Posted tagged ‘railroad tracks’

“When I was a kid, we never heard of smog, ozone depletion, acid rain, green house gasses.”

April 21, 2017

The day is overcast and dark. It’s raining again. Rain always makes me lazy. I have nowhere to go and nothing to do except water the plants, and I’m delighted. The house feels chilly so I have draped the afghan over my shoulders. I’m thinking all I need is a rocking chair and some knitting to complete the picture.

When I was a kid, I didn’t care about the rain. I didn’t care about getting wet. This was always spring vacation week and no day could be wasted, especially Friday, the last day. I think my mother applauded when we went outside, and I remember her gleeful goodbyes as we shut the door behind us.

We didn’t ever have a plan or a destination. We just walked. Our usual route was walking by the town barn to see the horses then we’d cut across the back lawn of the town hall and go uptown. We mostly window shopped. From there, our route often varied. Once in a while we’d walk to the zoo or we’d do the tracks again, the ones near my grandparents. When I was young, the train still ran a couple of times a day. The train stopped at the chemical plant then continued to the station, the end of the line, where the engine was switched to the back, now the front. Sometimes we were lucky enough to b there to watch. I remember putting a penny on the rail so the train could flatten it.

We’d head home when we were hungry or really soaked and cold. My mother would send us right down the cellar to take off and leave our wet shoes. I remember leaving footprints on the floor from my wet socks. The trail led from the cellar door to the living room to the stairs to the bedroom where I’d put on dry clothes and dry socks.

For the rest of the afternoon, we’d watch TV. We’d eat Oreos and drink milk. I was a dunker. I think that’s why I love biscotti.

I love listening to the rain and watching it fall. I don’t love getting soaked and cold. I do love Oreos.

“Sometimes you have to grow up before you appreciate how you grew up.”

January 19, 2017

Today is a beautiful winter’s day. It is sunny and warm. Given how much it rained yesterday, I’m thinking today is a bit of a reward. Gracie and I are going out later. Today is not a day to waste.

Yesterday I actually vacuumed and then washed the kitchen floor. I can only think an alien had taken over my body.

I remember so much from when I was growing up. Without realizing it, I had filed away small things into my memory drawers. On the way to school, we crossed the railroad tracks. Sometimes we were even lucky enough to see a train. The bathroom at school always had a cleaning smell. The stalls and the overhead pipes were painted white. I remember the pipes sometimes had peeling paint.

The bowling alley was never quiet. The air was filled with the sounds of pins hitting the wooden floors. I remember the size of the shoes was on the backs of each rented pair. I never gave a thought about wearing shoes lots of people had worn.

Santoro’s Sub Shop was a block away from school. It was a small shop with a few stools at a counter attached to the wall. Mr. Santoro worked there with two of his sons. I remember Mr. Santoro was short. The bread, two different sizes, was in baskets and the toppings were in a case. The hot stuff like meatballs and sausages were on a stove top in big silver pots. I never got a hot sub. Mostly I got chicken salad or an Italian. I always added pickles and hot peppers.

There were four drug stores. I never thought that was strange. Now I wonder how a small town could support so many.

When it was hot, the firemen sat on big wooden chairs in front of the bays at the fire station. I always stopped to say hello.

The post office felt cool even on hot days, but the church sweltered in the summer.

I have the best memories, mostly simple memories etched forever in my memory drawers

“There was nothing like a Saturday – unless it was the Saturday leading up to the last week of school and into summer vacation. That of course was all the Saturdays of your life rolled into one big shiny ball.”

June 11, 2016

Saturday for my whole life has been the best day. When I was a kid, Saturday was our day to roam the town or to see a movie or to sit and watch Creature Double Feature on TV. Those were the days of black and white movies from the 50’s with cheesy special effects. We didn’t care. We loved those old B movies, and even now, I’ll watch them. I’m never critical. They are fun to watch. Some Saturdays we were out all day rambling. We’d pack a sandwich and some cookies in a brown paper bag knowing we’d be gone most of the day. We followed the railroad tracks, walked to the zoo or watched the dairy cows. We looked in the windows uptown and into the fire station as we walked by it. On warm days the firemen sat on wooden chairs right outside the bays where the fire engines were. We’d walk through the school yard empty of kids. We’d get home in the late afternoon. The winter meant the matinee. I don’t remember ever caring what the movie was. I remember standing in front of the glass display case trying to decide how to spend my nickel. The candy had to be tasty but more importantly, it had to be long lasting. I think my brother chose candy by its projectile possibilities.

When I was a teenager, Saturdays meant sleeping in. During the day I’d hang around or meet up with friends. I remember roaming around Harvard Square, going to the museum and checking out stores. Back then Harvard Square was unique and the stores were not chain stores. I remember we ate at the Wursthouse a few times. I haven’t been to Harvard Square in years except to drive though to somewhere else. It has lost its identity. It is the same as anywhere. On Saturday nights we’d sometimes go bowling. I was never a good bowler, but it was fun.

Saturday nights in college were party nights. Some of my memories are still hazy. We’d find a spot, park the car and party. Those were the days of cheap wine.

In Ghana, Saturday usually meant going to town to shop in the market or at the small kiosks which sold margarine and instant coffee in tins. I’d carry my woven bag and fill it with onions, tomatoes and eggs. Once I found a small watermelon my tomato lady had saved for me to buy. I never saw another one.

When I was back home, Saturday still meant sleeping-in and food shopping, but at a supermarket with too many choices. I’ve always hated food shopping and shlepping in the bags.

Today I woke up at 8. I had two cups of coffee and two pieces of Scali bread toast. I have no plans at all for the day. I’m thinking it is finalize the deck day. I’ll put down the rug, clean the chairs, water the plants, start the fountain and then ceremoniously bring the Travelocity Gnome and the plastic flamingo to their summer homes. They inaugurate deck season every year.

“The temple bell stops but I still hear the sound coming out of the flowers.”

May 20, 2016

Today is a perfect spring day on Cape Cod. It is a bit chilly but a long-sleeve shirt should do, the sun is sharing the sky with a few clouds and there is a slight breeze rippling the young leaves of the oak tree outside my window. It is a good day for a walk.

Monday is plant day, one of my favorite of all days. I bring my list and wander the aisles pushing my cart. I buy herbs for the small garden close to the house especially lots of basil for pesto. I buy perennials for the front gardens. This year my list includes native flowers like the butterfly milkweed, the common boneset and the spotted geranium. When I get into the garden shop, I have trouble controlling myself. I so love to shop for plants.

When I was a kid, it never occurred to me that every day was the same. I’d have cocoa and toast, sometimes an egg, for breakfast and then leave for school. The walk wasn’t long. We crossed railroad tracks, went by the junior high school, an old brick building which used to be the high school, crossed a sometimes busy road and walked just a bit more to the school. The convent was across the street, the rectory was beside the old school and the church was beside the rectory. We’d head for the school yard and talk or play until the bell rang. It was a hand bell which the nun would ring three or four times. I liked the sound of a hand bell, and sometimes I’d watch the nun stand by the door to ring the bell. She’d raise the bell high above her head and swing it down as far as her arm could reach. We all knew it was time to get into our lines. I remember watching Little House on the Prairie. The teacher pulled the rope connected to the hand bell. It was the same sound.

“Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.”

August 2, 2015

I know it is late for me, so late that I almost thought of taking a mini-vacation, but here I am. Earlier I was out on the deck sitting in the shade of the umbrella. The day is another hot one. Gracie, despite lying in the shade, was panting. She wanted in so we both came inside to the AC. She is now comfy and asleep in her crate.

We’re going to the dump later. That’s the only entry on my dance card.

There is something so strongly compelling about going home. When I go back to my old home town, as I still call it after all these years, I take familiar routes, the ones I used to walk. From St. Pat’s to the project there are many changes. Some of the older houses are gone. The railroad tracks too are gone but there is a wide path where they once were. I am sometimes tempted to park my car and follow the path to see if it looks the same. There was a stream where we stopped for water. I wonder if it is still there. The playground where I spent so many summer days disappeared. Where it was is all overgrown now. My house and street look exactly the same except the bushes on the side of my old house are really tall. I don’t know if there is a limit as to how tall they will get. The tops look a bit spindly to me. I always have the urge to get out of the car and walk into the backyard just to peek to see if the in-ground garbage pail is still there, but I figure it would look a bit odd to the current occupants. I wonder what color the walls are now. In my day the living room was green. I suspect the house will look quite small inside to me now. I know the kitchen seemed small even then. Kid’s voices still fill the air on a nice day.

In Bolga, on my trip back after forty years, the first place I went was to my old school grounds to find my house. It was quite easy to find. It needed paint and the back courtyard could not be seen because the current occupants had added to the fence tops to block the view. I wondered about the four doors around the courtyard. I wondered what color they are. Coincidentally they were green when I lived there.

Home is a fluid place. It is both where you live now and all the places you’ve lived before.

“How strange it is to view a town you grew up in, not in wonderment through the eyes of youth, but with the eyes of a historian on the way things were.”

June 19, 2015

Gracie is having her morning nap on the couch. She’s snoring. Maddie is under the lamp staying warm and Fern is sleeping on the couch cushion in the other room. Our routine is back.

I awoke to the sound of raindrops, but they lasted only a little while. The day, though, is still dark, overcast with light grey clouds. The weatherman says it will be warm, even hot.

The first few days of summer vacation when I was a kid were joyous days lacking routine, wide open days when I could do whatever I wanted. A long, wonderful summer stretched out in front of me. My bike never got put away. It stayed against the fence in the backyard. I used it to go to the library or to take a leisurely ride with no purpose or destination. I knew every corner of my town, every street. I knew all the places of interest. Some days I walked my bike on the sidewalk uptown while I looked in the store windows. Most times I hadn’t a cent, but I didn’t care. Looking was fun. In those days the square was filled with stores where you could watch the proprietors work. The shoe repair man always wore a leather apron. In the bakery you couldn’t watch the baking, just the wrapping and boxing of all the baked goods people bought. Meat hung in the window of one store and lobsters swam in a tank in the window of another. Cheese, huge round cheeses, filled the window of the buttery. The men’s store window had half mannequins wearing suit coats, shirts and ties. I always wondered why they didn’t have legs, but I guessed maybe the window was too small. The gas and electric appliance store had ranges in the windows. They were all white. People also went there to pay their electric bills. It was on the corner so half of the big door was really on two streets.

I’d get my fill of the square and bike home. I used different routes to vary the ride. I had a favorite house on one route which had a huge front porch and was painted red, my favorite color. On another route I went by the empty school. Sometimes I even rode on the dirt beside the railroad tracks as that was the shortest way home.

I never got tired of biking around town. When I go back, I drive on some of those same routes. The red house is still there, but the railroad tracks are gone. The square now has very few stores, and the remaining stores lack the character and individuality they had when I was young. I miss the lobsters the most though I do like the restaurant which has taken their place. When I go uptown now, I always think of what was and can name where all the stores once were. That restaurant was the Gloucester Fish Market.

“There’s something about the sound of a train that’s very romantic and nostalgic and hopeful.”

April 25, 2015

The house was cold this morning. I really didn’t want to get out of bed and neither did Gracie. She stood up, shook, then settled back down beside me, leaning against me. She’s into warmth. It was late, 9:20, so I dragged myself downstairs to begin the day.

My mother never woke us up on the weekends or in the summer. The older we got, the longer we slept in, but when we were young, we wanted the whole day. On summer Saturdays we’d get dressed, bolt down our cereals then take off, sometimes on our bikes and sometimes on foot. We’d cut through the woods to get to the horses in the field on Green Street. The house on the property was red, large and old. It was one of those square houses I found out much later were called federal. We’d stand by the fence, and the horses would come over and we’d pat them. My brother and I would try to feed them grass but they weren’t interested. A couple of times we climbed the fence hoping to jump on the horses and ride them. They’d take off as soon as we got close which was a good thing. I’m sure riding bareback would have lasted about a minute or two before I hit the ground.

Once in a while we’d alter our walking route and head for a different side of town, the area where the box factory, the railroad station and the red store were. Back then my town had a lot of factories for a small town: the Jones Shoe factory up town and two other factories which make chemicals, both by the railroad tracks. Those two buildings were brick, not common for buildings where I lived. Across the front of one was a black sign, but I don’t remember the name of the company though I passed it more times than I can remember because that part of the tracks was a shortcut home. All the factories were still active when I was a kid. One of my friend’s mothers worked in the shoe factory, and I remember watching the trains crossing the main road on their way to the chemical factories.

I used to love walking those tracks, none of which remain. Even now I always stop and watch trains. There is something about them which grabs my imagination.