Although I have spent most of my adult holidays at work so others could spend time with their families, I cherish these times now. When I was little, mom came to school on Wednesday and pulled us out of school for the long (it was then) trip (sometimes in a blizzard) to West Carthage NY where we spent the weekend with dad’s side of the family. I have vivid and awesome memories of those holidays. Follow along if you want to hear about it.
We usually got to grandma’s Wednesday in the late afternoon. She lived in a building that my grandfather built for his business that also had three apartments in it. The house dad grew up in was now occupied by my Aunt Janice, my Uncle Tom, and my two cousins David and Mark.
Mark was always happy to see us, he was younger and we connected with him better. David was way into entertainment on TV and didn’t do much with us. I would go with Mark on his paper route on Friday. Back then there were very few days without snow. It was the north country after all. All the homes had metal roofs and snow banks were often taller than I could stand high. Wednesday evening was usually filled with hugs and getting caught up with everyone. Thursday morning Uncle Tom came into grandma’s apartment to get the bird out of the fridge. I remember being awake at 6am… for a postal worker that walked his entire route and was a Navy man, that thing gave him a little workout. I don’t know how big it was but the one piece of poultry fed all of us, plus leftovers for the rest of the weekend. Thursday morning was kind of boring for us. Three women in a kitchen making everything from scratch in a choreographed dance was something to watch, but definitely not a place for kid to get “under foot”. Sometimes Mark would take us to his friends place and we used to have to walk down the railroad tracks to get there. Sometimes we would go “overtown”. That meant walking the bridge to Carthage over the Black River. There were shops and such to look in and just pass some time. In the summer there was a pharmacy that also had a soda fountain complete with a soda jerk. That was were I had my first root beer float. Dad says that when he was in high school you didn’t dare go overtown unless you had the fella’s with you or you’d come home with a black eye. Right down the street from the ole homestead was a mom and pop very small grocery and drug store. My brother and I would beg my parents for a quarter so we could baseball cards. next door to that was a gas station. Dad worked there when he was a teen. As I recall it was painted white had the usual islands and the attendant that filled you up with gas, washed your windshield and checked your oil. It had the rubber hose you drove over and made the bell ring.
Well, back to the house where everything was starting to slow down, football was on the television and some of the food was on the table. I was always sneaking some veggies from the relish tray. When the bird was done the dining room was filled with so many aroma’s you became instantly famished. It was like we hadn’t eaten in a week. I gorged. Everything but the squash that is. I ate and drank as much as I thought my stomach would hold. Dishes were cleared, and then the pies came and formed a row fit for a buffet down the middle of the table. So many to choose from. So little room left in my belly. Then back to the football game until it was bedtime. Mike and I had our own beds at Grandma Rose’s. Mine had a pillow that my head sank right into. Easy to sleep there – that is until the fire station got a call. It was kitty corner through the backyard and damn that siren was loud! I don’t ever recall going to see the trucks even though it was right there. Friday’s Uncle Tom had to deliver the mail, but my brother and I would find something to do. Overtown was always an option, looking high and low for the rumor of dad’s old baseball cards hidden someplace, some toys in the attic, and most of all, we could start thinking about our Christmas lists. Saturday it seemed Uncle Tom got done early, and my parents and them would play bridge until all hours of the night. Both my parents smoked and Uncle Tom smoked a big fat cigar. There was no oxygen in that room. Sometimes on Saturday dad would take us to the bowling alley for a couple games. Saturday afternoons Aunt Janice would make me a leftover sandwich, and that tasted just as good as it did a couple days earlier. I was always sad when mom and dad packed up the car and we had to leave. Sometimes we would take the long way home, sometimes the expressways. Every year we went there was always a joy. Summers were also good with pickup baseball games, grandma’s 50-something Belair that “just needed to be cleaned out”. Apparently driving it fast for an hour was how that was done. I didn’t mind one bit. He took me to places he went when he was a hooligan. I remember most of the little towns. Oh yeah – church. Most times it was Saturday evening at the really big church overtown, but sometimes we got to go to Fort Drum where dad had served in the National Guard.
As they say, all good things must come to an end. 1990 was the last time we all got together. Grandma passed away, then mom, then Aunt Janice and Uncle Tom. The cousins – haven’t seen them in years, many years. The house was sold, the church next door is no more, the firehouse was moved and the little mom and pop store went out of business. I have been through a few times when I go to the islands or the ADK’s. The foundation of family and this holiday are some of the best memories I have. I would have liked to talk with my uncle some more. He was a Navy Corpsman. He took me out to shoot a gun for the first time with my dad. he had this accent and air about him. The words he chose and the way he strung them together was so unique. The entire town back then reminded me of Mayberry, and I loved it. Everyone up there tried everything they could to get out of there. The windows were wavy, from the lead used to make them. The furnace was the size of a small room and the coal shoot was still there. So many other memories that I loved about the north country. I was a lucky kid, no doubt about it.
And so it begins, now it’s time to start building new memories with my sister; but dad will always be at the top of my list.