Sunday, February 07, 2010

Back home

Its been a really good visit. My bag is already packed and sitting next to the door, but I have a few minutes so I
was going through the photos that my brother had taken this weekend and I found these. I wasn't with him, but he drove through the little town where we grew up and took some photos of our old house. Its so tiny that I can't imagine how my parents managed to fit 5 children in that place- no wonder we were always being forced outside for playtime. I can just see my window on the basement level, its a bit hidden behind the trees (that have been planted since we left). At night, laying in bed, I could hear the white noise of the traffic speeding by on the interstate that passed by our town, on the other side of the golf course. Thats probably the reason why I've always slept so well in cheap motels when we stop while on vacation. That high humming whiz of 18-wheelers flying down the road reminds me of childhood.

He also took a photo of my best friend's house, located just around the block, where I spent a good 25% of my days. My best friend moved away when I was 12 and through the wonder of Facebook, I now am able to see her boys growing up. Her son is only 4 months younger than Ella- the same age difference as me and Amy. Its sad to think that if it wasn't for the terrible habit of modern life to scatter people to the four corners of the globe, our kids might be growing up just around the block from each other and playing spies, while climbing through the bushes.

Ross also took a shot of the little Catholic school where we all went for elementary school. When I first started, there were 4 nuns living in the apartment at the end of the building- Sisters Ruth (who scared the living daylights out of me when I tried to give her one of my birthday treats when I turned 6. In all fairness, all she did was ask me how old I was, but it was in front of an entire class of GREAT BIG ENORMOUS 6TH GRADERS!!!) , Methodius (the nice one who made bookmarks from old christmas cards and ran the library), Cornelius (who taught penmenship like an old marine drill sargent , which is the reason why I was able to work as a professional calligrapher for a few years in college) , and Rita (the pretty young one, although I suspect
even she was in her forties, so you can guess how ancient the other 3 were...) I loved that school. There were teeny tiny little classes of about 6 kids and they were all from farm families of about 14, so poor as can be. We didn't have much in the way of material but I can't imagine getting better teaching. We had to go to church nearly every day, which means that ever since then, I've felt fine about skipping Sunday Mass, figuring I banked up enough to last me til retirement. The highlight of the year was when each class got to do cake and cookie sales. Of course, to offset the fact that we would be spending the afternoon gorging on sweets, Eileen the cook, would force us to eat split pea soup for lunch. Her homemade bread and applesauce did nothing to help it go down. And I almost forgot- the 5th and 6th graders took turners cleaning the kitchen after lunch. In the spring when it was nice out, this was sheer torture. But in the winter, when the teachers would push us all outside in the freezing cold just so that they could have 10 minutes of quiet, it was actually a treat. We would sometimes sneak an extra cookie or box of chocolate milk (although god help you if Father Fliss caught you at it) and drag it out as long as possible to avoid having to take recess. Of course, now a days, they would never be allowed to let children near one of those giant dishwashing machines. It was great fun though. Opening up the door and having a big cloud of steam rush up in your face. Standing on the stool and using the giant sprayer to hose off the trays before racking them up. Standing at the counter to collect trays and letting your buddies get away with stuffing their lunch in their empty milk cartons.

The last photo he took was of main street. Its so sad to see it now, with every single building shuttered except for the bar and the post office. When I was little, Ray's 5 and Dime was still open and it was heaven on earth. A real old-fashioned shop, with a soda counter and glass jars of hard candy, big wooden bins full of little plastic toys. Comic books. A little white-haired lady behind the counter, who would ring up your purchases on a old cash register that had the numbers flip up and would ding, when she pulled down the big handle. I loved that place. There was a cinema, where I went with Amy O to see my first movie, Annie. I cried so hard that my mom had to take me out to the lobby so that I could pull myself together. And of course, Jackie's, on the corner where I bought my first underage beer. Ahh, memories.

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