Friday, July 5, 2013

Who Woulda Thunk it. . .

       Day late but always de rigeuer, we always re-enforce the importance of "Lady Liberty" to the grandpeeps.  Indeed, just today, I was browsing in an all-import, recherché shoppe that carries olive oils, vinegars and derivative items (they exist, and smell good, too) from far lands to ole Virginny.
       The proprietress - a very sweet, chatty, knowledgeable (secondary to the first two attributes, to be sure) lady was going on about the variety and enhancements of one of her products.  Having a somewhat shallow command of exotic oils, I am always reliant on my personal, necessarily narrow exposure.  My maternal grandparents hail from Bari, Italy and earned their dubious 'fortune' in olives (the intensely laborious, weather/pest-invasion dependent growing/nurturing/harvesting thereof).
       Our "Savor the Olive" shoppe owner, by contrast, is passionately involved in the procurement/dissemination of all things olive/vinegar/derivatives and equally eager to share this body of knowledge.  What I find most enjoyable when chatting with her - in addition to her unbridled ebullience which, if she could 'vat' that quality, would put half the pharmaceutical industry out of business - is her deeply sincere interest in what her 'chat partner' is saying. 
       This is becoming a sadly lost quality, a non-existent stroke or strum in the 'Art' of conversation.  By way of example, in response to her queries about my ancestry and personal history, she found it a boon to have been born into a culture as rich as that of Italy and yet learn of it via lore, story-sharing, a recollection of an ageing Aunt, proudly sporting several white hair stubs on her wrinkled chin, an accidentally found, faded photo taken in 'the Old Country'.  That this 'education' took place while I was physically growing up in Brooklyn, New York when the monthly rent for a five-room railroad apartment was $26.00/month just trebled the 'story's' charm.
       Her merriment truly eclipsed when I recalled the utter confusion on the cherub faces of my daughters when I took them to see "where Mommy grew up".  As I prattled on about the concept of several families living in one building, they stared, glassy-eyed, at the black, iron stairwells attached and climbing up these same buildings to the roof.  Finally realizing their minds wete elsewhere engaged, and following their sight lines, I said, "Oh.  Do you know wbat the black stairwells are for?"  To the negative, slow nods I explained fire escapes.
        "Imagine," I shared with my now-mesmerized shoppe-keeper, "I take them to Broadway, The Statue of Liberty, the actual Chrysler Building 'shining at night' (They'd both been in Annie), Central Park and Wall Street and they are fascinated with fire escapes!"  My dear lady friend looked at me, somewhat expectantly.  Well I could only give her the same tutorial, adding, "As a matter of fact, they were in the back of our apartment building.  The only memorable thing about them for me - well, there were two."
       (She was really leaning in toward me now, for) "Well, when Granpa made - by grating - horseradish, he was banished tl the fire escape landing."  That is one pungent odor!  "And, it was the most convenient and safest playpen for me when Mom was busy."  The landing was about 4 x 6 feet, iron-bar enclosed, lots of fresh air and sunshine and easilh heard/observed with the window open.  "Of  course there was that unfortunate day."
       (You've heard the expression, 'eating out of your hand'.  My palms felt gnawed on at this point.)  "I actually got my head stuck between twl of the bars!  Mom had to call the Fire Department!  They roared up, crowds immediately jammed our front stoop and they barreled up the five flights only to find my embarrassed Mother, pointing feebly at the window.  I, as ordered, was perfectly still and quiet, captive actually."
       Muttering, these gentle giants produced crow bars and I was a free baby bird in short order.  They chatted with Mom about the wisdom  - albeit practicality - of het decision-making and wre soon gl e, dispersing a no-longer-interested crowd.  (What?  Nobody dead or even fighting?)  By contrast, our shoppe lady thought that the dandiest tale she'd heard - in any culture - in quite a personal history of tale-telling.  Ya just never know, do you, what makes for a 'good story'.
Later, Lorane. . . .
      

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