Our weekends with my Grandmother centered on a big meal, either on Sunday or Saturday. It’s important to note that for two reasons I wasn’t used to good food. The first is that while my father was a good provider, we weren’t rich. That meant my mother had to make do with less expensive meals. We're talking hot dogs, hamburgers, meatloaf, the standard hodge podge of middle class cooking in 1958. The second is that my mother was a terrible cook. I don’t know if that’s because she was a product of her age or what but cooking was not her finest moment. We did have fresh milk on the table and in the tradition of the fifties a loaf of white bread and butter. We ate fish every Friday and almost never had chicken because my father hated it.
My Grandmother, my mother’s mother, was a wonderful cook. Everything was fresh and from the butcher or the grocer. Rarely were canned ingredients part of a meal. The table was always full and the desserts were fantastic. Homemade pies and cakes. After the meal the adults would sit and talk. If it was Sunday we watched a bit of television. First Lawrence Welk, then the Ed Sullivan show. I hated both until I was in my early teens. I always hated Lawrence Welk but the toxic mix of European circuses and lounge acts and comedians who appealed to adults on Sullivan bewildered me. At any rate when it was over we’d pack ourselves up in the car and head back to South Jersey. I knew the way so well that when I first got my license I drove there without directions.
We boys were all jammed in the back seat with mom and dad up front. Like most young boys we spent half the way fighting and half gazing out the window. We'd move first through the suburbs of Philly, just off the Main Line. At Christmas you could tell when you moved through a Jewish neighborhood, no lights. Then onto the Schukyll Expressway, past the Sunoco Oil Refinery, the company my father worked for, and over the Walt Whitman Bridge. Going over the bridge was the stink of the whiskey brewery at it's base. Past the bridge and Camden then on through Deptford and into the pig farms of Jericho with their rich smell of garbage to home. Home. Some nights when we came home in the summer the porch was covered in tree frogs. Some nights it was cold with frost. Always it was home.
My brother Ted was always out like a light by the time we got to Wenonah and it was straight to bed. I hadn’t begun the morning ritual of showers yet and so got my bath each night before bed.
I’d go to bed each Sunday, clean, and tired, and ready for a new week of being chased to school by my beloved friends. The rough tough creampuff was me. Each Monday began my torment and it didn’t end till Friday at three. In between were my friends Dick and jane and Far and Away and Here and There and the library in the basement began to beckon. Second and third grades began to open the world to the asthmatic, skinny wretch that was me. Little fool running home chased by two other little fools shouting made up nonsense. The hierarchy of the ignorant. I loved them all; I feared them all; I couldn't wait to grow up.