Archive for December, 2013

have a haPPy ChristMAS and a bRAVE new YEAR !

splitTONE
I recently wrote about lack of a total family photo together but this comes close. From Photos That Make You Think December 2006 a photo probably taken by Mom in the early eighties or closer to the last year in Whitman street.
I am grateful that our Christmas’s were magical. Mom and Dad made sure of that. I am sure that we too, as adults and parents have also made sure that we provided magical holidays for our children too. I know personally for me, there was no bigger day, no bigger anticipation then waking up Christmas morning. For most of my childhood I shared a bunk bed with my brother Gregory. I always slept on the top and he on the bottom. Although we couldn’t see each other, we talked, laughed and even sang songs long into the dark night.

1976 SEARS Wish Book

1976 SEARS Wish Book

There were many times we were visited by Mom or Dad with a stern warning to “Shut up and go to sleep!” and this warning usually required several revisits. We never took Mom seriously, she was a lightweight with discipline. But if the heavy footsteps of dad started coming up the stairs we were under the covers and pretending to sleep in seconds.
Christmas time was the Sears “Wish Book” which made the rounds to everyone with a clean sheet of loose leaf paper and a pen. We would scribble our “wishes” and pass the book on. We were generously entitled to “One BIG thing and two SMALL things” and besides that, there were always extras thrown about under the tree. Dad and mom would be up all night Christmas eve assembling, arranging and trying their best to be quiet. I remember one Christmas arriving at the top of the stairs at probably 5AM and the sight below was absolutely amazing. There was not one open space. The entire living room was just covered with toys and games. It is one of those childhood visions that remain embedded in my memory.
In true holiday spirit, Mom carried on the expensive Christmas tradition after Dad died and we never really lost the “magic” A tip of the hat to Gene Kaufmann and Danny Braza for helping out in the hard work on Christmas eve’s long nights.
So looking back, I wonder about this “magic”. Was it pure materialism? Was it the TV shows, music and decorations (we always had a real tree) that smothered us for a month? Was it just being part of a huge family filled with hope and love? Was it all of the above? Did we lose focus, like most of the world on what the birth of Jesus Christ really means? As we get older we change. We become a little less selfish when we become parents. Always a source for inspiration, I read something on Facebook that many people agree with today: “I think that as you get older your Christmas list gets smaller and the things you really want for the holidays can’t be bought.”
On the left side of the tree in the above photo: Brenda and Bev.

On the left side of the tree in the above photo: Brenda and Bev.

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Gettysburg 1970

July 1970 11 months before his death, Dad "pulls" and Brenda resists.

July 1970 11 months before his death, Dad “pulls” and Brenda resists.

two score and three years ago our father, full of determination and
curiosity gathered his young family into a green Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser
and journeyed 200 miles southwest into the belly of American history,
the fields of Civil War death, the tourist traps the land of hotels and

cyan colored swimming pools. The fierce fighting for the window seats
as mom chain-smoked Viceroys with windows up, AC on, seatbelt s off,
FM radio tuned to rock classics of the day “Which Way Ya Going Billy?”
Poppy Family,”In the Summertime”by Mungo Jerry,”Hey There Lonely Girl”

by Eddie Holman, The Hollies with “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”
this station wagon featured speakers in the back seat panels, and
this was modern day coolness unheard of in the day. We breezed thru
Interstate 76 pass the Esso billboards and Roadside America invitations

Bushkill Falls, Crystal Cave, the Amish in Lancaster, covered bridges, and
the Hershey Factory. So it was, we as a family took our one and only
vacation and not everyone was invited and some invited guests didn’t
want to come! If you were clad in diapers than you stayed home

with Mrs. Askew. Beverly was lost in teenage phone world and requested
to be left alone forever. Against her will she was dragged into the
overcrowded station wagon and we endured the three hour struggle
into the sweet beauty of Pennsylvania’s mountains with our mighty V8

spectacular blue skies, puffy white clouds, fields of lazy cows and
a dreary mundane depression that forever lurks in these small towns.
Their shops, schools and slow walking slow talking locals with accents.
We stopped once for 36 cents a gallon gas as Apollo nine flew hundreds

!969 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser Wagon

!969 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser Wagon


of miles overhead and the Vietnam War raged on overseas.Just being in a
hotel is the vacation.Soda and candy vending machines.Running down
hallways screaming and taking the elevator up and then down, over and
over Dad sitting in the chair smoking a cigar, planning our days with

maps and brochures the TV blaring,nobody watching Jumping on the bed
suddenly,how many glass displays of dug up bullets, marble statues of
men on horses, riffles hanging on walls, hundreds of B&W photos
of dead men can one person view? This was an endless history class in

the hot Summer sun.It wasn’t my fault I was a kid with different ideas of
adventure and that by the third day of endless hundred year old history
I had enough and made it my point to say so. Somewhere in between
Little Round Top and Devils Den, my whining had warranted a beating

I was sent to the car crying On the way home this hungry family did
breakfast and dad ordered pancakes for all which finally came stacked
bigger than anything we had ever seen. Psychology won and just vision
had made us full. Dad paid the bill shaking his head at the biggest waste

of money and food and Brenda picked up her “underbrella” and we left
The longer drive home hypnotized sleep. Dad the accountant adds
expenses in his head. It wasn’t a vacation it was an education he later
said. And as we finally pulled into the concrete driveway I knew that

if I became a dad, my kids would be riding roller coasters on our
vacations.We would take luxury ships and planes to get there. Never
long lines, hot sun, ‘education’ or hours to get there but then if I did
would my future son ever write a memory poem such as this?

Because she is missing, Bev probably took this photo. Lost tourist.

Because she is missing, Bev probably took this photo. Lost tourist.

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All we are, is all we will ever be.

moon and sun

moon and sun

I’d like to bring you back again and see if you changed your mind about death. Brenda called “SHOTGUN!” as my sisters ran to my car. Beverly just smiled and elegantly squeezed her long lean body into the crowded back seat of my small Kia Reo.
“On my God, it’s been SO long!” she said.
Brenda popped into the front seat and was so excited she was just making noises.
“Put your seat belts on”, I said as I started the engine
I was a little surprised when they listened to me because I didn’t know what to expect. Death can do strange things to people, I thought.
I put the car in gear and they both squealed simultaneously.
“Stop and get cigarettes!” Beverly yelled from the back.
“Oh yeah, Georgie, do THAT!”, Brenda chimed in.
Oh what the hell, I thought I spent almost $17.00 for two packs.
“Holy crap!” Bev said. “They were three bucks last time I remember. John Karst used to always get them for me.”
So I drove and they smoked. We drove and we drove all around New Jersey. Carteret, Rahway, Linden and Perth Amboy. We stopped for Taylor ham and cheese at Burger Express drive-in, TWICE. I picked up Wise potato chips in Linden and Slim Jims at a Krausers along with more cigarettes. We drove past Bevs old haunts including Grandma Wilski’s house in Linden. We got out of the car on Whitman street and walked outside around the old abandoned house we used to live in. When I told Beverly that one of her Persian cats had already out-lived her by 13 years she blurted, “Nooooo Waaaay!”
Beverly then started to cry as she lit another cigarette but I just let that moment go by. There has to be a lot of emotion coming back from a “deep sleep” after so long. You realize that life doesn’t stop when you do, it’s just keeps going on and on and on.
With windows down to let out the smoke and the constant ramblings and memories of my sisters words, it soon started to get dark out. We are watching time pass but with no anxiety and no attempt to alter the past or present.
Brenda and Beverly asked me question after question. Before I could finish answering one, there was another or a round of laughter. Everything had changed and was “funny looking.”
“I thought there would be flying cars by now, Butch. Remember the Jetsons? Is that still on?”
I finally took my iPhone out of my coat pocket and to their amazement I showed them how it worked as we parked in Carteret Shopping Center for more Slim Jims. They fought over the phone but Brenda eventually won because there were photos of Becca and Brooke all over Facebook. Bev took a long deep drag on her cigarette and as smoke flowed out of her mouth she asked, “So everyone has one of these things?” pointing to the phone.
I told her technology was getting out of control and since she had been gone the longest, she was the most amazed by current life.
“Oh my God George. TAKE ME TO OHIO RIGHT NOW!” Brenda barked as she stared open-mouthed at the photos of her kids on my phone.
I took the navigator out of the glove compartment and plugged it into the dash. “Another phone thing?” Beverly asked?
“No, this thing will tell and show us how to get to Ohio.”
“Whatever!” Bev says shaking her head. “So mom died a year after me?, were people sad at my funeral?, who came?, I don’t remember the coma. did you tell Danny Braza??”
The questions went on and I answered the best that I could and sometimes I didn’t know or I lied. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wasn’t afraid. Any fear was totally overwhelmed by seeing them sitting in my car. They seemed young, healthy, full of vigor and curiosity. I think life is a good thing where they come from. A Gift. They seemed to have missed being here but they also had nothing to say about where they had been. “It’s such a wonderful place. I do miss it already.” was all I got out of Brenda at one point. But they were only interested in this moment. Driving around in my car. They both had a strange glow to them and their eyes were almost wild with excitement.
In front of us has we drove West on Interstate 80, the sun was blazing and clouds were turning into a molten lava of oranges and reds. When I pointed at the sunset in front of us and said “Look at that!” they seemed uninterested as if they had seen things much more beautiful while they were away. It was at this point I felt a small tug on my existence here with them. Something was happening. Something weird.
Brenda was showing Bev a photo of Brooke in a high school play when a tingling sensation in my arm shook me, I heard Brenda’s crazy laugh and looked over at the passenger seat and it was only my phone. My arm hurt. It hurt bad. I looked in the rear view mirror for Beverly and she was gone too. The fog was lifting. No, it can’t be. Was it? My arm is under my body and it is asleep. The fog is lifting quicker as the tingles in my arm stir me back into reality. No, no no. It was a dream? A DREAM??
“Look at that sunset sisters!” I yelled as I tried to get back to where I was. I didn’t want to leave. Now it feels like cob webs are all over me. My eyes are crusty. There is droll all over my chin. Oh my gosh. I was out of it. One of those rare deep sleeps. I remembered everything. My entire day driving with them. It seemed so real. I wanted to go back. We never got pizza. We never made it to Ohio.

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