal chair and saw that good old Theo had already set up their chess match. Wayne lets out a quick breath once he gets settled at their timeworn wooden table.

Theo gives him a smile, his small circular glasses catching the fluorescent lights of the busy room. Wayne quickly returns the smirk. They begin.

They don’t speak much; they’re too focused on the next move. Chess was no game to Wayne. He was quick with his moves, yet strategic enough to be the best out of his friends, who often didn’t even get why Wayne liked the game so much in the first place.

“I don’t get it,” Wayne’s prepubescent classmates would mumble under their breath. They would tease him out of their own frustration, snickering as they yell, “Why don’t you go play with that old guy anyway?”

The joke was on them though; Wayne loved playing with Theodore. He was good at the game, and he was a smart guy. He came from a well-known family around town, not that Wayne cared much anyway. He just liked the company.

“Checkmate.”

Wayne snaps his head up, pulling himself out of his thoughts. Theodore Edison, Thomas Edison’s son, just beat him at chess. Again.

“Rematch?” Wayne challenges.

“Of course.”

A Game of Chess

Flag as Inappropriate
1971
West Orange Community Center - Downtown West Orange, New Jersey

I interviewed my dad, Wayne, at our home in South Carolina. I asked him what his favorite game to play was as a kid, so he told me all about playing chess with his old friend Theodore Edison, the son of the West Orange native, Thomas Edison. This memory is so unique to my dad's childhood and perfectly captures the feel of our hometown.

Rating:
Recorded by Paige Trezza on April 27, 2020
×
×
4
×
Alert IconAre you sure you want to permanently delete this postcard? You cannot undo this action. Delete
×