time passages

My husband loves Al Stewart’s music. I have always liked it as well. So every once on Spotify, I turn on some Al Stewart. One of his songs is running in a loop through my brain. Has been since I received some news that kind of upended me yesterday and today. The song is Time Passages. So that is why the video is in this post. Another song too has been in that loop. Supertramp’s Lord Is It Mine. Both my husband and I also love Supertramp. Also added a favorite Genesis song and a Steve Winwood too. Might as well do the full music I liked then and today. Music helps.

But…..Damn my age is showing. The music is all from “back in the [proverbial] day”. And this really has nothing to do with what I have been trying to write since this morning. It’s like if I write it out, it becomes more real. Music cushions the thoughts.

I have been sitting in front of my computer screen. I know what I want to say, but have been somewhat stuck in my own head since last evening when I received completely unexpected news.

One of my favorite people, a friend who feels like he’s been around literally since almost forever has died. Forever meaning I think we met circa 1976 or so. I know this is something I have to write about because it just needs to leave my brain. The memories need to settle and go back to happy, not swirl in my brain like an unhappy tornado.

Yes, a lot of tears have been quietly shed today.

He was hit by a car while walking. Just a freak accident a fluke. He wasn’t sick, he loved his life, was in the prime of his life, nice career, nice man. The kind of person you want in your life until we are really old and gray, only that won’t happen now.

Somewhere in a trunk I have photos from when we were teenagers and older. So many memories. Damn it David, I am not grown up enough for this.

I will start with one a friend reminded me of last night. Sitting in the middle of my parents’ driveway and David shouting “To the airport and hop on it!” when a VW rabbit went by. And that day multiple VW rabbits drove down our then quiet road. It was a hot car then. We laughed and laughed.

Another memory sitting in my parents’ library with him and three or four other friends. Don’t know why. It may have been after JDA (Junior Dancing Assemblies.)

Ahh what were the Junior Dancing Assemblies (“JDA”)? They were formal by invitation dances. The Senior Dancing Assemblies (‘SDA”) followed. They were held at the Merion Tribute House in Merion Station. Every time it was my father’s turn to drive us kids, he got lost. I still get lost going there.

Girls in long dresses or long formal tartan skirts and an appropriate top. Note that appropriate those days was NOT short skirts or skimpy tops or even spaghetti straps or strapless. Somewhere I have the original invitation that had the dress code. It was a tradition starting to wane by the time we went. Sometimes it was a bad cover band, other times a D.J.

A few years ago, David and I had some serious giggles over JDA and SDA and that Gold Lamé dragon Mrs. Farber. She was the one who ran the dances. Seriously, she seemed to have an endless supply of Gold Lamé dresses that had these almost bullet bra tops and didn’t move anymore than her Aqua Net cemented hair do. She was terrifying. She dragged me into the service kitchen at Merion Tribute one night and called my mother on the kitchen phone to report that I wouldn’t dance with someone she picked out for me to dance with. Fortunately, David and another friend rescued me. I remember coming home that night and my mother wondering why THAT woman called her. And of course a resounding chorus of “Don’t do that again, you were lucky to be invited.”

We would camp out during JDA and SDA intermissions or breaks and hangout on the window seats at Merion Tribute House and the other seating areas and shove stale pretzels down the heater grates as we drank our slightly warm and slightly flat Coca Colas out of Dixie Cups. During those intermissions we would think up grand schemes never executed to torture Mrs. Farber. Mostly we wondered how her bras were so pointy, how big was that closet of Gold Lamé dresses, and what was actually in her hair.

And then there were our mischief night escapades. One year we took apart a split rail fence and created an obstacle course on the road. We almost got caught that year as we also toilet papered several trees. Another year someone (David) magically re-painted the tops of someone’s wrought iron fence from gaudy gold to black I think it was.

Another thing we did once in a while? Roaming around the back of the estate known as Dolobran in Haverford. Why? So we could peek in the windows of the ballroom. It was so cool. At that point I believe there was just one tiny old lady living there. That was back when said little old lady gave me a $20 bill for Halloween one year back then. I had dressed my dog up as a cat to go trick or treating.

During the high school years we all went to different schools. So there were parties at Kip’s house or Adam’s house. Then there were the Philadelphia Charity Ball Years. David rescued me a couple of times when I did not have a date and my mother said I could not go with “just friends.” So he really wasn’t my escort, but covered for me and another friend so we could go.

Eventually we all went our separate ways and wouldn’t see each other as often. While I stayed pretty much in the Philadelphia area, David and other friends were spread out all over the east coast, out west, down south. So then there was Christmas.

Christmas Eve for decades meant one Christmas party in particular for many of us in Gladwyne. So I always saw David and his family there. When we were younger, we would be with the kids downstairs in a big rec room for the most part. As we got older we migrated upstairs and would take over the hosts’ study.

Then at some point, we all stopped going. In recent years, David and I would connect by phone, email, and like so many others Facebook. We would occasionally see each other when he was up from Florida to see family still in the area.

David did things liked sent me little gifts sometimes for no reason. A couple of years ago it was a set of whimsical kitchen towels he thought I would like.

The last time we connected was his birthday….barely a month ago.

Hopping around: I remember when his mother died. April, 1978. Not too long from now is the anniversary. I remember when he called me. She was the first parent of someone I knew who passed away. His dad remarried a few years later, and his father and stepmother and siblings and family and friends all survive him. His stepmother is truly lovely. And I remember that was not easy coming into the world of three boys of various ages who had lost their mother.

My head is calmer now as I have written down some of these memories and allowed the memories of laughter wash over me. Today has been full of phone calls from some of our old friends, which is comforting for all of us. It gives us a chance to quietly remember someone who was just a wonderful person, one of our life long friends.

Telling my mother was no fun. She always adored David. My past is her past here. And his stepmother and father are still alive and such nice people. She said to me no parent wants to outlive their children.

Now David wasn’t someone who would want us to be endlessly sad. So I am celebrating him right now with a post traveling down a meandering multi-decade memory lane. The meandering includes music. What I have shared plus a favorite playlist from Spotify.

David gave his friends a precious gift one last time. And that gift is allowing some of us to reconnect. We will honor that gift and remember him. (Umm he also gave me his grandmother’s pound cake recipe and THAT is priceless.)

David, we will all miss you, and when I have my next glass of Rosé, I will lift a glass in your honor. Thanks for the memories, but it just wasn’t time enough.

The older I get, the more I realize loss is not for sissies.

Goodbye, old friend.

time passages

Time Passages by Al Stewart.

It was late in December, the sky turned to snow
All round the day was going down slow
Night like a river beginning to flow
I felt the beat of my mind go
Drifting into time passages
Years go falling in the fading light
Time passages
Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight
Well I’m not the kind to live in the past
The years run too short and the days too fast
The things you lean on are the things that don’t last
Well it’s just now and then my line gets cast into these
Time passages
There’s something back here that you left behind
Oh time passages
Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight
Hear the echoes and feel yourself starting to turn
Don’t know why you should feel
That there’s something to learn
It’s just a game that you play
Well the picture is changing
Now you’re part of a crowd
They’re laughing at something
And the music’s loud
A girl comes towards you
You once used to know
You reach out your hand
But you’re all alone, in these
Time passages
I know you’re in there, you’re just out of sight
Time passages
Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight

Al Stewart. My husband and I both love his music. He is one of my earliest music memories. As in I liked to listen to him. My tastes were somewhat eclectic. I didn’t like the Doobie Brothers (and a friend’s cousin was a roadie in the 70s), and as sacrilegious as it sounds, I never got The Grateful Dead. I think the first time I heard Al Stewart was down at a friends house in Bethesda, Maryland. These two sisters who are still my pals had two older brothers, one of whom used to take us to Kemp Mill Records in Georgetown (Washington, DC). I loved that music store more than any other I was ever in. They always were playing the most fabulous music, and no disco biscuits need apply. Now to those in my peer group who were devotees of Plastic Fantastic and Mads Records, this will come as a surprise, but there was nothing better than Kemp Mill Records in my opinion.

So this morning I had an earworm when I woke up and it was Al Stewart’s Time Passages. Hence the post title. And how does it tie to this post that is most definitely a ramble? It just does.

We all have music that evokes memories. Al Stewart reminds me of first Kemp Mill Records along with The Little River Band. Later on, Al Stewart would remind me of The Point in Bryn Mawr. The Point was where the original Main Point was, and Al played there when I was too young to be allowed to go there. But I made up for lost time when The Point opened up in the same spot as the original Main Point.

The Point ran in Bryn Mawr circa 1998 to 2005. Al Stewart was there often and other musicians I loved like Shawn Mullins and Sophie B Hawkins. The original Main Point began circa 1964, and closed in 1981 the year I graduated high school.

So I have been thinking about time passages. This year is my 40th high school reunion from Shipley, and thanks to COVID-19 no reunion. I remember 1981. Back then, almost 57 just seemed so very far away, yet here we are.

Mini Term, Spring of 1980

I have a nice life. I am blessed and am where I am supposed to be, with the person whom I am supposed to be with. Added bonus? He knew and remembers my younger self. I think that makes me really lucky. And I know I am loved. I can’t say that about everyone I know.

The past year with COVID-19 has taken many of us on mental road trips. My stepfather, who is British by birth, remarked that over the past year he had many memories of his childhood in England, including World War II float to the surface. He said that he found it interesting that these memories are still intact and that we needed the quiet of life imposed upon us by a global pandemic to allow them to float back into our consciousness. It’s kind of true.

Life and time march on no matter how we try to stop it. I see women who look fabulous, but haven’t figured out those really short skirts and impossibly high heels they are still wearing in defiance of the aging process would be better suited to their nieces and daughters. They remind me of this woman I remember from the Main Line when I was in my 20s. She liked frog statues in her garden and had a killer figure….but she would wear pantyhose and hot pants and summer heels and sandals for summer shopping. Especially memorable? Her patriotic July 4th hot pants. It always made me feel a little sad that she wasn’t taking aging well. Now I guess she might have been approaching some point in her 40s back then. But every time I see one of my own contemporaries or slightly younger struggling with the aging process, I think of this woman.

A friend of mine turned 60 the other day. I can’t believe it. I remember when her son used to ride a scooter through our old neighborhood when he was a little guy. Now he’s a grown up, out of college, with his own life.

One of my closest friends oldest child just took his SATs. He totally rocked them. He smiles at me when I tell him I remember when he was hatched. But I do. I remember him so clearly as an infant. And another one of my close friends has her daughter graduating from college. Another kid I love and remember as a little girl. Now she is this beautiful young woman. Even my niece of whom I have these memories of her and her little fashion shows changing her outfits multiple times a day is now a college freshman.

Sometimes I just sit here and think about where time has gone and what it took for us all to get here. And I marvel. Another friend and I were facetiming recently and we were talking about remembering when our parents were the age we are now. And all of the stores we used to love to visit in Bryn Mawr when we were kids like Katy Did and that marvelous book store next to it. And all of the antiques stores and Eskil’s Clog Shop. And of course, wanting to be old enough to go to the Main Point without our parents freaking out.

Volunteering (in costume) at Historic Harriton House in Bryn Mawr 1970s.

The memories of a more innocent time. And a lot of them have resurfaced in the time of COVID-19. And just like my stepfather noted, the memories are still here, we just need quiet to visit them again.

Lots of memories of my late father. He’s been gone since 2005. But I have had all sorts of memories resurface. Like him helping a neighbor plant either azaleas or rhododendrons in a seersucker suit one time when he came home from work. Or running around the day of my sister’s wedding (which was held in my parents’ house) touching up paint because caterers and florists and whomever had marked a couple of walls. Or the little girl memories of going with him on a snowy December night to the rail yards in his red VW bug to get a Christmas tree. Or going shopping on 9th street (Italian Market) with him and visiting all the merchants he had been going to since he was a kid in some cases.

Other things I am remembering of late? Fabulous garden parties in amazing gardens in Philadelphia. I do not remember which non profits benefitted (Philadelphia Parks Alliance, PHS, or a garden club ?) from all of them but I remember how lovely they were. No artifice and beautiful gardens. I think one was at Ernesta Ballard’s house in Chestnut Hill. I remember Thatcher Longstreth’s wife Nancy was there. She was in wheelchair.

Other memories? Shipley Mini Term the spring of 1980. I did an internship in the City Representative’s Office in Philadelphia. My godfather was the late Dick Doran, and at that time he was the City Representative under Mayor Bill Green. Bill Green and Dick Doran knew my father from St. Joe’s Prep. When I was growing up they were around a lot. Dick Doran gave a wedding toast at my parents’ wedding. And I remember when Dick was Chief of Staff to Milton Schapp. I remember that in particular because my father was not a fan of Harrisburg, and I was really little and didn’t know where Harrisburg was.

Perhaps it was that internship while I was a junior in high school that made me interested in observing politics…but never having a desire to run for office. But I remember it was a fascinating time. Ed Rendell was the District Attorney. I remember Thatcher Longstreth taking me to meeting with him in CIty Hall, although he was not a City Councilman again until after I had graduated from high school. He was the nicest man.

That was kind of a golden time in Philadelphia City Hall. Much like the era of Richardson Dilworth, who was not only a beloved Mayor of Philadelphia, but grandfather to one of my oldest childhood friends. However even with the golden time, there was political infighting and even a messenger in City Hall who believed in aliens, and yes had a few tinfoil hats.

Other memories that have floated up to the surface was of all things a plant sale my mother used to work on when I was little. The plant sale at The Hill Physick Keith House. They would stage the plants in the side walled garden that had a gate out to Cypress Street.

The Hill Physick Keith House holds a lot of memories. I remember playing quietly as a very little girl in the curtains in the room with the big desk and beautiful inkwell when my mother was a volunteer there. I actually have a pair of antique drapes that once hung in the house. I do not remember why they were removed, only that when I was little they were going to be thrown out, so my mother adopted them. For a while they hung in our house in Society Hill which had windows of a similar scale to those in the Hill Physick Keith House. Now they live in a blanket chest. I have no reason to keep them, but so many why as to not let them go.

Yes the drapes from the Physick House.

So here we are, It’s 2021. My hair is turning gray and white but is still mostly brown. I gave up the idea of color when I was diagnosed with breast cancer almost 10 years ago. There is a link between hair dyes and breast cancer. So when I heard that I was done with the semi-permanent color I used to use back then. Now when I look in the mirror sometimes I see my father’s mother which kind of freaks me out that I can so clearly see her face in my face at times.

Soon I will be getting my second COVID-19 shot. But I still am keeping it close to home with the COVID-19 of it all. But it also means I can keep on gardening.

I will close with was this where my teenage, childhood, or young adult self though I would be? I am not really sure because after all, within this life we live, we actually live several lives as we go throughout our life. So yes, I definitely can’t answer that. I only know I am home and grateful for my life, and each stage of it.

Thanks for stopping by.