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.