Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Age of Reason or What I Knew at Seven

I knew the names of all the flowers in the garden on Lancaster Street.

I knew Eisenhower would be a great president because my parents said so, and also because he said he'd end the war in Korea.

I knew the words to "Jesus Loves Me," "A You’re Adorable," and “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah."

I knew to wait until my mother finished reading McCall's before I cut out the Betsy McCall paper dolls at the back.

I knew that someday the Russians might drop a bomb on us but if we knelt under our desks we were safe.

I knew that the corn that grew on Sy Kervick's farm at the end of the street would be ripe and sweet in August.

I knew the way my father always tapped his Chesterfield on the horn of the Chevrolet just before he lit it.

I knew that my cousin Bonnie and I would always be together on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I knew Uncle Arthur and Aunt Corinne would travel on the railroad all the way from Pasadena, California, to visit us every fall.

I knew that my father and grandfather had built the little house on Allen Street where I used to go to visit before my grandmother died.

I knew that as much as I loved my grandmother and grandfather, I was a bit scared of their dog Freckles.

I knew the smell of Dr. Leff's office where I had to go for allergy shots because it reminded me of when I went there to have my tonsils removed.

I knew the sounds that came from that from the little red radio above the stove:
    the crack of Ted Williams' bat
            the songs of Eddie Fisher, Patti Page, Rosemary Clooney
           news reports from Carl Desuze and Lowell Thomas

I knew the day I received Patsy the cat was the happiest day of my life.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Grandma May's Chair

For much of my life the chair was only a rumor, one of the many stories my mother told about her mother, May Reid Gilpin, who died suddenly weeks shy of her thirty-second birthday, leaving Vera, my mother, age five; Gertrude, my aunt, age nine, and my grandfather, William. 

On that October afternoon in 1917, the family, for all intents and purposes, fractured. Needing to continue his work for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, a job that required him to travel from time to time, William found family members to take care of the girls. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles made room for the three of them, but they were rarely all together.

Furniture and household belongings were not a priority, so the chair, the sole household item left from the family, ended up with Uncle Jim, then with his daughter, Ruth, and there it stayed for seventy years.

From time to time my mother would ask about it, and Ruth would say that it was in bad shape and that she was going to refinish it, but that never seemed to happen. Then, sadly, when Ruth was dying of cancer, she asked my parents to clean out her house, and there was the chair in the basement, and yes, indeed, it was in poor shape. All the upholstery was gone, the springs were rusted, and the frame was broken.

My father began to work on it, removing the springs and what was left of the upholstery, securing the frame, and stripping the finish. So when I inherited it, there was a framework but nothing else.

Not being as handy as my father, I decided to take it to the professionals at M. Demos and Son Furniture Repair Shop where they restored it to what I hope is close to its original beauty.

 I did not know May, of course, but it pleases me every time I walk by her chair to think of how she might have sat in it holding her babies, how its graceful lines must have pleased her, how something of her spirit lives on.