Warren Zanes at Literary Hub:
Shortly after the birth of his sister Virginia in 1951, Springsteen’s family moved in with his paternal grandparents. They would stay there through 1956, but the years spent in that house would remain with Springsteen, a thing to untangle. It was a period of his childhood that, in his telling, would come to the fore in Nebraska.
“I know the house was very dilapidated,” Springsteen told me. “That was something that embarrassed me as a child. It was visibly ramshackle, my grandparents’ house. On the street you could see that it was deteriorating. I just remember being embarrassed about it as a child. That would have been my only sense that something wasn’t right with who we were and what we were doing. I can’t quite describe it. It was intense. The house was eventually condemned. Really, it fell apart around us. I lived there when there was only one functional room, the living room. Everything else was pretty much finished.”
In the living room was the portrait of his aunt Virginia, his father’s sister, an image Springsteen has described on a few occasions. Virginia, at age six and out riding her bicycle, was hit and killed by a truck as it pulled out of a gas station on Freehold’s McLean Street. In some misguided tribute to Virginia’s early and sudden death, Springsteen’s grandparents withheld discipline from their first grandchild, Bruce. It was a twisting of logic that likely seemed beneficent, if only to minds stuck in grief. His was a terrible freedom. When Bruce pushed, there was nothing there to push against.