The smell of morning coffee percolating on the old gas stove drew me out of the bedroom of my grandparents apartment.
Just like the mythical Dick, Jane and Sally would visit Grandmother and Grandfather on their farm, I was off for an overnight visit with mine, not on a farm like in the primer, but in their apartment in Queens, NY.
Because my grandparents still lived in the same brick, Art-Deco-Moderne apartment house that my father grew up in, I had entered the world of my father’s youth.
Padding into the Nile gray-green kitchen unnoticed, my footsteps were wiped out by the hum of the old Frigidaire which my grandparents still referred to as an icebox. The sliding-leaf kitchen table, its bent tubular chrome legs shined to a gleaming perfection, was always uncharacteristically cluttered, so unlike the rest of the tidy apartment.
It was the only hint of disorder in an otherwise well-ordered world.
An oilcloth covering the table’s antiseptic porcelain top was littered with dozens of little tins of Phillips Milk of Magnesia tablets, that my grandfather chewed like candy mints, which were scattered among the repository of the day’s flotsam and jetsam. Only the maroon, Bakelite table top radio, with its large round dial and concentric speaker grill bars, stood constant watch over the ever-changing tableaux of detritus on the table.
Acknowledging my presence, my grandfather greeted me, his gravely Noo Yawk voice in its best Jimmy Durante delivery: “Ev-rybody wants ta get intah da act”.
Unlike Little Sally’s farmer grandfather with whom she politely shook hands, my grandfather proceeded to kiss me with his unshaven face that was as abrasive as his voice.
Whatever time of day, Papas breath was always minty-fresh, whether from peppermint Chicklets, those candy coated little nuggets of gum in the little yellow box, or from minty Feen-a Mint laxative gum. He always carried both of the similar looking gum in his pocket, often confusing one for the other, which was why I always refused his offer of gum.
Cooking over the blue flame of the gas stove was a large pot of bubbling gray stick-to-your-ribs hot cereal, which Nana said would brace up my nerves and help with my digestion.
Turning my nose up at the bubbling gruel, she quickly reached for a box of cold cereal as an alternative. “The Big chief says he’ll throw in the whole village for a box of Shredded Wheat,” she recited reading from the unfamiliar box with a picture of a factory and Niagara Falls on it.
“Shredded Wheat was your fathers favorite!” she crowed pouring milk into my bowl till the whole mass was submerged in a pool of liquid, wiping the glass milk bottle with an absorbent dishcloth to catch any rogue drop lest it splash on the clover patterned oilcloth.
Now staring up at me at the breakfast table was a hefty, stoneware ceramic cereal bowl filled with a very forlorn looking object that resembled a bale of hay. I began feeling homesickness coming over me.
I was used to jolly bowls of make-you-happy cereals- little puffs of corn in gay fruit colors, or wholesome, colorful, candy-coated flakes of wheat, served in light-as-air-it-never-breaks-melamine bowls.
Except for the promise of relief offered by the color Sunday comics, my morning had started out as dull and dreary as the view of the dark back alley, as a steady drizzle of cold November rain sifted down out of the wan sky.
The thick morning tabloids gushed with hot-off-the press news about the birth of John F. Kennedy Jr., and were chock full of pulse stirring stories of our new President-Elect, this most modern of leaders- this, the president in our future.
On the cusp of a new decade Americans were ready to blast off into the New Frontier of the 1960s leaving grandfatherly Old-father-time Eisenhower in the dust.
Since the summer the promise of young men vying for his job was on everyone’s mind. And no more so than the Senator from Massachusetts John Kennedy. JFK exuded youthful optimism , he was pure motion like the feel of a Thunderbird smooth, easy with a special flare, urging us to move forward
In contrast to the topical editorials extolling how JFK would “get us moving”, the comic strips seemed, well… stagnant and a bit dusty.
Sadly frozen in time, Poor Little Orphan Annie, and The Katzenjammer Kids had faced the same un-resolved dilemmas for the past forty years, when a little boy in knickers sat at this same table hungrily enjoying his Shredded Wheat.
I on the other hand, was used to having Little Orphan Annie served up to me in the lively form of TV Host Chuck McCann dressed in drag, who in his curly top auburn wig, would read the comics from the Daily News to his TV audience.
Coming up: Pt IV Little Sally’s Big Visit With Her Grandparents
Copyright (©) 20012 Sally Edelstein All Rights Reserved -Excerpt From Defrosting The Cold War:Fallout From My Nuclear family
- Little Sally’s Big Visit With Her Grandparents (envisioningtheamericandream.wordpress.com)
- Little Sally’s Big Visit With Her Grandparents PT II (envisioningtheamericandream.wordpress.com)
- Little Sally’s Big Visit With Her Grandparents Pt IV- Radio Daze (envisioningtheamericandream.wordpress.com)