Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Life With Poppy

Philip Multitasks - Early On

        The house that embraced Poppy was bought quickly.  Once the excitement of FINALLY having another child settled down, we realized there was no room for a new baby in out "starter mansion".  (In fact, the purchase AND move was rendered quicker by the fact that we didn't own any living room or dining room furniture and Philip's nursery had been packed away for years. Having an additional family member (with baby Julie already tucked in to her roomy nursery and Philip comfy in his room next to ours) living with us presented NO issues as Poppy's room was more 'furnished' than ours when Mom died.  He was good to stay but we splurged on new beige carpeting for him when he entered his "brown period".
        The 'Poppy/Philip' relationship had been well established.  His 'golden years' included many long hours in the Poppy spotlight:  forming what would become a lifetime love of baseball as a toddler, waving to Poppy from the outfield during his early Little League games, spending hours tinkering in the tool shed where all equipment was neatly hung and labeled on pegboards and - the best busy-ness - sitting for log periods of time in Poppy's car, behind the steering wheel, lovingly role playing "driver" with the keys, the signals, the radio and the serious dialogue with CB-ers in his imaginary capacity of 'character-of-the-day'.
        :Poppy's seemingly endless supply of imaginary characters coupled with an equally infinite ability to sit in one spot for hours patiently engaged in the day's game is, I'm sure, the hallmark of Poppy-the-sitter in the minds of many, many friends and neighbors.
        Julie was two years-old when he began THEIR life-long love affair.  An avid reader (possibly because it was another activity that involved sitting in one place for long periods of time), he slowly expanded her library, reading and re-reading her favorites countless times. 
        This is not to say that his interests were solely in sedentary activities.  Hardly.  A true 'man-of-all-seasons', Poppy loved summers at the seashore.  We used his gift of the proceeds from the sale of his house to build a cottage on the Outer Banks.  It became our family "Summer Headquarters" for the next thirty years.  (In fact, it serves the latest generation of berry-brown little 'fire plugs' as it did their parents.)  I daresay, signs that Poppy - like Kilroy - was here define the place.
        We furnished it in"Julie and Joe"  - period and modern.  The great room - hub of all indoor activity - still holds the games AND score tablets that were played for hours with family and friends at all stages of development.  (Poppy still holds the Scrabble record for points awarded one word.  Of course I don't/cannot recall the exact word but the strategy was adding "i-a-n" to an already existing, long noun, handily located in one of the corners and netting him not one but two red 'triple word' squares.  I know it's pencilled in on the original board and I DO recall "94" as the number of points.  (It was as if the word 'octagen' - if it exists - was extant and he turned it into 'octagenarian'.)  Of course we challenged him only to find this abstruse word in the dictionary.  VERY irritating.
Julie on Mom's team at cottage
        Of course we didn't ALWAYS form 'teams'.  Julie and Poppy often played alone - pinochle.  She may hold the record as the only seven year-old who beat her Grandfather at a game most seven year-olds (and their parents) don't even know how to play.  But the yellowed, scores-in-#-2-pencil showing larger totals in the 'Julie' column survived the sea air of thirty years on lined, spiral notebook paper.
        Similarly, all of the kids played Dominoes with Poppy.  The original tiles, stacked in their Scotch taped, ragged box, bear witness to the hundreds of competitive marathons that filled rainy afternoon hours so many summers ago.  That these children did well in math many seasons later could be rooted in the summer 'doings' that were De rigueur for them in the pre-television/electronic game/rental movie era.
        A powerful swimmer and graceful diver, Poppy was the darkest-skinned family member by summer's end.  His (brown) bathing trunks blended with the skin on his back after many long hours in the surf or standing watch at the shoreline.  Of course he was extremely 'tuned in' to the children's needs - what with the drain summer sun and fun can impose on fast-growing as well as long and slowing bones.  It was in the interest of this sensibility to the hale and hearty side of vacation activity that he maintained the rules directed to re-charging.
        Not only was it not safe to swim RIGHT after eating; the body needed a break and a cool room in the early afternoon.  What more efficient way to achieve these goals than a reading session.  Jennie was a particularly reluctant 'napper' but Poppy, dedicated as he was to preserving the schedule, often had to suffer the occasional imposed 'teach-by-example' methodology.  Success was not ALWAYS achieved and the whole family had to endure a 'cranky' Jennie-in-the-evening' ordeal occasionally but it was certain;ly not for lack of trying on Poppy's part.  He seemed always to be chipper and refreshed after dinner.  Hmmm. . . .
        During the school year, Poppy was an active participant in all things educational as well as extracurricular.  He ALWAYS did the grocery shopping during the day and tended to the afternoon naps-avec-reading sessions with the little ones.  But his most favorite activity was spectatorship.  His was a dual reward system in this arena: he got to see his offspring play a sport (in which he had played a part instructing or transporting to practice) and, always recognizable by his plaid fedora-for-all-seasons, he'd chat it up with the other parents and, more importantly, the other PLAYERS.
        You see, as time went on, we saw more of the children-of-broken-marriages.  Many didn't have grandparents able to attend games.  So Poppy was every one's 'poppy-for-all-seasons'.  It was a role he cherished.  Tired of asking a school chum of Philip's, "Where's your old man," he'd just BE there and I''d hear things like, "No, Mike.  You're lookin' good.  Season's young.  You'll get 'm next game."  And even when he wasn't familiar with the sport (rare, but field hockey and la crosse weren't big in Brooklyn) he'd throw out a, "Hang in there, Fiona.  Eye on the ball 'n watch that one's high stick!"
        I'm sure if I took a poll, there'd be many a guy or gal between 30 and 40 today who has a 'Poppy story' from 'back in the day.  This would be just as true of sports as it would be of "thee-ay-ter".  Lory's not forget those high-tappin' table-top impromptus.  He sure didn't.  He attended and loved every dance and musical theatre show the girls were in.  He often has a few pointers (no pun intended) too.  And when it was "Showtime, folks!", I'd look over at him In the dark - sure to see a tear or two rolling down his stubbed cheek in the back row.  Whether it was in acknowledgment of a perfectly executed time step by Julie or an unintended but hilarious string of wrong turns by Jennie, his blue eyes were mistin' because, ". . . that's my kid's kid."
        It was a busy household during a busy time in our lives and I like to think his part was more than that of an 'accidental but convenient diversion'.  Rather, he was an ESSENTIAL part of our survival.  Not a particularly ritualistic man when it came to religion, like his father before him, he had his own 'thing' going with God.  In fact, for a spell we were attending the only Latin Mass in town because the Catholic Church in our area had become quite liberal. The priest conducting this mass came down from New York every week and stayed at our house. (It was all so 'sub rosa' and deliciously annoying to the kids - AND Poppy.)
        Father X would stay in Philip's room (now on the third floor - finished attic; closer to God).  He'd arrive Saturday evening and we'd all be lined up and ready to go around 8 AM.  Except Poppy.  Every week, father would say, "Going to Mass, Mr. G.?"  And every week Poppy would smile and say, "You have a good one, Father.  Me?  Well God and I already talked.  So, I'll be makin' kielbasa and scrambled eggs for when they get home.  Too bad you have to catch that plane."  And we would go off in silence, knowing that it had NOT been a satisfactory exchange and wondering WHY Poppy didn't just stay in his room until the guy left.  And, too, we were trying to do what we thought was the right thing and the kids would 'quietly' giggle in the car all the way to mass.
        I guess there was no harm done and eventually, the Latin Mass parish disbanded.  Unfortunately, it was after Poppy's sudden death.  Unfortunate because Father X - MUCH to our disbelief, told us he would say a mass but would NOT permit us to bring the coffin into the church.  He said he couldn't because he had "first-hand knowledge" of Poppy's breach with the Church.
        The next day, he had ours.  We never returned.  Instead, we contacted our dear friend and former pastor of the "happening now" parish and he made arrangements to use the church building AND invited two other priest who had left that parish to co-celebrate.
        Soooo, Poppy, breach and all, had a huge funeral high mass, celebrated by THREE priests.  He always used to say, in moments of confusion or distress, "You live, you learn, and you die stupid."  And I would be thinking, "No.  I live stupid because I don't get that, Dad," to myself.  Somehow, during his SO well-attended, triple-header High Funeral Mass, I thought about what he said - and got it - fleeting was the 'get', but I did.
        One occasion that caused his iteration of his "motto" was not long after Mom's death.  We were at the cottage;  it was a hot summer day; we decided to go in to Nag's Head and shop for bathing suits in the AC.  We got to the strip mall and saw a new store - a Tee-Shirt Store selling shirts that had PERSONAL sayings on them.  It was 'all the rage' so we went in and everyone selected a shirt and a favorite saying in a favorite color.  Poppy wasn't interested.  After all manner of pleading, he gave in.
        "Well, what do you want to say on it," I asked.  He ignored me.  The kids then ganged up on him and he finally said, "Just call me Poppy."  The guy did just that.  On a dark brown t-shirt, the words - reversed out in white - "Just Call Me Poppy" were printed in a bold, non-serif type.  He loved it.
        Next we went to the department store.  Poppy stayed outside, patiently strolling our fourth baby while I took the other three in for new bathing suits.  When we came out - at least an hour later - he said, "Damnedest thing.  I know we've been coming down here for a few years now, but never thought so MANY people knew me."  He went on to tell us that the whole time we were shipping, cars were driving by on the mile post road and tooting their horns, drivers waving and shouting, "Hey! Poppy!".  He, of course, had obligingly waved back - wearing his new t-shirt.
        I waited until we got back to the cottage and the kids were trying on their suits for, "Dad.  Those folks - the ones waving?  They could all read," and I pointed to his brown 'sign'.  After a long pause, he smiled, then laughed. 
        "What's so funny?"
        "You live, you learn, and you die stupid," he chuckled. 

"Just Call Me Poppy"

Later, Lorane. . . .

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

And Then There Was One. . .

        As you probably expected, I married ("grow up" is still in progress).  We had an engagement party first and I guess that was the last time that,as his 'littke girl', I danced ON Daddy Joe's shoes.  Joe and Julie, post 'giving away THIS BRIDE, coupled along until my brother and I started OUR families.
        The they 'morphed' slowly through that last right of passage, welcoming the 'next' generation.  Mom, of a somewhat superstitious tending toward paranormal bent, led Joe into 'giving his regards to Broadway, Times Square and Forty-Second Street and ALL the 'sidewalks of New York'.  Within two years of his retirement, they moved to Virginia and the aerie of our little nest. 
        Our son Philip - an only child for seven -- what he calls "golden" years - but finally had the first of his sisters, named for Julie.  Mom Julie actually was heard to say one day (when she thought she was alone holding the child, "Now I can go.")   Little Julie dressed up, grew up and, much to Joe/Dad's surprise, helped his adjustment to his "leading lady's" exit - stage left, "laughin' all the way".
        In a blink, he was told there was to be gall bladder surgery;  he went to get an oil change and when he got back to the hospital he was told it was cancer. 
        "I'm afraid it spread to the liver, Mr. G," the surgeon said as we gathered around her bed - talking strategy.
         "Well.  OK.  She can have half of my liver.  Whatever."
        "YOUR liver?"
        she shot right out of her anesthetic drowse to pose this incredulous question .  (Joe was a Rye fancier and the only "Four Roses" Julie had ever wanted came with sprays of 'baby's breath'.  The very IDEA of his 'marinated' liver moving into HER occasionally red wine-drizzled abdomen put her in a tailspin.)  But she hung in for almost two years of 'extra innings' by which time they were living in our home because little Julie's Daddy slipped a lumbar disc, putting him in the adjacent bedroom to convalesce while getting very close to the lady who'd given him HIS bride and now was leaving him with HER groom. 
        The day their house was sold, she sighed in relief;  Joe cried in his grief.  Curtain.  BLACKOUT. 
'Poppy's' Peeps with His Little Girl
        The following ten years - "The Poppy Era" in the Leavy Household - would bring many a 'Poppy' story told by the many who comprised the two generations that followed his.  After a decent interval - three or four days after Julie's funeral, Joe emptied his closet, pitching his entire wardrobe.
        "I've hated BLUE for thirty-four years.  Finally, I get to wear what I WANT!"
        He was one 'pissed off' dude - clad exclusively in tones of brown.  But, as my friend KD always said,
        "Better to be pissed off than pissed on."  He always loved Kathy.  And the 'peeps. And his 'little girl' and husband, 'Doc'.  And - for a few years, until he accepted the fact that he cou;dn't destroy himself and nobody was going to let him leave - Four Roses. 
        Then one day doc packed his brown suitcase, placed it on the front porch and told him to come back in thirty days - after completing 'the program' - and the door would be open.  He did and it was and I scurried the kids around to AlaFam and Ala teen and Poppy didn't seem to have ANYTHING on his 'dance card', I asked why he wasn't going to the Al anon meetings.
        "Well,  kiddo.  I went to one.  All, these people talked about  was drinking and that's what I'm NOT supposed to do.  Tell you the truth, I don't think you should be draggin' the kids to those meetings, talkikn'; about drunks.  I'm just sayin'."
        And another chapter ended.  The last - 'Just-call-me-Poppy', the ultimate Au peres, starts tomorrow. 
Later, Lorane. . . .

Monday, September 17, 2012

By POP-ular Demand, Heee's Back!

They Do

        One thing led to quite a few others and, much to my discredit, I interrupted the story of Joe and Julie.  Thankfully - for us all - reality has been but in it's place tonight - elsewhere - and in response to the jolt of realization delivered via email of just how many lives Joe had touched, he rules - again.
        You see, I was having some glum-chum-news days; I gave in to "coping" with the present (in other words caved); left Joe in the thee-ay-ter and robbed my readers of the slice of Americana they'd all settled in to enjoy.  But THEY weren't having it.  Such was the outpouring of messages from old school chums of mine, my brother's, the fam - about how well they remembered him (when THEY had the chance) and about the stories of him and Mom (when THEY didn't) that, feeling slapped 'up side the face', I decided, present company WILL be excepted, and WE will continue.
        As they were living, then, Joe and Julie were heading 'for the chapel' - Stella, post-depression poverty, and overall lack of interest in their decision to become Mr. and Mrs., on September 3, 1936, they gave each to the other for better or worse.  They decided to toast those who wished them well and those who didn't could go to hell.
        Not having money for a real photographer, they always displayed the framed and matted remembrance of their stint as best man and maid of honor, preserved properly by Mom's big brother, Uncle Paul.  (You see Julie in her flowing gown at the top, left of today's edition.)  That he was asked by 'Big Paul' to be best man was really 'big' for Joe.  I never found it odd.  Growing up, Uncle Paul had the bucks and the gas station and a new caddy every year but he obviously liked and respected the guy his kid sister had picked (or the 'hood would have been talking about ole 'Joey Blue Eyes' in memoriam.)
        Joe had his precious, steady job with the American Chicle Company - who brought us Dentyne, Chiclets and Sen-Sen - and eventually made Joe the supervisor of the printing department.  He received an award for NEVER missing a shift OR being late after he'd given them thirty-four years of his lower middle class, happy and secure life.  A handsome gold square Bulova watch, it was, and a gold bracelet for Mom with a company logo charm.  He drove mostly Plymouths until they died but they always had a wax job that would make any self-respecting caddy cry.
        On Saturdays, he played 'serious' handball with the guys.  (Most he's been War buddies and they played  LOT of baseball over there in Germany - when they were not getting shot at.  Bet you didn't know that.  And his teammates were both his personal friends AND four of Mom's "ET-talian" cousins (good friends of his as well).  The reason they wound up together, Mom told us, is they (all the eligible young men in Greenpoint) all left the same day.  There was a huge parade down Manhattan Avenue of guys marching off, eyes straight ahead, while the sidewalks were lined with crying, waving Moms, wives, kids and sweethearts.  Mom was a number 2 and a number 4.  Anyway, the way it worked out - alphabetically and numerically, when they all got to the induction center, the guy in charge walked down the lined formation and with his index finger, poked each guy's chest, saying "Army, Navy, Marines" and somehow all Joe's buddies got Army and stayed together 'over there'.)
        Anyway, Saturday we watched the young
Turks' whale those tiny, very hard black ball into a concrete wall - until somebody missed.  Then they started over again.  (Not far from THOSE courts, the old men - like Mom's Pop - played 'Botchie' Ball.  They used a black ball that was larger and rolled strategically along a path of racetrack coal chips, aimed at pins.  The game was MUCH slower but the commentary compensated with its excited shouts and happy jeers.)
        Sundays belonged to God in the morning and baseball in the afternoon.  Our complex of four city parks named for an Irishman, McKaren, had five regulation sized baseball fields.  So if we weren't having the time of our lives at Ebbetts Field, we could be found watching our dads play at McKaren's.  (Once a month, the late Sunday afternoon was reserved for the ritual of "Waxing and Polishing" whatever jalopy Dad was driving.  This ritual HAD to be performed in the afternoon shade.  Remembering THESE hours gives me a longing for the excitement of watching paint dry.
        But somehow, Joe and Julie - whatever the season or reason - made these outdoor 'doings' adventures. I never mattered if it was snowing or if, in summer, we had been to Rockaway in the sun all day and, if we were really lucky, got to go on some rides at night only to come home beet red, get swabbed with Noxzema to put out the fires on our red skin and fall blissfully to sleep (no AC) with a cool breeze sweeping in to wash over us as we lay on cool, clean sheets that still smelled of the fresh air and sunshine that had prepared them to be 'spa quality'.  No. It never mattered if we had walked the nine long blocks ro go to the ice cream parlor with Mom and Dad in the evening for that 'surprize' cone or sundae, them nine blocks back to our five flight walk-up, railroad apartment. 
        You see, NONE of what some kids today might call trite or dull or 'ho-hum' because we were with Joe and Julie and safe and together and passed other kids with their folks, feeling good too.  The very 'routine-ness' made it so special.  The fact that we didn't ALWAYS get to do these things as SPECIAL when we did.
        And, even when Julie was NOT as amused as we, could put on a show at night that made anything on TV or in the movies seem like 'nothin'.  That's becaause we had a WHITE METAL kitchen table top and HE had shoes with real taps on them (made them last longer, he said) and could leap up onto the table top and go into a soft shoe that led into a 'Bolger rendition' of "Make 'Em Laugh" with the same finesse and ease as Ray hikself.  And we'd laugh.  (And Mpom would pretend she didn't - busying herself cutting the aquare 'Saturday Night Special' pizza she'd just made from scratch into generous portions.
        Sometimes, on Sunday afternoons, if it was raining and there weren't any games, our grandparents and Aunts and Uncles came over (with hungry, play-wound-up cousins) and it was impromptu party time. (Once, my Uncle Julian - the 'non-brother' (brother-in-law) who was NOT too athletic - or liked by the uncles and Granpa - thought it would be funny to see if we kids could do chin-ups on the heavy, carved wood rod that supported the drapes that separated the parlor from the bedrooms.  When it was my turn, the already groaning rod (or was that Mom?) just loudly cracked, spilling me and the carefully-ironed drapes to the floor.  'Jullian' thought it was funny.  He was laughing alone.
        But Joe saved the day.  He ordered my brother to set up the card table (the men ALWAYS played poker after dinner while the ladies cleaned up and sang songs with us kids.)  Just before the poker thing got started, seeing the obvious pain in his Julie's eyes as she bravely tried to ignore Julian's 'prank' and her hard-earned, now-broken carved wood rod, decided to let us kids have one ride each down the dumb waiter.
        We went nuts with excitement (the dumbwaiter was this closet-like affair that happened to be located right outside our apartment door.  The renters used it to carefuklly place wrapped trash or items to be stored in assigned basement stalls, to transport the items on a shelf-with-pulley system located behind the community 'closet door'. So, when not in use by neighboring rentors, Dad would put each kid in turn on the shelf, close the door and let it free-fall ALMOST to the basement when he'd yank the heavy rope, jerking the 'rider' to a 'bungee-type- stop landin g when Granpa (having been cued to get to the basement) would open the door and lift out the happy, squeeling kid - all the while belting out some bouncy Polish tune so we'd know he was there.  We LOVED the whole dumbwaiter-ride' thing.  Mom wasn't a fan but forgot about the curtain rod.
        It was during a poker game on a Sunday night that I bheard the men talking about my brazen request (MANY years later) to go to college.  Granpa was gone.  Jpoe's kids were, naturally the oldest.  My brother, Vince was attending NYU and that was OK with the uncles.  But.  Julian thought it was ceazy to send a GIRL to college. 
        "What for, Joe?  She'll just get knocked up and yo'll have wasted a wad."  And then he laughed because he thought he said something funny.  I was too busy crying to even ask my brother what was so funny.
        "Don't think so, Yuletche."  (That was a Polish nickname for Julian that SOUINDED dangerously close to the Polish word for 'jackass'.)  Uncle Julian stopped laughing and started to cough on his cigarette smoke.  (Another of his 'princely habits - the other two being scotch and occasional poen films I MUCH later found out he'd take my Aunt Dorothy to in Jersey.)
        "I'm with Joe on that," my Dad's youngest brother, Stash, said.
        "Geez.  I hope my Barbara never puts me in THAT position," adding nothing but offering commentary was Dad's next oldest brother Walter ("Vwadge")
        So four years later, when I was a senior at Georgetown and it was winter and everybody wore herringbone Chesterfield coats with black velvet collars and after a late lunch mine was missing from the coat racks, I panicked (and froze waiting for my parents' next vist down).  I had decided Dad would take the coat deal better and soften the blow of Mom's "How-could-you-be-so-careless-with-a-coat-we-couldn't-afford in-the-first-place speech.  So, I drove with him to get them checked into their motel while Mom hung out completely entertained by my ftiends at the dorm. I haltingly told him there was something I had to tell him and it wasn't good.  Before I could get on with my confession, he pulled the Plymouth carefully over to the shoulder of Rock Creek Parkway, stopped the vehicle safely and turned off the ignition. 
        "Do you have a flat?," I ask.  (HOW could I have inherited the 'dumb ass gene' from Uncle Julian?  Pray, tell me.)
        "Just give it to me straight, Kid," he said.
        "You're pregnant, right?"
        "Geee-zus,"  spat all-educated moi.
        ""I'll handle Mom," he continued gently.
        "How DARE you," shouted the now-who's-got-the-edge yours truly.
        "My damned COAT was stolen," profanity punctuating the pain.
        "Thank GOD!"  And ole Joe grabbed his little girl in a bear hug.
        Of course I stiffened just a soul-stabbed smidge before letting the poor guy off, shedding a few conspiratorially-relieved tears.  He took us to Blackie's to celebrate and tell Mom that night where I went to the Powder Room and she to pieces.   By the time I returned, Mom had vented her rage over the monetary gauging and poor Joe sat slathering butter on a hot roll in famished/celebratory anticipation of his comfort food.
        I PROMISE to matriculate him to Poppy tomorrow - RIGHT after you hear the Robert-Mitchum-look-alike story that was still being recalled at our forty fifth reunion last year.  For now, "To sleep; perchance to dream."
Later, Lorane. . . .

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Just Call Me Poppy. . .

"THE Fedora'
Well I was about to say "It's about time!", as nothing seemed to be happening when I pecked at the keyboard, hardly a newsworthy phenomenon, when, well, you've got the picture - AND the copy.
        Today is my husband's birthday - an event grandly feted at the reunion we've just labored through.  Of course telephonic and mailed best wishes poured in all day along with the occasional wry and touching Irish Blessing.  I was among the wishers and 'blessers', to be sure but it occurred to me that
1)  You already know the 'shaman'
2)  I've done 'imortant birthdays' (p/s see august 2011) and
3)  I've never written about my DAD!
        We'll not be able to say that tomorrow.  Joe's birthday was September 1.  Our fourth child, Declan, was born August 31 and I really think Daddy felt slighted that I had dared go into labor on what was most surely HIS appointed day.  No matter.  He brought the 'big broyjher and sisters' to the hospital and joined in the festivities - all the while referring to the infant as "Joey".  (Dad was a quiet kind of fellow but subtlety was a LONG suit.)  Might as well begin at the beginning with 'Joe-the-suiter'.
        Greenpoint, our Brooklyn 'hood, was not the haven of the recherche that I'm told it has become today.  Rather, it was on the 'wrong side' of the "Lake".  A 'point', yes; green, no.  more of a smoky, slate gray.  Riverside, yes;  Manhattan loomed like a Lego cityscape in clear view from OUR side.  In fact, waterway access defined Greenpoint's existence and provided adventure-on-the-docks for athletic little shavers like Joe - tall, lean, fast - a super athlete.  "Leap-Pile" was a favorite.  the game involved jumping from one tarred, pigeon=flecked sunken piling to the next.  The winner was the guy with the best time.  Joe held the record, finally besting good friend Benny-the-Bat one fine day.  That he broke a front tooth, did a lousy job of attempting to glue it back on and didn't get it past his Mom, caused a 'luster loss' for the activity but you could always get a bunch of bored fellas together for a run or two.
        Joe was the eldest of four - only one sister - so his was a 'birthright' pace-setter role.  A devil on skates, metal roller AND ice - his rep was most firmly established an d widely-known in stick ball.  The family (as well as the family of the gal he would woo/pursue) lived on Diamond Street.  Honest.  The big games were played on the last segment of the street which terminated - unfortunately for the diocese - in the huge Gothic, gargoyled magnificence of St. Stanislaus Kostka roman Catholic Church.  (Some might have called it the far center field wall but it was definitely a church.  Stained-glass windows, twenty to thirty feet by roughly fifteen feet indented the sand castle-like mammoth cathedral walls at intervals, beautifully depicting biblical business or stellar, haloed luminaries.  So when Joe hit a homer, which would be the distance of a city block (four sewers; thirty row houses; as many vehicular chrome and white-walled hunks of metal - pick your metaphor), "Holy S___!" was NOT an unusual vocal response/shout of athletic prowess, it SOMEtimes acknowledged yet another 'stained-glass' fatality. 
        He had a vegetable cart business before and after school.  I don't recall whether it had a name but it certainly provided the opportunity for the "Joe and Julie romance story of the times" to begin, flourish and culminate.  Mom was SO impressed with Dad's looks, athleticism and dancing prowess, that ere long, much to Grandma's disapproval, they were an 'item'.
        I COULD have touched that photo up but it was TOO much a part of the love affair.  You see, in the early thirties, you could go to the top of the Empire State Building (a serious date), have a four shot strip of pictures taken in thirty seconds AND record a SONG which, after an hour or so, was presented to you as a genuine 78, playable at home.  Forever.  And the ENTIRE package was yours for a mere FORTY CENTS!
        Having WALKED across the bridge to 'the city' done the lickety-split picture segment of the deal, Joe then gave us his a Capella, croon-tune supreme, "Old Shanty Town":
It was just an old shanty
In 'Old Shanty Town'.
The roof is so slanty
It touches the ground
In an old tumbled down shack
By an old railroad track
Like a millionaire's mansion
Keeps calling me  back.
I'[d give up a palace
If I were a king.
It's more than a palace
It's my evry-thing.
There's a queen waiting there
In a silvery crown,
In a shanty
In old shanty town.
And so it went - many times for us kids when Dad was in a show biz mood.  Which was often - and he was GOOD. 
        You see, after a proper courtship (On one date, they walked across the bridge - in February - sharing a five cent "O Henry's" bar, paid twenty five cents each to get into the Imperial Thee-ay-ter to climb tnhbe three flights of MARBLE steps and sit in the loge section and watch a movie.  Stella (Grandma-who-did-not-like-the-Julie-business) had put mothballs in her 'Joey's' winter coat pocket in the off season.  Joe was not aware of Mom's prophylactic busy-ness, took his coat off in the dark thee-ay-ter, and, while grandly folding it over his super-long arm, inadvertently lifted it high enough in the air so that its pockets gave up the forty or so moth balls which 'clink-lock-hopped' down each of the flights of marble steps.  THIS 'gauche' misadventure was perfectly timed between the Newsreel and the 'Main Feature'.  (I always figured Stella was singing "Who's Sorry Now" THAT night.)
        Julie loved it.  Julie loved Joe.  And was SO excited to show off his high school graduation picture.  She would take his yearbook to work with her (she never had the opportunity of an education beyond eighth grade, having to go to work in a sewing sweatshop to 'help out' at home) and pass it around d to the girls - all proudly garbed in their white, starched uniform dresses provided by the employer - and point to his picture.  The class editor, responsible for captions placed under said head shots, had directed the phrase, "Did You Ever See A Dream Walking?" under Joe's.  Mom naturally (and proudly) pointed the caption out because it obviously referred to his looks.  Turns out what with sports, tap dancing around, selling veggies pre and post school, Joe did a fair share of napping during class.  Oops.
        Their whirlwind pre-nups have me catching my breath - and thinking of those naps.  So rest up, friends, because Joe-on-his-way-to-being-"Poppy" will have you hoppin' like a mothball.  Tomorrow.
Later, Lorane. . .

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Away at Home

Couldn't Sleep ALL Week. . . .

She LOVES Having YOUR Name. . . .

                It's that 'Family Reunion'-time of year.  We are gathered as is our wont on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  Folks have traveled from Florida, Massachusetts and Virginia by land, sea and air.  As the three generations interact, I can 't help but long for the days when I was in the 'latest-arrival' category. 
Things were so much more
'secure' feeling when I was the 'kid'.  Now, I'm the 'Grams' or 'Gigi' for the tots who cannot yet 'handle' the hard 'g'.  And the pressure is exhausting.

For example, as I write, the gang is off
well, doing the reuniting with great gusto and good cheer.  I recall that freedom, that joi De vie - because I was standing on the shoes of a sturdy, know-where-they-are-going "big person" leaving me with zero responsibility save  looking cute-ish, giggling, getting away with dripping cherry Popsicle splashes on my white pinafore and staying up LONG after bedtime story time watching the grown-ups fetch one more glass of water, climb bunk ladders or squeeze between walls and bedposts finding the cuddly, stained and ragged 'must have' sleep buddy that I had carefully secreted hours before.

You Know They're Adorable, Mom. . .

Beach is BEST!!!

        I love them dearly but I am tired.  You see  the roles changed in a thirty or so year blink and the current 'happiness'  is a tad lopsided - from where I am crouching.          Now, I'm the fetch-er, forcing a smile while arthritic knuckles do the fetching and squeezing - and 'comfortable' is a foggy memory.  After a day on the beach, pointing out porpoises leaping out of the choppy waters to snag lunch from the sky and suffering the sticky/oily/grainy sensations of splayed sand on carefully-sun screened and insect-repellent limbs, I have been memorialized in color by the gadgetry-loaded middle generation's digitalized toys which I thought really were watches or visors.

THIS was The Life!
        Surely the week will seem a TREASURE that I want NEVER TO END - next month.  And I shall create memorable collages;  send them off in large numbers to unsuspecting and very busy friends; plan hungrily for the next time we can be together.  Indeed.  And you, dear readers, will have the added fun of visuals ad nauseum upon which to gaze while reading random posts that have NOTHING to do with children.  And you'll wonder.  "These her Grand peeps?  Ya think?"  
Children Swimming?

        I'll most likely be going on about misleading pharmaceutical advertising and the dangers thereof but, and YOU will "get" the inappropriate accompanying visual, the selected photo-of-elaboration will be of happy, frolicking, organically-sated cherubs who in NO way could need or even know of pesky "slings and meshes implanted therapeutically and demonstrating their presence pathologically".  Rather, they will call to mind "Touching Angels".

Later, Lorane. . . .