As Elevators Shrink



Neighborhood: Flushing, Pomonok

When had the elevator gotten so small?

When I was ten and living on the top floor of a building in the New York City Housing Project called Pomonok — a word the Algonquin Indians used for Long Island — I dreamed of stabling my horse in that elevator. The fantasy of actually having my own bay mare, white blaze down the middle of her face flanked by nostrils that would flare with joy at the sight of me each morning, lulled me to sleep at night. I had given up as childish the habit of clutching in my fist each night a plastic horse that I told my mother galloped me off to miraculous adventures, but truly, I half believed that a way could be found to accomodate both the relatively simple needs of my mare and the requirements of the other residents of the seven story building. I never claimed to be a very realistic child.

But now I was an grown-up. Of a certain age. Now, my parents were both gone, I was the mother of a young adult and I was back to visit the 93-year-old last remaining friend of the family — the woman I had grown up calling Aunt Sylvia despite the lack of any common blood between us. The woman who always recalled me as the most beautiful baby she had ever seen. After a hiatus of more than four decades I was once again pressing the bulbous brass button in the shabby lobby and waiting for the elevator to arrive.

The elevator arrived — no bell to mark its appearance but a light behind the wired glass window where there had previously been only darkness — and I pulled open the heavy metal door and stepped inside as I had perhaps thousands of times before. But where there had once been space for hay, oats, a water bucket and a 16-hands-tall mare, was now barely room for me and the appliance repairman who had been waiting behind me.

I know people always talk about how the summers were hotter, the winter snows deeper, the waves at the beach wilder in their youth, but to my knowledge, no one has ever been gob-smacked by the sad reality of a shrunken elevator. I pushed the button labeled 6 and leaned deep into a corner, squinting a little, hoping to recover the original propotions. The repairman pushed 3 and in a moment got out. Even without his presence, there was barely room for me and a good-sized Bernese Mountain dog, and I know good-sized Bernese Mountain dogs, believe me.

The elevator reached my floor and I got out, turned right and walked to the end of the hallway, which — surprise, surprise — had also shrunk. As had Aunt Sylvia. But here’s the magic part: in the six or so weeks since that visit, everything has once again regained its former glory. Thank goodness.

Ellen Greenfield is a poet and novelist living in Brooklyn and Jefferson, NY with her husband and two extremely loving and wayward Bernese Mountain Dogs. Her novel, Come From Nowhere, has recently been published by 3Ring Press.

Rate Story
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

§ 3 Responses to “As Elevators Shrink”

  • E_Woman says:

    Loved this story – exactly how I felt about my grandmother’s apartment building elevator in Brooklyn.

  • Bob D says:

    Did you ever choke me up on so many levels with this essay! Like a time machine it transported me back to a childhood filled with the imaginary as well as the familiar detail of that critical little piece of transportation. Ah, Pomonok! The smell of stuffed cabbage, the sight of cases of seltzer bottles left unmolested in the halls, Jack the ice cream man. If you think it was crowded in the elevator with a repairman, you should have tried fitting in with a 26″ tank bike every day (verticle was the only way). To steal a line from Bob Hope: Thanks for the memories,

  • Jui says:

    I also lived in Pomonok and the last time I was there I also felt as you did. Great memory, thanks

§ Leave a Reply

Other Stories You May Like

Nearby Flushing, Pomonok Stories

Haunted House


In the beginning, it was an ordinary house on an ordinary street in Flushing, Queens, just around the corner from [...]

Learning to Drive


I am learning to drive for the second time. On Sundays, I take classes at “Learn-Rite,” a school in Flushing. [...]

You’re Out of the Night


On, Ken’s moniker was “Dull.” He wrote that among his favorite things were office carpeting, spam, and waiting rooms.“I [...]

Any Kid In The City


The students enter the building through a side door, where they promptly submit backpacks and any other personal items to [...]

World Series


When I was thirteen years old and in the seventh grade, I loved to go to Shea Stadium, home of [...]