Friday, October 4, 2013

All About Me - Prompt #4 - My Favorite Season

When the leaves begin to color and fall and the air turns crisp and clear, I know that autumn is on its way.  For many people, January starts a new year but for me, it's fall.  And yes, I have been a school teacher and as the mother of two boys, I think autumn does signal a new year of sorts; new books, new pencils, new clothes.  To me, it feels as if new opportunities await. 

Fall reminds me of weekends at our summer cottage on Shelter Island.  We had a large stone fireplace and my dad would build a crackling fire in it every afternoon and keep it burning into the evening.  Even after going to bed (my room was right above the living area), I could often hear the cracks of the wood as the sparks flew.  I remember feeling homey and safe hearing those sounds.  I had an old gold satin feather quilt that I would wrap myself up in.  It was amazingly warm.  I would stroke the satin as I was lulled to sleep by the sounds of the fire and the warmth of that quilt. 

Autumn meant long bicycle rides down Apple Tree Lane - a shady lightly trafficked road lined with what else?  Apple Trees!  It was not an "active" orchard and so the apples rotted on the branches and fell to the ground to further decay.  Thus, there was an aroma about the lane that was unmistakeable.
It is one of the more idyllic memories of my childhood.  There are roads near me now, canopied by trees, that awaken old memories every time I travel them. 

In those days (late 50's, early 60's), burning piles of leaves in the streets was still allowed and I can remember tending the fire as my dad added more and more leaves to the mound.  The smell of the leaves burning is more a memory than anything else now but every once in awhile, I catch a whiff of burning somewhere and it takes me back.

I was married in autumn - October to be exact.  Probably my very favorite month, my mother was born in October, also.  Because October in New York is usually "Indian Summer", we were able to have my wedding reception outdoors in a sort of  'tree house' venue.  I've never been a big fan of football but I did enjoy attending game day at my alma mater (SMU).  In those early 70's, guys still provided their dates with oversized mums as corsages.  My bridesmaids each carried a lone white "football" mum with streaming ribbons of lime satin.  I have a photo of my husband and I leaving the reception.  For years, I thought that the light behind us was a "harvest" moon.  It was only upon closer study that I realized that it was just a light on the path to the parking area.  In my mind, however, it remains a big yellow Harvest Moon.

All About Me - Prompt #5 - My Childhood Home

I started my childhood in an apartment in a residential section of Roslyn Heights on Long Island.  I remember nothing about it and have no pictures of it that I am aware of.  By the time I was three, my parents purchased a home in nearby Garden City on Wickham Road.  Garden City was a somewhat affluent community although I never felt affluent.   I spent my entire childhood in this house and in 1963, my parents were fortunate enough to be able to purchase some land on Shelter Island.  Reacheable only by ferry, Shelter Island was a sort of retreat for all of us.  I spent my summers there and have many good memories of my time there.

The Garden City house, however, was our home for most of the year.  There were three bedrooms and two and one half baths.  My brother had the smallest room, a fact that I always felt badly about.  My room was larger but not really by much.  We had tiny closets - nothing like what many have now.
My parents room, across the hall from my brothers and mine, ran the entire length of the front of the house, had a large bay window in it that overlooked the front yard and two large walk-in for each of my parents.

Downstairs, the living room was directly under my parents room, the kitchen was under my brother's room and the dining room under mine.  Years later, my parents added an enclosed "porch" room that we used for everything.  It had a table to eat at, a sofa to lounge on and a table with a television.  It also had a door to the back yard with a lock that didn't work.  I dreamt about that door for years.  I could never really understand why or believe that no one ever fixed that could not even be closed completely.  It was an open portal to our home.

As we lived in New York, most homes there have basements to facilitate insulation.  Parts of these basements were often finished and used as party or "rec" rooms.  Half of ours was finished with a bar at one end and a honkey-tonk type of upright piano along one of the walls.  My parents would have large costume parties every year and the photos they took of each party lined the other walls.  This was in the hey day of "cocktail" parties and mixed drinks.  Wine was pretty much unheard of and beer was looked down on - especially when drunk out of the bottle.

The other half of the basement was used as a laundry, sewing area, workshop for my dad and science project desks - one for me and one for my brother.  My mother had one also on which she kept her ceramic hobby materials.  The furnace was in this room also, standing guard between the washing machine, sink and dryer and my dads' workbench.

In my early adolescence, my mother enrolled me in piano lessons.  I was supposed to practice daily but I was afraid to go into the basement alone so I rarely did.  I can remember running up the stairs as fast as I could to get away from whatever I feared was in the basement, flicking off the light and slamming the door before locking it with the hook and eye latch at the top of the door.  I never felt good about that place and I never learned how to play the piano.

The backyard of our home was small but had two trees in it.  One of the trees grew large and tall and had strong low hanging limbs that I climbed frequently.  Sitting in that tree was one of my favorite things to do.  The other tree was a favorite of my mothers who allegedly played "cowboys and Indians" with my brother and myself.  She would capture each of us and tie us to the tree while she prepared dinner, "freeing" us in plenty of time to clean up before the meal was served.

Another favorite pastime was sunbathing on the tarpapered roof of the shed that was connected to our garage which I could access by climbing out of my bedroom window.  It was a tiny spot but large enough for me to spread a towel, set down my transistor radio, a book and a bottle of baby oil mixed with iodine.

We had a one car garage but two cars.  The driveway was two strips of concrete separated by an island of grass that needed mowing as frequently as the rest of the yard.  My parents eventually tore it up and replace it with a solid strip of cement. 

I remember roller skating on the sidewalk in front of my house, building igloos in the piles of snow pushed onto the sidewalks by the snow removal trucks common in the 50's, ice skating in the rink my father built and flooded for us in our back yard, and walking down the block and around the corner to play at the Tullamore Road Park.  Those were the days when we could do such things alone and have no fear.  The "ice cream man" came every summer evening and sold popsicles for a dime and the "milk man" delivered glass bottles of milk and cream to our door. 

I left the Garden City house when I graduated from high school in 1967, returning on vacations from college and on holidays.  Since we spent summers on Shelter Island, time spent at the Garden City house became scarce.  My parents eventually sold the house and re-located to Sarasota, Florida.  I returned to Garden City for my 25th high school reunion but it never felt the same.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

All About Me. - Prompt #2

This weeks prompt was to write about the day I was born......that seems like a pretty difficult assignment because although I was there, I sure don't remember anything about it!  All I know comes from what I have been told through the years.  Told by my mother.  My father wasn't there.  He, according to mom, was at the movies.  That is where men went in those days....they didn't go into the labor and delivery rooms.  They waited in the waiting areas or went elsewhere, particularly if it was predicted to be a long labor as it so often is with the first child.

Yes, I was my mothers first.  I don't know if anyone was with her.  I don't even know how she got to the hospital.   Gee, I wish I knew.  I wish I had asked her.  I wish she had told me.   How scared she must have been.  She was young, younger than me when I had my first.  Mom was about 23.   I know nothing about what happened on that day at Doctor's Hospital in Manhatten.  By the time I made my appearance it was a Wednesday.  I was "Wednesdays Child" and allegedly doomed to be  "full of woe" as the well known ditty goes.  March 16th...sandwiched between The Ides of March and St. Patrick's Day.

In my laundry room hangs a small ceramic plaque made by my mother to commemorate my birth.  Hand painted, it is decorated with baby rabbits nibbling at the grass in an imaginary garden.  It highlights and records for whoever is interested, my birth statistics......born at 4:47am and weighing in at 7 lbs. and 1 oz.   I don't know how long I was as I don't think my length was measured or she didn't record it anyway.  She named me Pamela Sue.   In my adolescence, I asked her whom she named me for expecting that I bore the name of some ancestor from long ago.  Alas, that was not to be.  Mom said she named me for a character in a soap opera popular at the time.  With hair the color of dirty blonde and eyes of hazel,  I made my entrance into the world.  The year was 1949.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

All About Me.....Challenge #1

What a great idea....not mine, of course...but a group of us "crazies" are answering blogging prompts designed, I guess, to get us going.  The first assignment...answer the question; "Who am I" in 20 lines.
This feels awkward but here I go....


1.   almost 65 and not terribly afraid to age
2.   the mother of two sons of whom I am very proud
3.   a wife of nearly 40 years to a wonderful man
4.   the older sister of my brother
5.   the proud aunt of four twigs
6.   an amateur genealogist and family historian
7.   a friend to many - I hope
8.   a lover of peace, serenity and quiet altho' I admit to being short-tempered, impatient and irritable at times
9.   a perpetual student
10. a dreamer
11. a retired homemaker
12. a retired therapist
13. not as organized as I wish I were
14. happiest when my children are doing well
15. not as good at keeping in touch as I wish I were
16. too lazy to exercise regularly
17. someone who loves to garden
18. a "wanna be" writer
19. at a pivotal point in my life
20. a believer that there is a plan for us

Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Driving Force

Like most new drivers, I volunteered to do any and all errands that involved driving.  One of my favorite drives was to the Miracle Mile in Manhasset.   Every Christmas Eve, my parents hosted a buffet dinner at which one of the dishes served was "beef tartar".  This was raw filet mignon ground like hamburger and served with crackers.  It was delicious.  Available only in Manhasset at a deli I no longer remember, I would drive the twenty miles or so, pick up the beef which had been ordered well in advance and was tenderly wrapped in brown butcher paper, and head home.  I could never resist sampling it as I drove back.

I loved the drive to Manhasset and made it frequently.  Garden City girls shopped at Altmans, Peck and Peck, Lord and Taylor, Bonwit Teller and A&S...all solid retailers on the mile.  Lord and Taylor sold the most beautiful leather wallets imported from France.  They came in gorgeous colors like; turquoise, daffodil, navy or scarlet.  Each wallet was embossed with a gold fleur de lis and sold for $5.00.  I bought a new one every year.
Another favorite destination was on the south side of the island.  The Pappagallo shoe outlet was in a downstairs "hole in the wall" that I went to frequently with my round the block friend, Gail.  Pappagallo made the most beautiful leather flats in a rainbow of colors and styles.  Marked down to $5 or $8 a pair because of some tiny and usually invisible flaw, by the time I went to college, I had over 24 pairs of these beauties, each in their distinctive black box with "Pappagallos" written in turquoise across the box top.  Some had lattice tops, others had floppy blossoms, some had shiny reptile-like vamps.  Pappagallo flats, pearls and Bermuda Bags were the uniform of the day in the 60's to be accompanied by Revlon's Naked Pink or Barely Beige lipstick.  Another popular lipstick was the fragrant Tangee - orange in the tube, it turned a different shade on your lips.

The Bermuda Bag was nothing more than a muslin bag with a wooden handle and several small buttons on each side.  We would collect "covers" in colors and prints to match our outfits and usually received the monogrammed covers as gifts on special occasions.  One bag - many was all in the Bermuda Bag!

We wore our flats with tan hose and I can clearly remember making the transition from the old garter belt and seamed stocking of the 40's and 50's to the first pantyhose sold in white plastic eggs appropriately named "L'eggs".  We girls were moving into a modern age!

"Mustang Sally"....NOT!

By the time I was sixteen, I was driving.  Since daddy worked in Manhatten (the city) he and thousands of other men like him commuted in on the Long Island Railroad.  As the car didn't need to sit in a parking lot all day, I often took him to the train station in the morning and then drove on to school.  The first car I drove was a little white Pontiac LeMans convertible.  It was a sweet car but didn't touch how I felt about the next one, an absolutely gorgeous rusty orange Firebird Convertible the color of autumn leaves.  It had a black top.  It has always been, by far, my favorite ride.

I took it to college after graduation and depended on it to ferry me back and forth from Hackettstown, NJ to the North Fork of Long Island.  I got two tickets in that for driving faster than was posted on a four lane out of Jersey and the other for "drifting" thru a stop sign on Shelter Island.  It was the car I drove from the island, across the ferry and over to Westhampton for classes in the summer of 68.  It even became the sanctuary for some illegal stuff when a friend I had offered a ride to hid his "pot" in the glove compartment.  I very rarely, if ever, drove that car without the top down and a wide brimmed white hat on my head.  While I didn't even resemble "Twiggy", the hat became my "signature look".

Unfortunately, driving that car from New York to Dallas and back again a couple of times, wore out the transmission and my father wanted to replace it.   Knowing how much I hated to give it up,  he told me that I could pick out whatever I wanted.  Hmmm....well, I asked for and got a royal blue GTO with a baby blue racing stripe.

My, my!  That car was the envy of a lot of guys.  While not a snappy convertible, that car could move but it never did replace my beloved Firebird.  My dad and my brother, Steve, drove it down to Dallas for me in the summer of 1970.  It took me on to Atlanta where I went to graduate school in 1971 but I don't remember it lasting too long either because I ended up with my mothers yellow Buick with the brown vinyl top which my husband Allen and I drove until we wore a hole in the floor board and could see the lines in the roads beneath us.


"Openings" was the name we gave to the weekend on which the bars and restaurants, closed for the winter months, re-opened. Usually on Memorial Weekend, many of the public schools would soon be closed for the summer and families were packing up and re-locating to summer homes all over the eastern portion of Long Island. Our retreat was located on a magical island accessible only by ferry boat. Shelter Island, called "the Rock" by some who did not appreciate its isolation is located in Peconic Sound between the North and the South Forks of Long Island.
With "openings" the summer would start in earnest and the season would be in full swing. Summer friends would re-connect and old timers would begin sizing up the new additions to island property owners.
Down at the Yacht Club, cotton sails would be unfurled and laid out in the grassy yard to bleach in the bright sunlight. Meanwhile, sailors and would be sailors alike, stripped, sanded and re-varnished the beautiful little dinghys we called "Wood Pussys". Unassuming crafts, these were the boats we learned to sail on. They had only one sail and because of their wide beam, they were rarely in danger of capsizing.
Long since replaced by fiberglas and dacron, the wood pussy was standard issue at the Shelter Island Yacht Club. It was not unusual to see two dozen of these little boats navigating the buoys set out for the weekly races. Racing would be an all day affair what with preparing the boats, setting sail, navigating the course and later, making a mooring and laying the sails back out to dry. Cotton sails required
thorough drying to prevent mildew and dry rot. The grown ups kept a sort of watchful eye on their offspring and waited for the sails to dry by passing time at the bar and sometimes moving on inside for dinner. The younger generation drank Cokes out of green bottles and chased each other around the docks. In an effort to entertain us and perhaps keep us out of trouble, the club ran endless screenings of John Biddle sailing adventure movies. These were celluloid, black and white films of sailing races around the world designed to excite, inspire and maintain interest in the activity and in keeping the concept of a real yacht club alive.
Wandering the docks of the club to which I did not belong but often frequented as the guest of friends who did, I remember being awed and transfixed by a world I somehow sadly knew would soon be ending for me and for so many others. These years, the mid and late 60's, were our "Golden Age".