Wild Life


Location Carroll Gardens

Rent $950 (market)

Square feet 680 (top floor of brownstone)

Occupant Susan Kyle (administrative supervisor, foster care adoption, Good Shepherd Services)


A dove and her children on the windowsill! [She opens the shutters.] Shhh. I found her sitting out there a month ago, on her eggs. She sat with the rain, the wind, 90 degrees, the blackout. She stares at me. She’s not happy when I come here. The babies will fly away soon.

All day long you think about children who need a home. How does foster care work? The city calls us asking if we have a home for kids who’ve been taken from their parents because of abuse or neglect. We have people on a list, waiting for foster children, people who’ve been trained to become foster parents.

I can’t imagine how children feel being afraid in their home or having to leave it. They aren’t even adult enough to reflect, Oh well, this is a hard time right now, but I’ll be better as soon as I get to such and such a place. A great number of the children do go home with their parents—that is one of the goals. [She looks at the TV.] We don’t have to watch this monster movie.

The people look like lizards. You said you like swamps. My friend and I just got back from the Great Dismal Swamp. We expected to see snakes but we didn’t see any. I used to have two turtles in a tank on this table. I freed them in a swamp. [Her cat leaps up.] Miss Tiny, I can’t believe you’re out so much. She was a wild cat. My brother found her. We had to kind of tame her.

She has this sassy tail waving around like she’s in a Disney movie. Why did you free the turtles? They were getting very smelly. I would have had to buy a giant tank. I just thought that they didn’t need to live in my living room. They say you’re not supposed to release them. But it was a swamp that I knew. Turtles like swamps—how bad could it be? I’ve always loved animals, birds. Actually, I had two cats. One passed away in April. We’re going to get a brother soon for Miss Tiny. My friend Susan rescues cats from yards. Here’s a flyer.

“Take a walk on the wild side. Cats from St. Marks Place, rescued during the blackout.” That blackout was so awful. It was just a blackout and I had a home to sleep in. But for those who live an entirely mental and electric life—movies, telephones—it was just hellish having to go outside to have human contact, sit on some bench with bird droppings. Then there were all these people talking to themselves. I don’t know who was having such a great time—where were all those sidewalk pasta parties everyone was talking about? It’s hard to forget about it. I think because it reminded us of terrorism. I know a lot about post-traumatic stress. I felt sad when I saw all the people on TV walking over the bridge. Both 9-11 and the blackout, I was lucky. I was in Staten Island with my mother.

You grew up in Bay Ridge in a big Scottish-Italian family and you said that you prefer the neighborhood people here to the yuppies. When you had breast cancer, they came to the door with Italian sauce. Mr. Morales gave you rice and beans. Yes, but I was one of the first yuppies. I came here 17 years ago, graduated Barnard in ’69. I had trouble adjusting. I’d gone to a little all-girls Catholic high school in Park Slope. A lot of people have left this neighborhood. There’s so much money in these brownstones. The same apartment downstairs is renting for about $1,500.

Is that Tiny’s little cloth mouse on the floor? Miss Tiny has a few of them. She’s so very spoiled. While I was sick, my mother came here. What can I do? she said. I said, You can do my laundry. She took it back to Bay Ridge. She called, Very funny, who put the mice in the laundry?

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