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Tuesday, August 03, 2004

A smattering of memories 

I can remember, perhaps a little too clearly, visiting with my grandmother during the Thanksgiving school breaks. My dad and I made the trek across the country to the completely intriguing city of Trenton a few times together. It was one of those father daughter things that we did when my parents weren't married anymore. It was actually quite fun for me, although Trenton, by all rights, is quite boring for a 12 year old.

Grandma had this fascination with my hair. Platinum blonde was nothing all that new to her, but since she and my aunt had been mostly gray-haired for a number of decades before I was even thought of, I guess it was a rare commodity in the family.

It was impossible to escape her demands to wash my hair. In the kitchen sink. By the shortest woman I've ever met. From the day I was born, I can only remember her ever saying that she stopped growing but instead started shrinking at some point in her life. Being 12 wasn't without its troubles though, as I was a tall girl and towered over her by the time I was about 10 or 11. But the washing was so fabulous for her, I couldn't refuse. Dad would offer me consolation in the only way he knew how - bribery. For ice cream or Broadway shows in NYC or a trip into NYC to shop or skate at Rockerfeller center. I really did get the good end of the stick on those deals.

Thanks to the consolationary offerings, I've seen Swan Lake at Carnegie Hall, The Nutcracker at Radio City Music Hall, the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, the tree at Rockerfeller Center all lit up in the middle of a light snow that dusted the city with a glittering sheen, and two symphonies at Carnegie Hall (the particular details were a bit lost on me and I don't actually remember which operas and which symphonies they were which is a real shame). I dragged my aunt and my dad into FAO Schwartz to see if that piano is really there - the one from Big. It wasn't, but what a cool store! I remember strolling around the city and making our way to Central Park just to sit on a bench and watch all the people.

The first time I can actually remember being 'home' when it started snowing I was at my grandma's house. All the other snowing incidents happened when I was in Tahoe, which of course wasn't home and I usually had skis strapped to my feet. In Trenton, I got to go play in the snow, even though it wasn't that much of a novelty to play outside. The sun had just set, the streetlights bathed the sidewalks in a warm orangey-yellow glow and the snowflakes looked like fireflies. I didn't have a proper winter coat, being from sunny California and all. I had my meager tennis shoes on that were nothing more than a little canvas attached to a rubber sole. No thick socks for me. No hat, no gloves. I froze, but wouldn't go inside until it was time for bed.

I walked around the block a lot. I knew where all of my relatives lived or had lived in that area. I knew all the neighbors, and most of them scared the begeesus outta me since they were all older retired couples that had lived in the area for a number of decades. Most of them knew my dad when he was a kid, and some loved to tell me how much I looked like him when he had been younger. This always confused me considering I look very little like he did, and of course there's the obvious fact that I'm a girl, but apparently I somehow bore a striking resemblance to him in his youth.

We always went to the cemetery. And we always went to church on Sunday before flying back to California. We always drove past my dad's old high school and past my aunt's old house. We always went out to a tiny restaurant where, thinking back on it I could swear there were shady mafia deals going down.

I always set the table for Thanksgiving dinner. So I always chose the china that I thought was prettiest. Grandma had about 6 sets of china. Where she got them all, I've never been able to figure out. I was always in charge of dessert for Thanksgiving dinner. I never liked pumpkin pie, but I made one for my aunt because it was her favorite. And since it was my favorite, I would make apple pie. I'm certain that at 10, or 12, or 14 I wasn't a good baker. I'm certain that the pies weren't fabulous. But I remember never hearing an unkind word about my efforts.

I remember the old phone - the old rotary dial phones that were sturdy and heavy and had coiled cords. And grandma's couch. And the sun porch with the chair that no one ever sat in because it was grandpa's chair. The sun porch that didn't usually get much sun. My uncle's medals from serving in Nam were tucked away in the dresser drawer in one of the bedrooms. The room was painted a dull yellow, held three twin sized beds and old quilts and blankets that my aunt and grandma had made. The floor boards creaked and the room smelled of old dust.

Grandma had a silver hair brush and small handheld mirror on her dresser. I wonder where that is.

All of my family that lived in that area has since passed, but I can't help but think that I should go see the house. Maybe take a tour around the area, see if the corner grocery store is still there, find that little restaurant, drive past my aunt's old house. And visit the cemetery.

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