In the early morning twilight I can hear them. Just before dawn I still remember what they sound like and see them in my mind’s eye.
My favorite relatives who are no longer on this earth. It sounds creepy but it’s really not. They were very happy part of my growing up.
Maybe it’s a reflection of my 51 years or my inner child needs to let loose once in a while, I don’t know. But when I think of my favorite great aunts and uncles and grandparents and even my father it’s always at those predawn times when I am just waking up.
This morning I heard my Great Uncle Carl talking to his dog Lancelot. When I was little Lancelot was this absolutely gorgeous German Shepherd. He was my uncle’s pride and joy.
I rarely hear or can summon mental images of my maternal grandparents my paternal grandfather. They were the first to die when I was very young, so my memories of them are more faint.
My paternal grandfather, Pop Pop helped me along with my father plant my first tomato plants and our garden’s first rosebush when I was little – the hybrid tea rose John F. Kennedy. That rose was one of the most spectacular white roses. It’s a shame you don’t see that rose very often anymore.
My Mumma, my mother’s mother, was Pennsylvania German from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She was blonde and blue-eyed and always wore her hair in a French twist. I swear I never saw that woman in a robe and bedroom slippers. She was always dressed with her make up on. She was a great cook, especially when it came to baking. I remember as a little girl she used to make those lemon and blueberry meringue pies with the diner-high meringue. It is also because of her that I learned how to do needlework. She did the most beautiful embroidery. As a matter fact, my mother recently gave me a whole bunch of now antique linens that were made by her and the women in her family.
My Mumma unfortunately slid into horrible Alzheimer’s or dementia when my maternal grandfather, my Poppy died. As a matter fact the last memory I have of Mumma speaking and acting clearly was when she called our house to tell my mother that my grandfather ( this one I called Poppy) had had a heart attack and died.
Poppy had been older than Mumma. He was little and Irish and had been among other things, a carpenter. He made some of the toys my sister and I played with when we were little. Poppy was very sweet. I think I was in eighth grade when he died. When he got tired of too much women’s nattering he would turn his hearing aids off.
When my Pop Pop (my father’s father) died I think I might’ve been six or eight years old I don’t even remember I was that little. I remember the long ride to the church in North Philadelphia where he was buried out of and putting a little bunch of violets in his coffin. And then an even longer ride to the cemetery he is buried in.
But back to my Uncle Carl. My Uncle Carl was a pharmacist. He owned Trooper Pharmacy in Trooper, Pennsylvania. And I still have the mortar and pestle he gave my father. It’s still the best thing for making pesto. He had started out with his brother at another pharmacy they owned that was on the corner of 12th and Ritner in South Philadelphia.
My Uncle Carl and Aunt Rose lived in Collegeville. They lived up Ridge Pike when it was still country, and my grandmother and great aunts would refer to where they lived as the “country”. They lived in a big house and they never actually use the second floor it was so big. They had one child, my father’s cousin Carl who had gone to Annapolis to the Naval Academy and been in the Navy. He and his then wife Linda were so very glamorous to me when I was a little girl – they were quite the striking couple. I loved when we would go to visit them in Maryland. The second house they lived in was this fabulous Victorian in Ellicott City. I think at that time their dog was a Dalmatian.
My Great Aunt Josie used to do her big summer vegetable garden at Aunt Rose and Uncle Carl’s. She would go out there for extended periods of time in the summer and I still remember her tending the garden. Of course she also had a garden in the back of her house in South Philadelphia, and a giant grapefruit tree she grew from seed. The shame of where my Aunt Rose and Uncle Carl used to live is now everything around there is developed. Driving by today you would never believe there was a farm behind them with horses that would eat the apples from their Apple trees and so on.
My great aunt and uncle’s favorite place to get dressed up to go out to dinner was The Lakeside Inn. I believe that is actually in Limerick and I think it’s still open today. I remember one time my father’s family was all gathered there at the Lakeside Inn was for either a birthday for my great aunt or a wedding anniversary celebration.
We were all dressed up and gathered for this party that took over a good portion of the inn. Even my father’s brother was in town with his first wife and however many children they had popped out at the time. My father’s sister, my aunt was there with her daughters and husband.
We never saw my father’s brother and sister terribly much after a certain point growing up. They really didn’t get along with my father and they really weren’t nice to my mother… and they really showed little interest in my sister and I.
I remember a family party at the Lakeside Inn vividly. When I was a little girl it was a very pretty place and I always felt very grown up being there. I remember at the party my father’s brother took all the children downstairs to the gift shop. Only he only bought little trinkets and presents for his children and my father’s sister’s children. It was at that point in time that I really decided I did not care for my uncle even if he was my father’s brother. There my then very little sister and I stood while everyone else were given little gifts purchased by my late father’s brother. It was just kind of mean.
My Uncle Carl, who was always the sweetest and kindest of men somehow got wind of what was going on and he took my sister and I downstairs again and let us pick out gifts from the gift shop so we weren’t left out of being treated. I had that little stuffed owl he bought me that someone had made by hand until it literally fell apart threadbare.
Another thing I remember about my Aunt Rose and Uncle Carl was that was where I first became aware of the sounds of summer on their front porch.
It’s funny I used to look at my friends with big holiday gatherings of their families and wonder what that would be like. I remember it from when I was very very little but then it all stopped and eventually families went their separate ways. It got to the point where we would only see everyone at special family parties, weddings, and funerals. But I hated when I was really little being sent to the Antartica of the “children’s table” so maybe it wasn’t so bad after all.
I remember one holiday children’s table in particular – I was really little and my father’s sister and husband and family were living in a rambling white house in Paoli at the time. It was I think Thanksgiving and the children’s table was a card table with a cloth thrown over it near the front stairs. One of the vegetables was black eyed peas. And that is literally all I remember. Other than my one cousin looking irritated all through dinner to be stuck at a table with the little kids.
It’s funny, you always think you forget things and then there are just these odd quiet times when you remember. Another person I think of sometimes during these quiet times is my mother’s niece Suzy. Suzy died of cancer the same day as my father a couple of years later.
Suzy was like a big sister more than a cousin she was in and out of her house so much when I was little. I remember before she got married she worked at a very cool clothes store Philadelphia on Chestnut Street. She always had the best outfits! Her wedding to her first husband was celebrated at our parish church old St. Joseph’s on Willings Alley. Her wedding reception was actually held at my parents’ house in Society Hill.
I remember during her wedding sitting in the breakfast room off the kitchen on the bottom step where the back stairs up to the second floor of the house were with my cousin Carol eating water chestnuts wrapped in bacon. I also remember the wedding photographer doing my cousin Suzy’s portraits before the wedding in my parents’ bedroom and other places in the house when she was getting ready.
When I was in my 20s my cousin Suzy lived in Newtown Bucks County with her first husband and three daughters. It was always such a big treat to go spend the weekend with my cousin Suzy and her family. We always had so much fun.
Suzy and I spend a lot of our time going to flea markets like Rices in New Hope. We would also explore antique shop after antique shop throughout Bucks County and in New Jersey across from New Hope.
I also think of Suzy sometimes when I put my Fiestaware away. It was with Suzy that I saw Fiestaware for the first time. We were exploring on the other side of the river in New Jersey. We were not in Lambertville I forget where we were. But there was this antique store that almost exclusively sold vintage Fiestaware and they also in a section of the store sold imported Russian nesting dolls. Don’t know if the store still exists but I remember it vividly. I remember row after row of the happy colors of Fiestaware.
I have a lot of memories of my father obviously and him I miss at certain times a great deal. I always think of him a lot at Christmas because he loved Christmas and he was the most perfectionist of perfectionists when it came to decorating the Christmas tree. And my father’s tree was always silver and gold. It was a minor miracle when you could sneak a color on it. I have some of his ornaments still in the original boxes with his handwriting identifying what they are written on the box.
And I had to laugh the other day as I looked at my Christmas tree and Christmas decorations which are still not all put away yet. I thought of him because one year everyone argued over who was taking down what and putting away which Christmas decorations and basically the Christmas tree stayed up until almost Valentine’s Day. That memory still makes me laugh.
I’m glad I have these memories of people who have gone before me. My friends always tell me to write things down when I remember them, but half the time I just forget – it’s sort of like my recipes. I’m thinking and 2016 I should make more of an effort to write these memories down while I still have them.
Thanks for stopping by.