the best command of English
Saturday, December 29 2001
setting: Silver Spring, Maryland
The original plan had been for Gretchen and me to drive down to Staunton yesterday evening, but what with traffic congestion and my getting lost, it was late by the time I'd made it to Silver Spring. So Gretchen and I spent the night there at her parents' place. We set out for Staunton at around noon today.
We parked in front of my parents' scruffy farmyard at around 3pm and Sally immediately made the acquaintance of my old dog Fred. As for The Kitten, the nine year old black cat that has lived with my folks since my brother found her abandoned along the side of Dynamite Road, she immediately retreated into a little nook amid the boxes and draping overgrown houseplant vegetation of my mother's so-called "leather room." Sally loves cats and wanted to meet her, but there was no flushing The Kitten from the cover of the infamous leather room.
For a Christmas present, Gretchen and I had bought my folks a brand new VCR to replace one that had eventually succumbed to years of dust and disuse.
I'd brought a couple videotapes to watch, both of them sets of episodes of TV Nation (the wickedly clever television show hosted by Michæl Moore that somehow survived for a time on various major television networks).
Before long Gretchen and I were doing the usual winter time thing at my parents' place, lounging at the card table in front of the black cast iron Majestic woodstove (circa 1904), talking endlessly about this and that. It's interesting to me that I never noticed a few very distinctive traits about my parents when I was growing up, traits that are readily apparent when I return after a prolonged absence. For example, my mother Hoagie is a great deal more talkative than your average person, and when she runs out of things to say, she thinks nothing of going back to talk about something previously discussed in detail. Another thing about my mother that I always took for granted as a kid: she is a marvelous cook. I know, I know, everybody's mother is a marvelous cook. But there's a difference between the white bread, luncheon meat and mayonnaise mother and my mother, Hoagie. There will be more on that later in this vacation.
For tonight, however, Gretchen and I were sent out to pick up Chinese food at the restaurant in Statler Square (named after the guys who brought us "Flowers on the Wall"). We brought my brother Don along, since he's always up for a ride into town, a place where money can be converted into things.
As we were going into the Chinese restaurant, Gretchen pointed to a sign saying, "We will be open on Christmas!" - yes, a Jewish Christmas is possible even in Staunton, Virginia! This particular restaurant was clearly a family-operated shop. The youngest had the best command of English, so it fell upon the plump 12 year old son to man the phone and run the cash register while his older siblings and ancestors worked in the back. Meanwhile his younger siblings squabbled in familiar little boy ways while assigned to such mindless tasks as destringing string beans.
To kill time as we waited for our food, we three wandered over to the nearby Kroger super store. Don immediately asked for the location of the toy aisle and was directed to aisle eight. Of late Don has been collecting a series of plastic soldier dolls, usually German or Soviet troops from the Battle of Stalingrad. They're high quality dolls, complete with jointed arms and fabric clothes. But over in the toy aisle, the only dolls to be bought were female and came in bright pink packaging. I suggested that Don accessorize his tough warrior action figures with sparkly little skirts and belly-button-revealing tank tops.
My Dad (Robert). There's a little clip of a frame from the Josh Furr animation on the cabinet in the background; it's been there since 1993. Click for a bigger image.
Gretchen with Don and one of Don's army dolls. In the background you can see an old hand-colorized photo of my father looking out from behind the cat food. It was taken around 1930. Click for a bigger image.
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