I heard this on my favorite soap opera today. I will not take credit for it, but I like it. “Memories live in our hearts forever and always will be alive with us.” This is true, I, even after forty-eight years of my Dad being gone and twenty-eight years for my Mom being gone; when I was thirty years old for my Dad’s passing and fifty years for my Mom’s passing and I can still remember some of their sayings to me growing up and as a young adult.
When we are young, we think our parents are old fogeys, when we are young adults, we think, well maybe, they are kind of smart and when we become seniors and they may be gone, we realize that in their modest ways; they lived lives of honesty and love. Dad came here with his siblings and parents from Russia as a seven year old. Mom was born here, right in Baltimore, Maryland. They were both from families that did not have large incomes; in fact they had meager incomes. They raised their kids with dignity, demanded good school grades and taught them all to be good people.
When I was young, we did not know too many people who were wealthy. I had a person, who we called Aunt, though she and Mom were not sisters, they were good friends. I thought her wealthy because she had then what was called a storm door entrance. It was like a little phone booth attached to her front door. In there, you left your wet umbrella or your snow shoes if winter, before you entered her finely furnished living room. She had little china statues all over the dining room table and on shelves in her living room. The house was small, but fancier than ours and she had a television set about twelve inches in size. That was a large one in those days of about 1946 and everyone came over to watch the television on certain nights when an interesting or funny show was broadcast. She would serve drinks and cookies or small pieces of cake she had baked. She loved to entertain and to let everyone think she was wealthier than the rest of us. She was. She had nice furnishings and if you wanted coffee or tea, she served it in china cups.
We all were grateful to her for letting us come to see the new invention called TV. She had been poor when she was growing up along with Mom and they lived in the same neighbor which is called Little Italy here in Baltimore. Mom always like to tell us she lived a few blocks from the mayor and his family. Of course, the mayor and his family lived in a lovely home there. The mayor and family were friendly persons and no one had any complaints against him.
Mom had many memories of those poor growing up days as all did, who lived in those times. They had good parents, food, schools to go to, and all their friends were in the same financial situations. So Aunt who entertained her friends and family enjoyed showing she had come up in the world and that was OK and she was a good hostess. Her husband was shy and he never came down from the upstairs area, while these folks were there. He probably had another small TV set up there while we were all downstairs.
I think it excellent now that I have all these things I did not have growing up as some of the rich girls did where we went to junior high school then. It was an accelerated school where the cream of the crop of all the students in all of the city elementary schools were chosen from to attend it. It was called Robert E. Lee Junior High School. It was filled with kids from low income areas, kids like me from intermediate areas and then the rich kids from the more wealthy neighborhood schools. You were chosen by your marks and your good manners and your supposed intelligence all the years in the elementary schools then. It was an honor and my brother went there and I prayed I would get in too when my time came; because I did not want him to get ahead of me. So when the letter came to announce by acceptance, I was thrilled and that was a very memorable day.
So that was one of those days you never forget and then of course, many others followed as life went forward. When we bought our first TV set, I was so happy that Mom and I did not have to walk the six blocks to Aunt’s house, walk through her storm door room and then have to say Hi to all of her other guests and then the long six block walk home in the dark alone, just her and me. Of course, we were not afraid then as we may be now to walk that distance, a lady of about thirty-nine and me a kid of about twelve years of age. Dad never went there. He stayed home to read his newspaper, to write letters to the editor of the Sunpapers, written by hand, no typewriter and he was content with that order of the evening.
We bought our first TV when I was fifteen and it sat in its place of honor in the living room, where we are gathered to watch the three stations that were on then. We still listened to our handy radios too. We had no dishwashers, dryers for our wet clothing or storm doors. We had no air conditioning units and only got a car when I was about fifteen. Dad paid five hundred dollars for a used car, now called pre-owned and how proud he was to have it. We knew then we had reached the next plateau of ‘wealth’ and we were satisfied with life.
The rich girls in junior high school had mouton lamb coats and cashmere sweaters. I did not yearn for them and even today, I never cared for a fur coat or jacket. When my Aunt Ruth passed on, she left me her long and beautiful mink coat. I had it shortened and my initials put over hers in the satin lining. I wore it once and never again and it sits in a cupboard in the cellar, never to have been worn again. I do not care fur coats, I felt like a big brown bear when I wore it.
Wealth can mean lots of things to different people. At this time in life, I am content upon waking up and not have my aching right knee to be aching. I feel quite rich to be able to walk from room to room and not use the cane that was given to me by the orthopedic doctor months ago. I use it now and then and actually it is quite pretty, shiny and black. Some canes come in various patterns of color and when you learn to use it; you are told grasp it in the left hand and the reason is because the right knee is the area to be lightened up. Place the cane forward first, then your right foot forward, your left foot forward and of course, I can relate that in a funny way to learning a new dance step.
Now when I go out, I watch people walking with canes and see that they do the same thing. After the first day of using it outside and going into a building and thinking that everyone knew I needed a cane and here I was a gorgeous senior lady, hair all fixed, nails polished purple for the Ravens, purple bows on my shoes for the team and I had to use a cane. No one looked at me differently or even cared and the only comment I got was “I love your purple Ravens bows on your shoes. Where did you get the shoes and or the bows?” So I was not important enough for anyone to wonder why is she using the cane?
When I got on the elevator, there were four other people with canes of various colors and patterns, so I was in the Cane Club. No big deal, just a tool to help me take weight off of the bad knee and hopefully it will be resolved and when I see someone else with a cane, I will hope they can stop soon too if possible.
Memories of TV sets, cookies, china cups, storm doors as big as some bathrooms, canes, rich kids, poor kids, life in general are there to be placed in special places in our mind and hearts and every now and then, it is nice to bring them out and lay them on the table and to think how far we have come and if we are fortunate, there will be time for many more memories to look back upon.
I love the December holidays of Chanukah and Christmas and the good feelings people have during these five weeks from Thanksgiving, which we all have. Sometimes, Chanukah comes early in the December month and we have a holiday tradition of we light the electric Menorah to celebrate its eight days and we wait and give our presents at Christmas time in order to drag the season out to that time, since our holiday may have been early that year. Sometimes, they coincide with a day or two of each other. Next year, it will be very early and be exactly on the Thursday of Thanksgiving 2013. Wow, that is the earliest it is, in all my years. We will light the Menorah and keep it lit for the eight days and then we will exchange presents at Christmas time. It is way too early and since we cannot change it, we will celebrate it twice, once on the actual day and once on another religion’s day.
That is fine and it gives us one other memory to remember; that Thanksgiving and Chanukah fell on the same day in 2013 and that is kind of cute.
For Thanksgiving 2013, we will be thankful for everything we have and that we can still look forward to the end of December to receive and give all of the gifts. It will be indeed a nice memory for the grandchildren and they can tuck it away in the memory section of their brilliant minds and remember that old Grammie wrote about the coming of this unique dual holiday way back in 2012 when she was an old lady of seventy-eight. They will remember that Grammie liked to write about things from the old days too in all of her articles and now they are also remembering the old days from their youth as Grammie always did too.