Taking a drive down memory lane….
Most mornings I give Jake & Tucker a lift to school. While it is true that we live close enough to their respective schools for them to walk or take the school bus, both of these options would require that they wake up 30 minutes earlier.
Since I can still remember the value extra sleep has to a teenager I volunteer to drive them with the added bonus that once in a blue moon they are actually in a talkative mood and I get some insights into their teenage lives.
On cold and snowy days many more parents than usual join me in this morning commute which is further slowed by snowy roads and things can get kind of hectic. My 2.5 mile sortie is transformed into a 30 minute commute. Trying to use this time to make lemonade out of lemons I am thinking my next book idea might be something like… “Space Wars: Etiquette for a crowded planet” complete with diagrams of what to do at a clogged intersection, as well as proper techniques for dropping someone off at school (hint: don’t use the “chinese fire drill” method in middle of the road while traffic is momentarily stopped). Other chapters of this book could cover other space challenged situations such as how to navigate narrow grocery aisles without being a nuisance to your fellow shoppers.
My “research” for this book idea has led me to give a passing driver the one finger salute on an especially egregious occasion only to find out the person I directed this salute towards is a very kind, mild mannered neighbor. Oops! Perhaps instead of the etiquette book I should write something like “Keeping road rage at bay: Mantras to get you where you need to go without flipping your mild mannered neighbor the bird.”
Given the fresh snow on the roads I decided to try and find an alternative way home that didn’t require me to make a second trip through the mess of well-intentioned but nevertheless ruthless parents trying to get their kids to school and themselves to work on time. So instead of making a left turn back on to crazy lane I went straight and took a slight detour through the neighborhood I grew up in.
It is amazing the way familiar settings can surface long-dormant memories. The first such recollection occurred as I drove past the Demmin’s house near the entrance to my old neighborhood. Mr. and Mrs. Demmin both taught at the high school when I was there. Mr. Demmin was in the math department and his wife Mrs Demmin (I am blissfully unaware of their first names) was a substitute math teacher.
I always respected Mr. Demmin as he was a competent math teacher with a passion for his subject. But as many math teachers do, he had some interesting quirks. For example, he used to give us a bewildered expression when we didn’t agree with his frequent statements about “the beauty” of mathematics.
He was one of three teachers that I had at Middleton High School who also taught my Mom when she attending high school there. Mr. Demmin was a bit formal at times, and my Mom recalls having her mouth taped shut and/or being taped to her chair for being disruptive in class. Fortunately by the time I had Mr. Demmin as a teacher, scarlet letter type punishments were frowned upon by school boards and all we had to endure was the occasional scolding for not recognizing the inherit beauty of the equations on the chalk board.
I didn’t know Mrs. Demmin as well as Mr. Demmin. She was probably a nice person too, but being a substitute math teacher requires you to be a bit blunt if you don’t want to lose your class and to her credit she didn’t.
I know which house is their house, because Mr. Demmin incongruently (he would appreciate the use of the term) used to have the sweetest car on the block, a 1967 Ford Mustang, which he bought new and meticulously maintained. He kept that car for about 20 years, and then sold it and used the proceeds to pay cash for a brand new Toyota Tercel, which he kept for about 15 years. So he paid for one car and had transportation covered for 35 years. I am confident that fact gave him years of satisfaction, much more than a new car every 3-5 years would have.
As I drove by I glanced in their picture window and noticed the two retired math teachers sitting comfortably in their symmetrically placed chairs simultaneously reading the newspaper with both arms extended so they could read more of the paper at once. Even their daily reading of a newspaper 20+ years into retirement was a task completed with mathematical precision. Thanks to the lessons of Mr. Demmin I didn’t fail to the notice the inherit beauty of this simple act.
Next I drove by the entrance to Parisi park, which pulled up a treasure trove
of memories… In the early 70s I remember shaggy college students selling gimp (plastic flat stings used for weaving) in the park and teaching us how to make bracelets (wonder what else they were doing when they weren’t selling gimp!)… I also remembered learning practical scientific lessons like what goes up, must come down (see saw), the power of centrifugal force (merry-go-round ), and last but not least anatomy (unsupervised kids being kids).
I then drove by the Fosdal’s house and saw Dr. Fosdal (aka “Fred”) shoveling his driveway. The Fosdal girls were (and still are) beautiful and bright, and from an early age they realized the power of this combination and were constantly dragging their boyfriends (who were willing participants from my observations) into various acts of sillidom. They would dress them up in funny outfits; make them do skits for the entertainment of their parent’s friends, and any other emasculating and humorous things they could think up.
Mrs. Fosdal is a great person to know, a good friend to those who need one most and a terrific storyteller to boot. Dr. Fosdal is a great straight man for Mrs. Fosdal’s stories and is frequently the subject/object of said stories.
One of my favorites involves their daughter Annie, her boyfriend at the time, and “Fred”. As the story goes, Annie who was then in college got in a big fight with her boyfriend and decided to go to her folks house for the weekend. When she got home she found her father sleeping in her bed because he had a cold and didn’t want to keep others awake with his coughing. So Annie upon finding her room occupied, went to sleep in her sister’s room.
Annie’s boyfriend who was quite distraught over their recent argument went out to her parent’s house to try to patch things up (pre cell phone era). But the house was dark when he got there and he didn’t want to wake everyone up by ringing the doorbell. So instead he climbed up the railing to the roof, walked across the roof to her open bedroom window and started pleading his case through the window screen. This woke Fred up and he went to the window to see what was going on and discovered Annie’s boyfriend on his roof. Annie’s boyfriend then said something like, “Oh good evening Dr. Fosdal, I thought you were Annie. Is Annie at home?… and if so, can I talk with her?” To which Dr. Fosdal responded with a single syllable answer….”No”, shut the window and the blinds and went back to bed with the boyfriend still perched on the roof…
Next door to the Fosdal’s house is the former house of the Perrone’s. Paul was one of my first “best friends”. He was irreverent then as he still is now, which sometimes resulted in our being chased around the house by his mother after she discovered the latest mischief we were up to. I have recently reconnected with Paul on Facebook which has been great fun. Someone posted a picture of our kindergarten picture and I shared a story that I never forgot of him calling me a butt nearly 40 years ago at recess and his perfectly timed response was to accept my call for reconcilliation and then immediately call me a butt once again. It is nice to know some things don’t change!!
I drove by two courts off the main road where gangs of neighborhood kids used to congregate and play during the day and after dinner. I remember endless discussions that went something like, “What do you want to do? … I don’t know, what do you want to do? Well what do YOU want to do… and so on…
Across the street from my childhood home were the Solners. They were without doubt the “cool family” of the neighborhood. Mr. Solner is an architect and they lived in a modern concept home he had designed with cave like bedrooms. The older Solner boys excuded a definite “joe cool” vibe, drove sports cars (a Porsche, and even a Fiero!) and two were nationally ranked ski-jumpers (one made the Olympic team). The daughters were beautiful and talented and were among our main baby sitters. The youngest son “Dash” was my age, and with his cupboard of cool brothers and sisters he couldn’t help but be cool himself which he certainly was.
At the top of the hill was our old home… a unique two story raised ranch with a wooded back yard, and a big climbing tree out front. It is still my favorite home for sentimental reasons. I can remember hanging from a limb waiting for my Dad to come home from work so I could get a big hug and a face scratch from his 5 o’clock shadow. I remember shooting hoops outside in high school trying in vain to “dunk it” and convincing myself that I almost did. I remember climbing a tree and being made invisible by being out of sight and watching the world unfold below me.
When my sister and I were in high school our family was one of the first on the block to get a VCR so we often had movie parties which, given their novelty, were a big hit. At one of these a neighbor arrived after the movie was finished while several people were playing pool in the basement. He thought he would be funny and “moon” the people inside the basement to announce his arrival in style. It was funny all right, but not for the reason he planned. When he put his warm tuckus up against the cold window… the temperature differential led the glass to shatter with several shards landing in his behind. The guys at the party generously agreed to remove these shards with a tweezers so he wouldn’t have to tell his folks, and surgery took place in the downstairs bathroom. The “glass-assed” one (one of several nicknames that followed this incident) got us all to swear not to tell how it happened. So when my folks got home from wherever it was they where, there was an awkward moment when the question of the broken window was raised. Everyone kept their word and didn’t say anything, when my friend Paul jokingly said something like… “Hey, what do you know, there is a full moon out tonight”…as if to change the subject. And like a Perry Mason tv show the guilty party cracked (no pun intended) and confessed on the spot and went home and told his folks before they heard from other channels.
Back to my drive…I then took a left turn at the end of our street and drove past two more memory inducing sites before getting on roads with less historical significance. The first was the the site of a block party from when I was 5 years old, where this “older woman” (an adult) asked me to dance to the then hit song “Locomotive” and told me I looked way older than 5 years old, more like 10!. I smiled all the way home from that one.
And my last stop down memory lane took me past the site where I bought my first “quart of milk” for the family. I was about 5 or 6 years old at the time , and my mom entrusted me with a some money and told me to go down to the corner store a few blocks away to buy some milk for dinner. She told me I could use the change to buy a treat if I liked. So I got to the store and did some serious comparison shopping looking for the cheapest milk they had, which ended up being a carton of recently expired buttermilk that I proceeded to buy. With that purchase I received enough change to buy TWO marathon candy bars which I remember as being a foot long each of chewy caramel and chocolate goodness. After making the purchase though I realized I might get in trouble if I came home with two candy bars, so I proceeded to sit on the stoop of the store and eat one of the marathon bars. I guess it took me TOO long because my Dad showed up at the store looking for me, assessed the situation, laughed, bought a half gallon of real milk for the family and much to my surprise and delight brought me home without punishment. It was however A LONG TIME, before I was asked to go the store to buy anything again.
At least that is how I remember it now… All in all it was a grand detour and the only thing crowded about the drive were all of the memories battling for attention in my head. I highly recommend taking such a drive if you get the chance.