Monday, May 24, 2010
Starting to Write Again
I take so long to update. It's funny too because there are nights that I lay in bed with my laptop with this page open and I just don't know what to say. I can always talk about the trivial little things that happen to me day to day, but what are you really getting out of that? I'm not Confucius by any stretch, but I would like to write with some meaning.
Speaking of which I have been working on writing some nonfiction short stories about my family. These people are far too interesting to NOT write about them. That and I realized that I had forgotten my Pop-Pop's birthday. Which made me terrified of forgetting the stories he used to tell me. So I thought as a little taste test, I'd write a quick vignette here. My mom and I were reminiscing about Pop-Pop not too long ago and we chatted about his trains and our visits down to Florida when I was young. So here is a memory I am sharing here:
It was as it always had been. Every time I arrived it was the same scene. A comfort to know that stability existed; even if I had to fly 4 states South of my home to see it. I'd arrive at Nanny and Pop-Pops after an hour drive from the Tampa airport. Getting out of the car I'd walk halfway up the driveway with my head down and eyes scanning the concrete path. "HA!" Found it. There lying face up in the cement was a 1988 nickel. Pop-Pop had the driveway and sidewalk redone when they moved down to Florida and to commemorate the event he stuck what was in his pocket at the time into the fresh cement. It happened to be that lucky nickel. And I, without fail, would try to pry it up out of the cement every time I came down. Drat. Still stuck in there. Standing back up I dusted myself off and patted the head of a small statue near the front walk. A young man with 1920's attire holding a lantern that I'm sure at one point functioned. But as the years flew by, weather had battered and beaten the statue to it's current state. The light no longer worked and the paint came off of his hat into my hands. All the same, the stone man still smiled and offered up his lantern as a guide to home.
I could hear the TV from the front porch. Old age and poor hearing with the absolute refusal to get hearing aides resulted in the news being blasted at full force. If I stood at the other end of Goldcoast Avenue I'm sure I could still hear the 10-day forecast. Shuffling in with my backpack and duffel bag, I kicked my shoes off quickly and hopped in the parlor. Pop-pop was sitting in his recliner with a blue and cream crocheted throw covering his propped up legs on an old 70's ottoman. He looked up over his shoulder at me and a thousand watt smile spread across his face. (You'd never know he had dentures. I always just thought he had perfect teeth growing up!) "Blue eyes!" He slowly swiveled his chair around and tossed the blanket over the armrest. With a soft grunt the man pushed himself up off the chair with arms outstretched. Pop-pop's hugs were something to behold. Though the man stood barely over five and half feet, he was strong and purposeful. He pulled back after a few seconds and kissed my forehead; dead center as always. "Come in! Come in! You're room is all set. Hurry though, I want to show you my new Lionel." Nanny was shuffling around in the kitchen. "Wash your hands Megan! You don't know what you brought in from that big old air-jet." Perhaps this is where my affinity for hand sanitizer comes from...
After tossing my bags into the small back bedroom, I came back to meet Pop on the back porch. He was already there digging through a new UPS box with packing peanuts flying out both sides. He pulls from the box a blue engine; small and sturdy, with bright yellow lettering down the side: Santa Fe. My Pop-pop was a model train collector since well before I was even a thought in my parents' minds. He had trains from every era and they were all arranged around the porch on homemade shelving units that circled the room. To the left was a large fish tank with 5 Oscars bobbing around. Next to them was the masterpiece. It stood around 3 feet tall and over 12 feet long...taking over the entire left side of the room. For years Pop was building an elaborate train platform for his top engines. The platform needed paint and greenery, but all the track was laid perfectly. He even threw in some extra capital to get a working covered bridge that swayed open for passing ships. It was epic. Every time I visited he had a new boxcar or engine and a new part of the platform complete.
Pop took the new Santa Fe to the platform and hooked it up to an existing 6-car set on the track. A few switches and a rather loud whistle blow later the blue gem was on its way around the track. I'd only seen photos of what my grandfather looked like as a young man. He was a devilishly handsome Lithuanian American with a mop of wavy blonde hair and sparkling eyes the color of a clear sky. He retained all of his good looks even into his 70's. Not a stitch of gray hair invaded his golden locks and his eyes still twinkled behind a pair of fairly modern bifocals. His age was beginning to show as the wrinkles took over and the sun spots emerged. But the second that train started its trek down the platform, a completely different look appeared on his face. His grin was almost childlike, and his arthritic back straightened as the train took each curve of the track with ease. He was a happy man. You would never ever know to look at my grandfather that he had fought in a world war, seen people he loved die and struggled with a poor immigrant family through the Great Depression. Life was not an easy road for Pop-pop. But his smile never had a tinge of bitterness to it. Like the statue at the front walk, my Pop-pop was aging and weather-beaten, but he still had the same genuine smile and still stood as tall as when he was younger and stronger. When I was graduating high school and knee deep in my parents divorce I asked my granddad how he had managed to stay so positive for so long. That's when he told me about his time in the War. And that is a story for another day...