Much of what I write about is for my brother and sister. The blog has become sort of a written record of my family's history. My father has often forwarded family photographs, scrapbooks, heirlooms, and anecdotes my way and it was he who dubbed me the official family historian. I feel a sense of duty to my family since Mom passed away, to remember and record these memories, whether snippets or lengthy stories. My blog has become an easy way to share my family history with not only them, but also extended family and friends. I find my cousins and close friends having "Aha!" moments when they rediscover past memories.
My memories of Nana (Nanny) and Grandpop (my Mother's parents) extend from approximately 1973 through my Grandpop's passing in 1976 to Nana's subsequent passing two years later. They lived at 22 Endwell Lane in Willingboro, New Jersey, in a one story rancher built in 1967. It's still there today.
One funny memory was that my Nanny insisted on serving Adam and I cottage cheese for lunch. Now my brother LOVED cottage cheese. It reminded me of chunky white vomit. I was just so disgusted by it. I took a mouthful and started gagging. My brother wolfed it down. He was so odd. He loved cottage cheese at 7 years old. Nanny flatly stated that if I didn't eat it, I wouldn't eat anything at all. I started crying. I won out and instead ate applesauce every time cottage cheese was served. To this day, I've had a lifelong love of applesauce.
While at Nana's I also learned to dislike prunes and Fig Newtons. As an adult, I grew out of disliking prunes (after that snappy marketing campaign calling them dried plums) but still can't stand those Newtons. Nanny would also buy these short bread cookies with a raspberry or cherry jelly in the center. Loved them. I also remember eating sugar coated jellied fruit slices for the Passover holiday.
I have memories of Nanny cooking her baked chicken and baked fish, two favorite family recipes. I remember her making matzoh ball soup for the Jewish holidays. Mom would tell me stories of Nanny making gefilte fish from scratch as well as homemade applesauce. When Nanny started getting on in years, she once made it with crab apples from the tree in their backyard. It was so tart it was inedible. She was getting on in her years and it began showing, sometimes in her cooking. Even at such a young age, I knew enough that I felt so sad for my Mom who was faced with the realization that her mother was becoming senile. These days, we use the term 'dementia.' Either way, it was a sad moment.
I remember when Grandpop had a heart attack in 1976. It was in the evening when Dad and Mom got the phone call. Someone came to watch us while they sped off in the night to meet my Nana at Rancocas Valley Hospital where Grandpop passed. I remember that night vividly but not with a lot of emotion as I was so young. I did feel awful for my Mom as she was so devastated by her father's death. It was a sad time and Nanny didn't do well after he passed away.
Grandpop's office was usually off-limits to us kids. The couple of times he allowed us to go in there was like stepping into an episode from the 50's-60's AMC TV Show, "Madmen". The furniture and decor was reminiscent of that era. I remember he proudly displayed his bowling trophies. There were several sets of encyclopedias, metal file cabinets, Grandpop's black metal desk on the parquet wood floor. Art Deco bookcases, a wedding gift to my grandparents, held the books, the trophies, a chrome "ship's wheel" ashtray, a couple silver bowls he won as awards, and a sleek black plastic desk thermometer. Various other awards and degrees adorned the walls. I am lucky enough to have his 1918 bachelor's diploma for civil engineering from NYU. Adam now has a coveted small wooden bowling pin trophy.
The living room had a Drexel furniture set, the primo furniture maker of that day, made with a beautiful gold fabric. A real snake plant was in one corner, a fake ficus in another. On the wall was a gold mirror offset by a reproduction of a "Woman in Yellow Dress Reading" by Jean-Honore Fragonard and another repro of a small oil of fishing boats by Vincent Van Gogh. A green and gold tri-level tea stand sat between the living room and dining room. Gold lamps and bric-a-brac were everywhere. Mom often said that Grandpop had a habit during the 50s and 60s of spray painting everything gold as this was popular back then but she so disliked it. And as many women did that day, Nana had plastic covers on all of her furniture. A crystal bowl of sesame candies or caramel chews lay out on the telephone table as a special treat for us grandkids.
The dining room had beautiful dark wood furniture, always polished to a high gloss. Two heavy round crystal candlestick holders were in the middle of the table. One year, when our parents were out with our grandparents for an evening, Sheryl was left to watch over us. We went through everything wreaking havoc.
We kids played hide and seek all over the house. I hid in the center hall closet, wedged between Nana's mink fur coats. I remember smelling them, my head nestled in their softness, then suddenly I was found! I would dart out one of the two closet doors and down the hallway to the back bed rooms. Thankfully during our play time, nothing was broken, except for one of the tall thick white candles in the crystal holders. We received the third degree when they returned home and discovered the candle.
Our sister had alluded to the possibility that Adam and I had broken the candle during our horseplay. Well the accusation stuck and we got blamed for it. Adam and I were so clueless that we ended up believing that possibly we HAD damaged the candle while playing. We found out years later that my dear sister Sheryl had broken it and threw her poor helpless younger brothers under the bus! SHERYL, I will never forget that! LOL.
In the back of the one storied rancher were the master bedroom and the guest room where we would stay. Nana and Grandpop had adopted the "Lucy and Ricky" twin bed thing. Mom's childhood set was in the guest room. On the table beside the bed always sat a small bronze elephant missing one tusk. It has a little plaque on it's back which states "Boston." It is one of my most treasured mementos from my grandparents. Not sure when it was picked up, but was from one of their travels.
I remember the garage being off limits. Grandpop didn't want his shiny green Buick (or possibly Ford?) scratched. My sister Sheryl remembers the "winged" back lights and that it was a friggin' tank with doors heavier than heck! I thought that car looked like a hearse, it was so big and foreboding. Mom later told us that Grandpop loved American cars and would always buy American if possible. The garage smelled heavily like oil.
Adam and I instead played outside around their home. We didn't play too often in the bushes. They always smelled like cat pee. We climbed a small tree in the front yard and climbed the crab apple tree in the back yard. There were also some kids in a cul-de-sac that we would hang out with from time to time, as well as another young kid next door.
One time I got stuck on the chain link fence separating the yards. I tried to be a trapeze artist and fell off the fence, getting my corduroy pants stuck on the top. There I hung upside down with Adam laughing and laughing. Grrrrr. He seemed to take an abnormally long time to get Dad to help rescue me hanging off of that damn fence.
During one of our last visits to see Nana, Adam and I were shoveling the driveway for her. Grandpop had passed on. I thought I'd be funny and dump a shovel full of snow on Adam's head. Unfortunately, with me being a klutz, I accidentally hit him hard on the bridge of his nose with the shovel. He screamed, and blood flowed down his face. Off we went to the hospital with me feeling like the biggest jerk. Sorry Adam! It was truly an accident. But one thing I want to get straight, Adam's Roman nose always looked like that. I had nothing to do with it. LOL :) Just kidding!