Monday, September 20, 2010

Stranded In Time

For the first sixteen  years of my five plus decade life, my maternal grandparents lived close by. They were either in the apartment next door, the house next door or the rental  flat upstairs. The last few years of their lives, the duplex we shared with them was one of the few places I truly felt safe. My grampa had used his retirement money from AC Sparkplug to help my parents make the down payment on the house off DuPont and Hamilton Streets in Flint, thus removing us kids from the ghetto hellhole that north of downtown was becoming. It was quite a change to sit on a front porch and not fear being shot in the evening, altho I have never gotten past that fear of guns. This neighborhood soon took a similar road into hell, but I have been gone almost 40 years. The rest of the family chose to stay as a brother died young, each parent died, a sister died, a fire and finally foreclosure. 2010 is the end of any life for that house. It will likely be torn down leaving another empty scarred lot inside the city.

Even after my gramma died in spring 1966, I still spent a lot of  time with my grampa, going so far as to lie to my mom as to why I could not do the laundry for her or swab the wood floors. I would tell her I had to make grampa supper or dust for him (we were often watching the ball game).  I did confess it every Saturday morning  at St Mike's but I always felt it was an acceptable lie. My grampa needed me. So I said my penance and went about the same scenario the next week.

Aging crevices of my memory are filled with faded photographs and 16mm black and white movies from those years that I can't take to the developer to print  on glossy paper or burn to a DVD. Often a memory is triggered from some innocent occurrence while out and about or a flash of a face in a dream. Such was the case this past week when I stopped at Bed Bath and Beyond. I was looking for a yogurt machine and instead came away with a rerun memory of a simpler time reflected in green glass.

Hubby and I were strolling up and down the kitchen aisles at Bed Bath and Beyond,  not finding a yogurt maker, and I stated the cast iron Dutch oven was way  overpriced as I simply wanted it for making rustic bread. I remembered how my gramma always used cast iron, and one particular pan always hosted the creamy potatoes and onions mix I loved as a kid. But $100 for a pot? I think not.  So we were making our way out of the aisle targeting the front door, when a piece of glass caught my eye. I picked the item up, turning it over in my hands and all the morning breakfasts spent with my gramma came flooding back to me.

This simple glass kitchen gadget (14.99-what a rip off!)  brought out the anger and sadness I have been trying to get past involving my mom, my brother and the house I grew up in. Some of you reading this know a bit or lots of bits involving this life story  for the past few years. They are chapters  best told on my other blog when the time line gets there. I just wasn't expecting to see this item in a store, what with all the electronic toys we try to cram into our kitchens.

Here is a similar item (above) to what I remembered as a kid. I always saw this on my gramma's breakfast table. As I got older, I was also allowed to ream the lemons or oranges for juice. I don't remember my gramma ever buying pre-juiced juice in a bottle or jar. She purchased lemons or oranges whole and when I begged, a grapefruit or two for me (I loved the red fleshed ones). Luckily, gramma also had a friend who lived in southern Florida who every Christmas sent us a crate full of ripe (and sometimes over ripe) globes of Floridian sunshine. I can still smell the aroma of citrus, altho I can no longer partake due to stomach issues.

This juicer/reamer was a freebie back in the Depression. Every week at the local theatre called the Strand, there was a dish night/towel giveaway or something similar. I remember a cookbook where kids got special stickers to complete. The cook book is still somewhere in mom's house along with this green gem and its matching casserole dish. Gramma used the larger dish with lid to hold her bacon drippings. It was always on the middle shelf of her Frigidaire icebox , ready for fried eggs or those yummy potatoes I mentioned above. Gramma knew how to re-use everything, a true recycler way ahead of her time. Sadly, many others were also doing the same thing during the Depression and the follow up decade into WW2.

***You can see the Strand Theatre in this photo in the lower right corner next to the Mott Building in downtown Flint. It's no longer there altho the Mott Building is still majestic in its architectural beauty. (The alley behind these buildings is where I met hubby-no, not IN the alley, but in a hole in the wall bar where I got my first waitress job)***

My gramma's juicer has a chip on the edge. It was I who chipped it when I was in second grade, as I offered to wash the lunch dishes so gramma could watch her soap As The World Turns. Even that is gone now. I tried to hide the chip but was crying so hard, she knew something was amiss. After gramma died, grampa used the juicer himself. He always had a bit of orange juice for breakfast. Eventually the juicer and the casserole along with most other items from their estate made their way into the everyday life of our household. The sleeper sofa was still in the living room when the house was foreclosed on. All those touchable memories are still inside four walls. I imagine at this point the house has been ransacked, while squatters perhaps spend a night or two. My brothers took what they could quickly sell on eBay, leaving untold treasures behind.  What I find to be valuable is mostly junk to others, but I have emotions attached to my junk. Thus, they become treasures. I just can't touch the treasures anymore.

My reveries when writing this blog post tonight are mostly about what I value  from the actuals in my life. I collect Superman comics, trivia books, rubber stamps, odd dishes, fabric, and other sorts of things, not with any thought to how much their worth is upon  selling them but to the joy and memories they brings to me now.  I don't think my talking Jar Jar Binks puppet from Star Wars will be high on anyone's list of must have items, but I smile whenever I play with it. Eventually some items may have a monetary value far exceeding what I paid for them but it doesn't matter at this point.

I don't have the green Depression juicer in my possession. I never will. I don't have my mom's wedding gown to fashion into a Christening gown for Baby Scholl. I never will. I don't have any baby photos of myself. I never will. I don't have the chair my grampa sat on while he called his Canadian family to sob that his beloved Nana was no longer with him. I never will. But I do have those memories, those instant photos stuck in my head, some very deeply hiding until a glimmer of glass refreshes them.


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I really enjoy my blogging and hope you enjoy reading. Remember, these are only my opinions relating to my daily experiences. If you are anonymous, let me know what city and state you are from in your comment. Thanks.