Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It's Been a Hard Days Night

Those who follow my other blog... Mysteries of a Mimi's Middleschooler... will recognize some of the prose to follow. It is far too important a remembrance of this FC to leave omit from this blog, so I ask that you pardon the repetition.

 Everyone has many "first times". The first time you rode a two wheeler, the first time you drove a car, your first kiss, the first time you fell in love. How about the first time you were a fan of a rock and roll band? Do you remember it? Was it yesterday, last year, or in the last decade? Or was it in the '60's when rock and roll reigned supreme? When the famed British Invasion made it's way to the shores of the colonies. Turn your clocks back with me.....

 It's the week of February 16, 1964. I was barely 10 years old and over the top for a mop top rock and roll singer from Liverpool, England. I was living in Miami, Florida that winter week when the Beatles descended upon Miami Beach - more specifically the Deauville Hotel on Collins Avenue. I didn't get to go to the concert. My family didn't have the means to afford tickets to the Ed Sullivan Show that was being taped there featuring the Beatles. But, I slept with my aqua blue transistor radio with the faux leather case under my pillow listening to "I Wanna Hold Your Hand", "She Loves You" and "I Saw Her Standing There". 

I wrote many letters and addressed them to Paul McCartney, Liverpool, England and gave them to my dad to mail for me. I stood at the raffle desk in Burdines at Dadeland Mall and filled out hundreds of tickets to win a "Meet the Beatles" album - which I won. That Sunday afternoon my dad suggested that we take a family ride. We sometimes did that and ended up at the Dairy Queen for a vanilla ice cream cone. This Sunday afternoon he had another destination in mind. He drove us to Miami Beach, down Collins Avenue and right up to the front door of the Deauville Hotel. There he stopped and allowed me to get out and kiss the sidewalk that my idols had walked on. Even today, I still have a hard time believing that happened. It was very out of character for my dad to do something as wild and crazy as that was. There is a country song on the radio today by Bucky Covington that tells of his dad saying "I love you" the only way he knew how. That was a huge expression of his love for me and obviously one I've never forgotten. Rarely have I encountered his love expressed to that degree since. 

I am the oldest of four children. A tough spot as other oldests will agree. This is one position in life where it does not pay to hold seniority. I struggled then and I struggle now to feel his love for me.
But that day, on that bright and shining afternoon I saw it and felt it. Caught a brief and fleeting glimpse of his love for me.

Unless of course he just had a hankering for a corned beef sandwich from Wolfie's Deli.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

All the leaves are brown...and yellow and red and golden amber

This FC's earliest memories take place in a modest brick house on Flippen Road in a town called Stockbridge. Not the home of Alice's Restaurant. No, I don't think you could have gotten everything you wanted in my Stockbridge, Georgia. And there wasn't a restaurant made famous for its amazing brownies and a song written by Arlo Guthrie. My  memories there are like little blips on an old 8mm movie. They come and go and often skip around. They are good ones though, filled with precious people. The smell of honeysuckle and the sweet juice of a watermelon on a hot summer day. My father was beginning his life's calling as a minister at a small Presbyterian Church in Stockbridge. He and my mother - in the space of six years - brought three baby girls home to that little brick house on the hill, but in 1960, he accepted a call to a growing church in South Florida. I was only six years old that year that we moved. I can only remember, or maybe I was told later on, that my mother was heartbroken at the news of the move.

She was from a little town in North Carolina and Miami was like a foreign country to her. I think the thing that she missed the most was the change of seasons. Everything was always green. Different shades of green, but always green. She missed spring being sprung. Seeing the daffodils and crocuses pushing up from the cold earth to announce the imminent arrival of warmer days. She missed seeing my dad's roses leaf out and form tight buds before opening their petals to the warm Georgia summers. She missed the threat or promise of an ice storm, snow falling so thickly you couldn't see through it when we had to hunker in and ride it out.  It would be many years before she was able to scoop clean snow off of a car hood and make snow ice cream on a cold winter morning. I know however that the season that she missed most of all was fall.

Crisp cool mornings that have you digging for a sweater and and knee socks after a hot sultry summer are hard to beat. Something about her children starting school again made her long for crunching leaves and the golden colors on the trees of fall and it brought out in her a melancholy that was hard to miss. She taught school and there were some basic elements missing from the ritual of back to school when you were going back in Miami.

Fall in Miami brought about the return to school, the end of beach breakfasts until Spring and the anticipation of CARE packages from points North.  Anxiously, we awaited the arrival of the two boxes that marked the beginning of Autumn as surely as the harvest moon on the Autumnal equinox. Box #1 always came first. Down the highways and byways from Georgia it traveled with the United States Postal Service delivering it sometime around Labor Day. The treasures inside were notebook paper, unsharpened pencils, ball point pens, stenographer pads, rolls of scotch tape and other things otherwise known as school supplies. Book satchels were packed and repacked with these supplies and secured in the saddle basket of bicycles by my sister and I on the first day of school.

The second box came a bit later, around the first of October. It was from our grandparents in North Carolina and our Mom would always wait until we arrived home from school to open it, but I know for her that was a hard wait. This package symbolized home for her. A tangible, touchable link to the falls of her youth. For my sister and I, it meant an A+ in "show-n-tell" the next day. Breaking the packing tape seal we could immediately smell the earthiness of its contents. It held a sampling of a fall day in North Carolina for us to touch, feel, see and smell. The colors were the amazing rainbow of an October sky.  Full of the leaves from the trees in my mother's childhood yard. Reds, yellows, bronzes, browns in every shade. Crinkly and leathery, they rattled and rustled in our hands when we waved branches of them in the hot and humid air of south Florida. Acorns, beech balls, pine cones...anything that might softly whisper a welcome from the missing fall fairy for my mother was included. And hidden within the gifts of mother nature, was the unspoken and unwritten gift of the love her parents packed in that box for her each fall. Her face took on a far away look and her joy with that box was a virulent contagion for her girls and became a treasured memory of this FC.