Late Summer, Carroll Gardens: How She Got Summer in America

Late Summer, Carroll Gardens: How She Got Summer in America

Nat Graber does not think the end of the summer is great for his business, the ReBag Army Navy Collection Corp. on Court Street. Fall, maybe. Winter, maybe. Late summer was a dull time for him. Not a lot of people will come inside his clothing store to buy thick-layered army print jackets. 

Just like Graber some people, like Anna, a resident of Carroll Gardens, can’t wait for summer to end. “Oh, fall is glorious, it is the start of so many cultural activities. And the fashion—oh the fashion! If you live in New York, you understand,” said Anna, outside the Caputo Bakery on Court Street. 

But Susan Aldana, 60, another resident of Carroll Gardens, is already mourning summer. “Oh god, I can’t go to the beach. Can you believe not going to the parks or beach?” she said, outside Capital One Bank on Court Street. “My husband was supposed to pick me up from this spot 20 minutes ago. This is depressing; this is as depressing as winter.”

But sometimes, when you ask people about the end of summer, you get more than a passing opinion. Right next to Mazzone Ace Hardware, on Court Street, soaking in the sun, was Sraquel Cuniga, a 40-year-old Mexican immigrant from Queens, working in Carroll Gardens as a nanny. With her black hair in a bun, wearing a blue top and blue pajamas resembling a nurse’s outfit, she sits on the steps, waiting for a ride, eagerly from the looks of it as she bounces her leg impatiently, even though the ride is not likely to get here anytime soon. “Oh, this isn’t summer,” she tells me in broken English, and flashes a smile with dimples.

Then with the help of a friend, who served as translator, Sraquel Cuniga volunteers that she did not always want to come to America. In fact, growing up she did not like America at all. She thought Americans were insufferable. Her father had told her about Americans, that there was a lot of self importance there. “Tonto,” was the term used in reference to Americans, she says. It means fool. 

As a young woman, Sraquel did not like summer much either, she said. When she was growing up, she got rashes in her arms easily when she played outside with her cousins. These protruding red marks made her feel ugly, and she used to scratch them to make them go away, only to make it worse. “I hated summer, and I hated myself,” she says. 

Then Sraquel said she got married—to the third boy who proposed to her. He was obsessed with the States, she said. “He was very average,” she admitted. He was not particularly great to her. He beat her sometimes. And sometimes, she beat him. “It felt good,” she said, and laughed.

Once, the beating got very bad. He boxed her ears, at which point she took her daughter by the hand and came to the United States. She wanted to get as far away from him as possible. The last place he would think she would go is here,’ she says. “So I came here.”

Sraquel doesn’t have a difficult relationship with summer anymore. In fact, more than anything, the memories that have stayed with her from her time in Mexico was playing with her cousins during the summer. She hasn’t spoken to them in a long time now, she says. 

Now she likes taking her daughter to the park, which she can’t do much during the winter. “I like the summer, summer is a good time for me. My daughter was born in summer. In winters I just wait for summer, in summers I mourn that it is going to end.”

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