Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Good times!

We've had quite a week here in Collegeville.

First Ken and Gail M visited last Wednesday after dropping Scott off at University of Pennsylvania for his Sophomore year. We had a great dinner at Francescos down in Phoenixville just across from the Colonial Theater. Good Italian food and great conversation. Ken and Gail stayed over and left for Cleveland on Thursday morning.

Then Alex and Christina arrived from Boston late Friday night (3:00 AM Saturday morning actually). How hard it is to remember when I had such energy. Work a long week including Friday, move furniture from one apartment to another over the course of a couple of hours, and then decide to drive six hours through the night. Oh to be 25 years old again.

Then a raucous Saturday morning coffee clatch with Sam and Jas, and a relatively rare appearance by Dave C. Great stories. Joey C, doing well in California now, a man now. An old man now, but not as old as me and Dave. Remembering and laughing about how he used to go to sleep crouched up on his forearms and chest and knees with his butt up in the air, making a little tent under the covers. Wondering now why none of us ever took a rubber band and shot a bobby pin hard at the spot on the covers where his butt was. I'd be willing to bet Dave C did that, at least once. Remembering now that Alex and Dave A, I'm sure it was them, broke the little crystal penguin, probably by shooting things at it with rubber bands. And then they propped the pieces together so it appeared whole.

Remembering how we used to play ball tag, ball tag with a hard rubber ball!, in their parents' basement, which was panelled and furnished, unlike our basement. And remembering how we used to shoot bent bobby pins and tightly folded paper projectiles at one another with rubber bands til somebody was crying. It's amazing we all still have use of both our eyes.

Remembering how quiet we used to be for a little while after an eruption from our parents upstairs when the general noise level, or a particularly sharp crash or scream or something, would remind them that we were down there. "What the hell are you little indians doing down there?" Sometimes, many times, the phrase contained a more outrageous characterization than "indians." What can one say about an era when a too tightly wound Mom or Dad might be pushed to the point of screaming at their kids, referring to them as "little bastards" or "little sons of bitches". What can one say about an era where it wasn't at all unusual to hear "Don't make me come down there. If I come down there I'm gonna beat the shit out of you." It shouldn't surprise that we would often be quiet and "good" for at least a few minutes after that. And then me or Dave would grab Joey or Jas or Sam and give them a good noogie and we would be off again.

Anyway, Jas and Kathy had the whole family, plus Mark and Linda L and Chris and Kit from the dances at the Ballroom on High Street, over to their house for a picnic yesterday, Labor Day, not that we have ever especially honored Labor Day except as an excuse for a picnic. A beautiful day, a great feed, great company. A little bittersweet because that may be the last picnic up on Canci Court since John and Kathy are retiring next July and may sell the house and move to a smaller one. We'll miss Fort Trappe if that happens.

Remembering that Pop always said "Well, that's another summer shot to hell" at the end of each Labor Day picnic in the old days. And that he always said "It's downhill from here," about the winter each New Years day.

Marianne complained about me calling her little stuffed lion "Lion-Lion" in my post the other day. She said his name was "Line-Line," but I still think "Lion-Lion" is the more correct. Why should I be limited in my writing by the echoes down the years of her childish inability to properly pronounce his name at the time? Marianne doesn't know where Lion-Lion is either. She says he disappeared when Mom and Pop moved out of the Trooper house. Maybe Sam or Jas buried Lion-Lion with Jippon. Or maybe Sam or Jas got too careless and let Jippon actually get his jaws on Lion-Lion one time after all the sleight of hand incidents. If so they aren't talking.

A funny story about language. In 1991 or so, when I was reporting on township meetings for The Collegeville Independent, a politician complained about the way I quoted him when I translated his casual spoken words to normal english. So the next week I took special pains to quote him exactly and at great length. I quoted every word he said at the meeting, starting with his complaint. I know I quoted him very exactly after his complaint because I checked the borough secretary's recording of the meeting after transcribing his remarks - as in "Wha yall think was gonna happn? Yall cut the grage money! Ain't no surprise, truck diden get no repairs, diden get fixt, so it broke down, at's what happen you cut the grage money. An idjit coulda tol ya at was gonna happn, any idjit. I tol ya, tol ya at the time, any idjit coulda tol ya."

And what did I get for my trouble? Why that ungrateful fellow had the nerve to complain again, maybe even a bit more vociferously. But he didn't complain the next week when I went back to translating him into English.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you had a wonderful week and a lovely holiday. Good for you!

The story about you rough-housing with your brothers made me think of when I was little. Since I was the only girl on the block, I would tag along after the boys. They would protect me from tough kids who didn't come from the block, but when we were alone, it was every man for himself...which meant, it was not uncommon for me to run home in tears.

My mother was never one to knock on our neighbors' doors, pleading for their sons to take it easy on me; and since he worked so many hours, it was too impractical for my father to save up all the grievances for the weekend. So, he decided that the only solution was to teach me how to defend myself.

I couldn't have been more than five or six years old at the time and can still remember his large hands wrapped around my tiny little fists. He warned me not to tuck my thumbs, because I could break them from throwing a punch. He then taught me how to fight.

But a warning came with it. He told me that I should never start a fight; but that if someone else did, then I shouldn't be afraid to finish it.

I recall the next time one of the boys started a fight with me. My father must have taught me well, because I clocked the kid pretty hard. He ran home crying. His mother came out and said that there was no doubt in her mind that her son had started it and that he deserved what he got; but asked that in the future if I could please not hit so hard.

Things went much easier for me from then on.

Then some girls from the City moved into the neighborhood. I recall the first time a fight broke out. I immediately put up my fists and took a fighting stance. The next thing I knew, one of the girls grabbed a fistful of my hair at the roots and pulled my head to the ground. The pain was shocking, but I refused to cry. To my dismay, I also discovered that girls slapped and scratched and made these strange catlike noises. Worst of all was that they knew how to wound you with words.

I decided it was much safer to hang around with the boys.

As a testament to my father's lessons in pugilism, I'll tell you one last story. When I was twenty, a guy I knew thought it would be great fun to scare me by jumping out of the darkness screaming with a sheet over his head. He most certainly did scare the wits out of me. So much so, that I had a sudden rush of adrenaline and before I knew what was happening, gave him a right to the jaw. His face went blank, he became very quiet, and stood there wavering back and forth, but not falling down. After a spell, he shook his head, felt his jaw and asked me how long he'd been "out". I didn't know what he meant, because he hadn't hit the ground, but he said that he'd lost consciousness. Then he wanted to know where I'd learn to throw a punch like that.

So, I told him this story. :)