This post inspired by Ragtag Daily Prompt: Homecoming
Prompt questions: Have you ever left home? Have you ever returned?
Answer: Yes and no.
I left home in my mind many times growing up. I had a small knapsack tucked in the back corner of my overfilled closet…containing what I must have considered necessities. Quarters. Tissues. Comb. Toothbrush. Underwear. Perhaps Bazooka bubble gum.
Since I never followed through on my plan, there was never any homecoming.
Coming home from summer camps, summer jobs, college…all happened without much fanfare. And my uneasy life would fall into place once again.
More joyous childhood homecomings were wrapped up with my grandparents, who I adored. One in particular took place in 1964. My widowed great grandmother lived in Ohio and traveled to the East Coast to visit only a few times before she died in 1968. She was sweet and very soft spoken. Her skin…smooth and powdery. Fragile. She was my mother’s grandmother.
When she made the trip, it was a homecoming of sorts as she was able to spend time with her daughter (my grandmother) as well. We always made a very special occasion out of her visits. Celebration meals. Trips. And…lots of photographs.
The 4 generation pose was popular. My sisters, brother and I took turns sitting with my mother, grandmother and great grandmother.
I don’t remember if we were instructed in how to pose.
My children’s paternal grandparents were always willing to play with their grandchildren – no matter what the game was. It could be as simple as reading a book, playing cards or tossing a ball. Even planting seeds in their huge backyard garden.
One Christmas – 1994 – they even joined in, sunglasses and all, when their grandson tried out his new “saxophone.”
Beefeater’s martini straight up. No ice. Lemon peel on the side – if I wanted lemonade I would have ordered it.
That’s how Opa ordered his drink – the first order in the first round of drinks – when he took our family out to dinner when I was growing up. It sounds kind of rude, but I would imagine if time after time he got the lemon peel in the drink…well, he ran out of patience. I would wait with great curiosity to see what the waiter or waitress would bring. The fancy stemmed glass filled with a clear liquid served on a small plate…where a few slices of lemon peel hopefully (!) would rest. I don’t remember where the olive was supposed to go. Worst case scenario: a glass filled with ice AND lemon peel AND the gin. High drama for us kids.
Next up was ordering off the menu. We could all order what we wanted. No children’s menu. I always felt so grown up learning the fine art of “find out what goes with the dinner.”
Split and toasted!
When the inevitable basket of dinner rolls arrived to keep us fed while waiting for the meals to arrive, Opa would send it back to the kitchen. Please have these rolls split and toasted! And they did and they were amazing and warm and crunchy with butter melting all over.
While we crunched on warm, toasty rolls, Opa made magic happen with his white cloth napkin. He turned, napkin hidden, to the side – carefully rolled, then twisted the cloth and…turned back to face us. And there in the crook of his left arm was a napkin “bunny” – that kept “hopping” up his arm as he patted it with his right hand. All the while he would be talking to it and to us. We’d stare and stare. Wow. That’s entertainment.
As we got a bit older, the bunny didn’t capture our attention like Opa’s napkin bra could. He’d quick fold up his napkin, pull the corners and briefly hold it up in front of his tie and pressed suit jacket. Ta Da! Opa had a bra! Hysterical and ridiculous every time. This napkin trick embarrassed my mother immensely but thoroughly entertained his grandchildren. How did he do this? Simple (but I didn’t figure it out for a long time):
Fold napkin so that the 2 sides meet in the middle.
Fold the opposite way so the open edges are on the outside.
Grab left corners with left hand and right corners with right hand and pull.
When it was someone’s birthday, there was a cake brought out to the birthday girl or boy. A cake with a lit sparkler! The cake could be seen from across the dining room shooting sparks into the air. As it was set before you everybody sang Happy Birthday to You, You Belong in a Zoo….
I am honoring my Opa’s memory on June 26th – what would have been his 112th birthday – by sharing his restaurant tricks & talents. Valuable hints for grandparents everywhere. How to continue embarrassing your children and endearing you to your grandchildren forever.