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Women’s Voices by Karen Wielinski

I found myself in a traffic jam – inside the Broadway Market.

It was Good Friday.

This stagnant human cavalcade stood amid colorful vegetables, lush fruits, tempting baked goods and assorted poultry and meats.

What else could one expect on the busiest day of the year for the market?

Small children received a bird’s eye view of the scene, while perched on their father’s shoulders. Those in the middle of the pack – myself included – realized the opportunity to break free to the outside track and actually purchase items was quite impossible.

My current pause in movement did give me time to reflect on this historic market. The Broadway Market opened in 1888, and allowed early immigrants to preserve their Eastern European traditions, offering Buffalo a variety of food the city would come to love.

There was finally movement in the crowd, and I inched my way through the market. Sights, sounds and smells heightened my whole experience.

Vibrant colors met my eyes – pastel hues were evident around every corner, as “Peep” heads emerged from their chocolate encased bodies, and festive bows were tied around chocolate bunnies and lambs nestled among mounds of colored jelly beans and foil-wrapped eggs. Ukrainian Easter eggs, with intricate designs, caught the attention of many shoppers. Tomatoes in various shades of orange and red appeared to have been buffed to achieve a brilliant shine.

A group of musical troupers, performed on a stage in the middle of overflowing booths, entertaining the crowds flocking around them. The process of buying and selling would periodically stop, as people would hum tunes and tap their feet to the beat of the music.

The whiff of fresh baked bread could almost make you salivate in anticipation of sinking teeth into crunchy crusts encasing soft white, wheat or rye bread.

I wanted to find a seat on a silver stool at the diner counter, and enjoy a morning treat of bacon and eggs. A line of others, with the same idea, wrapped around the corner; that experience would have to wait for another time.

I grew up on Herman Street, about a mile or so from the Broadway Market. The area around the market was a bustling retail destination back then. Much had changed in more than 50 years. Population declined, malls captured the attention of potential customers, and once busy stores turned into dilapidated buildings and eventually were torn down. Empty lots now dot the landscape, and graffiti expresses the emotions of those living in the neighborhoods.

I could not resist the urge to take a drive down to Herman Street. There are so many empty lots on our block, including my first home, 221 Herman. My memory conjured a vision of my grandmother’s small home at the front of the lot, with space for two automobiles next to the house. I envisioned the white picket fence once more opening up to a grassy area, and I pictured our green and white house at the back of the property.

I noticed the driveway entrance was still visible, and realized that the empty space actually includes our neighbor’s lot too, which included a narrow house with three apartments and a small house in the back. Did all those buildings really fit in this space?

As I left the neighborhood, I realized that my decision to visit the Broadway Market had resulted in a pilgrimage to my childhood.

It was a very good Friday.