Pete Remembers

  Pete Remembers



It was early March. Everyone was tired of the long New England winter that began, as usual, with cold breezes coming down from Canada in October. Each day they’d become colder. First they would force the leaves to turn beautiful colors. Then, just as quickly, the breeze became a wind, and would blow them all off, leaving the tree cold and naked. In November the snow would start flying as the temperatures dropped below freezing. By December everything might be covered in a blanket of white. That was fine for Christmas. But Christmas had long past by. January and February brought Blizzards and steel gray skies. Now came March. The wind was still blowing, perhaps a bit more continuously. The Sun was out, and the sky was blue as the temperature climbed all the way up to 40! For this 10-year-old boy the winter had been especially long. Mom had kept me cooped up because of all the bad weather.  But this was the first Saturday of March, and I was determined to get out and find the first sign of spring.


As I ran out the door, bundled up like a mummy, I heard Mom exclaim, “March already! Where does the time go!!” I shook my head as I ran down the stairs. It seemed like February had lasted ten years to me! David was waiting in front of his house. I looked around to make sure no one could see me. I took off my hat and scarf and threw them on his porch. I then undid my coat and let that warm 40-degree wind hit me in the chest. “Where ya think we’ll find um?” David asked. “Probably down in back of the park.” I answered assuredly, and we were off.


The ground under our feet was a mixture of dirty, brown snow mixed with mud and gravel as we hurried through the Park. The playground was a mess. The flower beds were empty, and the fountains were all turned off. “Everything’s dead!” David remarked with disgust. “Not everything. Don’t worry, we’ll find um.” “My feets is freezin!” “Ya shoulda wore yer boots!”


We saw them on the other side of the brook! They were beautiful! Our faces both lit up as we spotted them at the same time! Straight across the thin ice we ran without giving it a thought until we were both up to our knees in the frigid water. We jumped back up to the muddy land just about as fast as we had gone in, but the damage was done! I sat in the mud and poured water out of my boots while David tried to dry his shoes with his jacket. “My feets is really freezin’ now!” He hollered. “Don’t worry, they’ll dry. Come on, let’s use the stupid bridge.” We were on the other side in an instant, grabbing all we could. We each had a big pile in five minutes and were headed back home in a flash. Our legs felt numb as the wind blew on the wet fabric. We held up our prizes in a triumphant salute as we bid one another good-bye.


Up the back stairs I ran and into the kitchen where Mom was preparing homemade soup for our midday meal. “Look Mom! Pussy Willows!!!” I said through lips that were quickly turning blue. “Oh, they’re beautiful! The first sign of spri…” Her voice trailed off as she looked at me in horror. Then she smiled and said, “You realize that bringing these Pussy Willows home to me will probably cost you a week out of school sick. And you know what I‘ll have to give you then! But never mind. Boys will be Boys! Come on into the bathroom. Let’s take off your clothes. I’ll run a warm bath for you. You look like you’re frozen! And where are your hat and scarf?” “David’s House.” I murmured. She smiled again as she helped me strip for my bath.


Well, we were at it again! My best friend David and I had a plan. There was no reason why we shouldn’t be able to pull this one off. But being 10 years old we were a bit nervous. Every sneaky scheme that we’d ever come up with, somehow or another, we were found out and punished. But we were still determined to keep on trying. The mission that we were about to embark on was very important to us. We just had to have the prize that would be awaiting us when we succeeded. It was another Teacher’s Convention, and a day off for us. I managed to get out of the house by 8:30 to meet David. “You ready!” “Yep!” “Got yer money?” “Sure!” “Then let’s go!” As we headed out of the Neighborhood, straight toward our potential reward, a conversation ensued. “Boy, I sure wish that we didn’t have to do this!”, David began. “I know. But how else are we gonna get ‘em?” “I dunno. But yer right! We just gotta have ‘um.” So, we moved on into another neighborhood. It was almost downtown, but not quite. It was an area that Mom considered the absolute worst in town. It was dirty! It was dingy and kind of stunk!! But that didn’t bother us one single bit. Our reward was to be found there! The little Drug Store was in sight. We had made it. We walked in, looked around at the dusty shelves filled with medicine, found the lunch counter and sat down. After the cook wiped his nose on his shirt, he came over to take our order. It wouldn’t be long now! The place was starting to fill up with factory workers. But we had our seats and were ready to feast. Amid all of the foul language that drifted among the workers, our plates arrived. There they were! Enough French-Fries to fill those plates to overflowing. They were a perfect golden brown and we ate every last one on our plates. We even ate a couple that had fallen on the filthy counter. David looked down at one that had landed on the floor but decided not to pick it up and eat it because it had mud on it. Those fries were the best, and they only cost 15 cents for a gigantic platter. We’d done it! We pushed ourselves away from the counter as stuffed as we could be. To us the experience had been better than a Thanksgiving Dinner! We headed home happy. We’d succeeded. As I went up the back stairs, I knew I still had to eat lunch. I’d tell Mom that I’d been running around, and she’d have me lie down for a while. Then, she’d only give me a light lunch. It would work out perfect! As soon as I walked in the door, I knew things weren’t quite right. Mom was pleasant and cheerful, but she had a funny look on her face. “Sit right down Dear. I’ve got a special lunch for you.” “A... Mom, David and I got a little sweated up. Don’t ya think I should wait a while and have somethin’ little.” “Nonsense, Dear. I know you won’t want to wait when you see what I’ve made you! Look, a great big bowl of French Fries! I expect you’ll want to dig right into those, won’t you?” I just looked at those fries and gave a phony smile. There were twice as many in that bowl as there were in the Drug Store platter. Could she have known what I did? No way! Do you think? I sat and I ate, and I smiled up at Mom. I was doing the best that I could, but I was slowing down fast. They were not even half gone! “Don’t you feel good dear? You’re not eating very well.” I finished most of the bowl just to show Mom that I felt fine. Late in the afternoon, while I was lying on the couch with a stomachache, Mom passed by and said, “Your Father was down on Pratt Street today visiting with one of his old friends. I really wish he wouldn’t go down to that part of town.” Then she left the room. “Oh Rats... I cannot get away with nothin!!”


When I sit and reminisce for this column, I often find it amazing what triggers a story. It’s the little yet vivid memories that, when thought of, remind you of so much more. Here are some of my most vivid little memories. I can remember sitting in the kitchen eating breakfast while Mom did the wash. I can still see the pile of dirty laundry in separate piles on the kitchen floor. I can recall rolling in them, as if I was in a pile of leaves, while Mom had a fit. I remember the sound of that old ringer washing machine as it churned the clothing slowly back and forth. I remember the smell of the Soap and the Bleach intermingling to create an immaculately clean aroma. I recall trying to lift one of those big glass bleach bottles and Mom yelling, “Ut, Ut, Ut, Don’t you touch that!!!” I recall the big “DUZ” and the slogan “DUZ does it” on the box of Soap that was used for the general laundry and the soft, pleasant scent of the Ivory Flakes that was used to wash my clothes. I remember Mom carrying the big wicker basket of wash, still heavy with water even after running it through the ringer, out to the back porch. I recall making airplanes out of the old wooden clothespins while Mom swung the clothes out on the old pulley clothesline to dry. I remember her running out to bring them in before the sun went down or before they froze when the temperature dropped.  I recall her ironing and folding those big loads of clothes. I’d often get too close to the old wooden ironing board and she’d tell me to go play on the other side of the room. I remember the sprinkling bottle that was next to the iron and the slab of wax that she used to keep the iron from sticking. But the thing that I remember best about laundry day was my young clean body, fresh from a bath, cuddling under those bright, airy sheets that had dried in the sun and fresh air all day. I remember the harsh sound that the mechanical bell made when the telephone rang. The bell was so big and the mechanism so apparently complicated that it didn’t even fit inside the telephone. It was in a box on the wall and if I happened to be rolling a little car around on the floor near it when it rang, I’d practically jump out of my skin! There was another mechanical bell that rang from its spot in the kitchen and indicated that someone was at the front door. I didn’t care for that bell at all. It usually meant that either the Doctor or a Visiting Nurse had come by, and they always came to see me! The Milk Man, Bread Man, Egg Lady, Insurance Man, Paper Boy and Fuller Brush Man, always came to the back door to deliver or get paid, and I liked them. I remember the warmth, the smell, and the glow of the tubes in our old Zenith black and white television set. I remember its hum as it slowly warmed up. I recall its picture rolling or turning sideways and someone having to get up and “Fix the TV”. But what I remember best about that old TV was sitting in front of it, (often too close) and watching Howdy Doody, Popeye cartoons, Superman, Roy Rogers, and so much more. All those little memories add up to beautiful treasures that money could never buy. I love searching my memory banks and will continue to do so until I am the richest person alive. Those beautiful memories have already put me among the wealthiest and happiest. Happy New Year!











'Walking the Tracks ~ Part 1 & 2










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