Tuesday, January 25, 2011

#108 Perfumed Necklace

My dearests, up in the aerie this overcast morning, fortifying myself with a hot cup of berry tea sweetened with honey made by bees a couple of miles from here on the other side of the creek. The dishwasher is running and I'm simmering chicken stock from carcasses that I've been collecting in the freezer. D is out working, and on the way back home he'll stop at the supermarket. I mentioned to him that I needed an item from the drugstore and he offered to pick it up for me. I described the product, and he said okay, as long as you don't mind me getting it. I said I don't mind as long as you don't mind. He said I don't mind - when I was six I was getting stuff like that for my mother, she'd write it down on a note for me to give to the clerk so that I'd get the right thing and wouldn't be embarrassed. Why didn't your mother buy it herself? She was busy.

As I moved about the kitchen fixing bacon & eggs this morning, this little exchange unleashed a flood of early childhood memories. The first place I remember living in was in Darien, Connecticut, a two-family house with a large garden and lovely neighbors and a little girlfriend a few houses away who had a teenage sister who played the Beatles on her record player. There came a day that I got yanked from my safe, familiar, beloved little world. My parents decided to move, to the next town over, to a rental apartment development - block after block, along winding drives, of identical attached lowrise brick "colonial" style buildings, called "Fair Lawn." There wasn't much lawn, and it wasn't particularly fair. I was very upset when we moved. I was in kindergarten I think. As I recall, or as I perceived it, my parents did nothing to emotionally prepare me (I can't speak for my brothers). Although I remember a new plaything, one of these gray cardboard pads that you scratched on with a plastic implement, which etched a black design or letters beneath the surface, and if you wished to erase the image, you lifted the gray film which peeled away audibly like scotch tape. It was a distraction for that first chaotic night of the move, consolation prize for being ripped from paradise. I think of that move in connection with the foreclosure crisis, with countless families losing their homes, how incredibly traumatic that must be for young children especially, to be ripped from the first places they've ever known.

We were crowded in that apartment, and one of the children (was it me? or perhaps my little brother) accidentally locked himself in the bathroom and through all the panic and tears could not figure out how to simply turn the tiny knob to unlock the door. Another time he got into the medicine cabinet, ate a bottle of children's aspirin, and with a big smile on his face said how much he loved the orange candy. He had to be taken to the hospital and I think he had to have his stomach pumped.

Instead of a garden in which to play and a quiet, tree-lined, shaded lane that I could stroll down and say hello to all the neighbors - now I had an asphalt parking lot behind the buildings. I found a few playmates in neighboring children, though no one in particular springs to mind. I remember once putting on a little theatrical production with them, I imagine the curtain was rigged from sheets pinned up on a clothesline.

My mother once sent me to a little stationery store, about a five or ten minute walk from the apartment for a pack of cigarettes. I came home emptyhanded. Much to my mother's annoyance the shop wouldn't sell to a minor. Didn't you tell the clerk they're not for you, that they're for your mother? Of course - I tried very hard to convince the clerk! (Not long after the Surgeon General's warning came out, and my mother quit smoking on the spot.)

I loved this shop. I haven't thought of it in many years, and it came to me vividly this morning. It was in a little commercial strip that I could easily walk to and access, on the Boston Post Road, fronted with a sidewalk. I never crossed the wide road.  It was much too busy.  The I-95 thruway ran below grade on the other side. Further down the hill was a White Castle. But I never went there myself.

I remember hanging out in the little shop, looking at magazines.   I loved bridal magazines, page after glossy page of beautiful ladies in enchanting white lace confections. My mother disapproved of bridal magazines - that shouldn't be your goal in life, she said. But the dresses were so irresistible - couldn't I do both? The magazines became a guilty pleasure.  I  looked at them when I was by myself.

And then of course there was the candy counter, and I remember buying, for a penny each, packs of bubble gum that came with a tiny waxy paper comic strip, whose hieroglyphs and cryptic balloon comments I'd pore over and often not understand. I tried to teach myself how to blow bubbles. Even at my tender age I had already encountered a few champion gumsnappers. One girl, a little older than me, could at will blow impressively huge bubbles, big as a balloon that would eventually collapse on her face, which she'd scrape and lick off with her tongue, fixing incredulous, impressed me with a great big satisfied grin.

That's about it, these little memories. A couple of shops down was a bakery that made awesome poppy seed encrusted crescent rolls, airy, flaky, and flavorful. I've never had better. They were delectable.

I hope D comes home with the right thing. At least I know they'll sell it to him. Perhaps I should have written it down...

Love you - very many kisses. XOXO

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