23rd Day of NaBloPoMo/ The Laundromat

cultivate-for-illo-friday1
The cat who loves books.

THE LAUNDROMAT

As the ceremony began, John felt a lump in his throat as he watched Gloria take her vows.  She was radiant!  Paul looked happy but very nervous, which was apparent from the perspiration shinning on his face.  The lace and chiffon dress Gloria wore clung gently to her slim figure.   For some reason she  seemed very vulnerable to John.  He noticed tears in Alice’s eyes and could hardly hold them back himself.

At the reception Alice introduced him to everyone as Gloria barely had time to kiss him on the cheek and greet her other guests.  If it wasn’t for Alice, he would have been completely lost.  When he was getting ready to leave Alice came up to him, clasped his hands and told him how happy she was that he came.  She even suggested having lunch together at a future date.  He didn’t know what to think of that, but he agreed.

A few weeks later John was just settling in to life without Gloria.  Oh he’d probably see her now and again in passing but it would never be the same.  The phone ringing startled him out of his musing.   He picked it up and said, “Hi this is John, it’s your nickel.”

“Hi John, this is Alice, remember me?”

“Of course how are you doing Alice,” he tried to keep the surprise out of his voice.

“I’m fine John, I was just wondering if you would like to go to lunch next week?”

“Why um, well, I, that is yes that would be great!?  Where would you like to go?”

“There’s a little Italian place not too far from where I live, called Giovanni’s.  The food is great if you like Italian.”

“That sounds good Gloria, I love Italian, what day and time shall we meet up?”

They set the date for the next Wednesday about one o’clock, and they would meet at the restaurant.   John was flushed with excitement over the thought of meeting Alice for lunch. He couldn’t fathom why he was so excited.   ‘I must be getting old,’ he thought, ‘it’s only a lunch with Gloria’s Mother.  I don’t even know if she has a husband or she is just trying to be friendly to a friend of her daughter.’

Still, Alice was an attractive woman and still young and she seemed to like him.  When Wednesday rolled around, John was still trying to calm himself down.     Alice was more his age he thought and that calmed him some.  He told himself Alice either had a husband or a boyfriend.   ‘Attractive woman like her wouldn’t be just out there.  Would she? Here I go again’, he thought.  I got all excited about Gloria and where did that get me?’  So as he was driving to the restaurant, he had himself under control and just said to himself that he would have a nice lunch and that was it.

Giovanni’s proved to be an ideal meeting place for Alice and John’s first date.  It was very informal, with red and white checkered tablecloths and candles burning on each table.  Even sawdust on the floor to make it more authentic.  John ordered the best red wine they had and Alice was impressed.  The food proved to be delicious and since they both were good eaters  they ordered  more than they enough food.  So they each had doggie bags when they left.  They had chatted about mundane things during lunch since they really didn’t know each other.   And the afternoon passed pleasantly with no glitches by John due to nervousness.  In fact they got along great and especially for a first date, if that was what this was, he thought.  Alice invited John back to her house for coffee and dessert.  And of course he accepted.  He wasn’t ready for what happened next though.

To be continued.

22nd Day of NaBloPoMo/The Laundromat

MY Workplace
Where I do my writing.

THE LAUNDROMAT

As the weeks went by, John helped Gloria fix leaky faucets, squeaky doors and other odds and ends.  They met for breakfast frequently and he looked forward to their time together.  On one of their breakfast get togethers, Gloria seemed more animated than usual.  “John I have the best news, wait until you hear,” she blurted out.

“Out with it, you look like you are going to burst if you don’t tell me soon.”

“Well, I didn’t tell you but I met someone a few months ago, his name is Paul.  We’ve been dating pretty frequently lately and he asked me to marry him.”

John put his coffee down slowly.  His heart was hammering in his chest.  He understood now why people used that expression.  He tried to stay calm as he answered her.  “Why that is wonderful Gloria,” he said.  “From the look on your face I’d say that you said yes.”

“I certainly did,  he’s a wonderful guy John and I know you are going to like him when you two meet.  I want you both to be friends, just like we are.”

“I’d like that also, when is the big day going to be Gloria?”  John’s heart was still hammering but not quite as much.  He might be able to pull this off and not say anything foolish like, ‘I thought you and I might be thinking of doing the same thing.’  After she told him the date, he mumbled, “Gloria, what do you think of that?”  He managed to keep his thoughts to himself.  John’s appetite had strangely diminished and after Gloria left, he sat there sipping his coffee and gazing into space.

Gloria and Paul had decided to get married right away of course  and John found himself wishing he hadn’t agreed to attend the wedding.  He had met Paul and liked him well enough but considered him an interloper.  He knew it was silly to feel this way but couldn’t seem to help himself.  He rarely saw Gloria anymore except occasionally at the laundromat and then she usually rushed off afterwards, not wanting to go for coffee as they usually had done.  She was busy with her wedding plans.

The big day arrived and John found himself standing at the back of the church.  After arriving at the church, he paced nervously in the vestibule while waiting for the ceremony to begin.  He was still thinking of leaving when a pretty blonde woman came up to him and asked if he were John, Gloria’s friend?  “Why yes,” he was a bit startled.

“I’m Gloria’s Mother, Alice, why don’t you sit with our family?”

“That would be nice.”  John was struck by her resemblance to Gloria.

“Gloria’s told me so much about you and all the help you’ve given her.”

“I was glad to help, she is such a great person.”

“Well, I hope she’ll be happy with Paul, they haven’t known each other very long.”  She sounded anxious.

‘Funny I was thinking the exact same thing’, John kept these thoughts to himself.

John wondered where Gloria’s Father was but hesitated to ask.  Gloria never talked about her family much in all their time together.  And as other relatives and friends started arriving, Alice was swept away in a maze of chiffon and chatter.

To be continued.

20th Day of NaBloPoMo/The Laundromat Continued

THE LAUNDROMAT

After they had finished their laundry and since Gloria had no car, John drove her to Marino’s Market.  He then drove her home and insisted on helping carry in the bags of groceries.

“Come in John and have a drink.  It’s the least I can do after all you have done for me today.  Unless of course your wife is waiting dinner for you at home?”

“No, I am a widower Gloria.  My wife passed away.  I usually cook my own dinner now” he said.

“Oh, I am sorry John, I didn’t know, please excuse me.”

“No way you could have known now is there?”

“I guess not, I just feel embarrassed, shooting my mouth off like that.”

“Let’s just start out all over again and yes I would like that drink.  I am a bit thirsty.”

“Okay, would you like a beer or some coffee?”

A beer sounds fine right about now.  That grocery shopping is thirsty work, don’t you agree?”

Gloria opened two beers and after putting her groceries away, they settled down on the couch with their beers.  By the time they had finished two glasses each, dusk had settled in.  John was feeling warm and mellow.  He hadn’t felt this good in a long time.

They talked for a long time.  John about his wife and their hopes and dreams, now cut short.  Gloria listened sympathetically.

When he was leaving, Gloria gave him a peck on the cheek.  He didn’t even remember driving home, he was in a rosy glow from being with a pretty woman and sharing intimate things.  And then, the kiss or peck, was enough to put him in this rosy glow.   Meeting Gloria had brightened his life and he hoped they would be friends.  She was young, in her mid thirties, he guessed, but who says an older man and a young woman can’t be friends?  She probably has lots of boyfriends.

The next morning John rose at his usual 5 a.m. and walked two miles, then breakfasted at Martha’s Breakfast House.  Upon arriving there this morning, who was sitting in his usual booth but Gloria!    She called him over and asked him to join her for breakfast.

“This is a surprise,” he said.

“I just started coming here since I get up early and do a run and then get showered and dressed and go out looking for work.”

“Well, my lucky day,” he was beaming as he took a menu even though he didn’t need one. “What looks good?”

“”Well I’m having hotcakes.  What do you like?”

The waitress moved in and filled their coffee cups and took John’s order of two eggs, over easy with the works.  He had a big appetite after walking for two  miles.

“You have a very hearty appetite John,” Gloria said.

‘Yes and I better cut it down as I am gaining a few pounds and a pot belly.

“Oh you have nothing to worry about, you still have your boyish figure.  Were you an athlete in school?” Gloria sounded interested.

“Well I did play a little baseball in high school and then again in college, so I manage to stay in shape, even if I only walk now.”

They ate their breakfast and chatted away as time was passed.  Gloria jumped up and said that she had to get home and get dressed to go on her job hunt.

“Anything I can help you with Gloria?”

“Oh no thanks John, but it was nice having breakfast here with you.  We will have to do it again sometime.”

“I would love that,” he said.

John continued his walk home in a very good mood indeed.  He really liked Gloria and he hoped more than ever that they could continue to see each other.  He would enjoy having someone to eat breakfast with, even if only at a diner, and maybe go other places with.  One never knew.  He wasn’t all that old.

To be Continued

19TH DAY OF NaBloPoMo/The Laundromat/A Story originally posted on Nov. 19, 2013

MERLIN AND lady on favorite chair
My cats: Merlin and Lady!

THE LAUNDROMAT

The washers and dryers were humming noisily when John walked into the Laundromat.  It was easy to see that he wasn’t accustomed to using  a laundromat by the furtive way he was acting.  He picked out a washer after much searching, loaded his clothes and then discovered that he did not have any detergent and had to search for the machine that dispensed it.  Everyone in the place could have cared less whether he knew his way around or not, they were all wrapped up in their own thoughts.  After a few trips there though he became a regular and knew his way around as well as everyone else.

It was on one of these trips as he was gaining confidence in himself that John had a strange thing happen.  John always liked children and there was certainly enough of them running around.  A little blonde girl of three years old came up to him smiling and started a conversation.  “Hi, I’m Sandy,” she said.  “Hello Sandy, my name is John, what do you do for a living?”  Sandy just giggled and proceeded to tell him her age, her mother’s name and anything else he wanted to know.

John was beginning to enjoy himself when a blonde woman rushed up and grabbed Sandy, gave him a dirty look and rushed  the child away.  Her admonishment to the child could be heard throughout the laundromat, “I told you not to talk to strangers especially old men.”  John was startled and a little sad.  After hearing that, he wasn’t as friendly to children unless of course he knew their parents.

John was a tall man in his early sixties and his hair was mostly gray but he had a thick and lustrous head of it.  He had green eyes that sparkled when he was happy which wasn’t very often now that Janet was gone.  He had a slim build although he had a hearty appetite, but that had diminished lately.  Since Janet had died a year ago, he was in a transition period.  They had planned to vacation in the mountains this year.  Renting a cabin and fishing was his idea of heaven, but Janet’s illness had come on suddenly and now his life was dramatically different.

He had thought himself a strong man but lately he began to doubt that strength.  He had not planned on being alone and it was a strange, new experience for him.  The house loomed before him like some vast unknown expanse. The days were endless.  Then one day at the Laundromat, as he was loading his clothes into a dryer, a young woman next to him was struggling with a large basket of clothes as she tried to lift it onto one of the shelves.  It slipped out of her hands and the clothes went flying onto the floor.  The girl looked embarrassed as she stooped to retrieve her laundry.  John went to her aid and after the clothes were picked up and placed in the right machine, she sat down beside him.  He offered her a cigarette and after accepting she thanked him profusely for his help.

“I’m new in the area,” she said.  “Is that so?”  John was never much of a conversationalist.

She was so young and pretty, he was wondering why she even bothered talking to him.

“Can you tell me which market has the lowest prices close to this area?  I’m kind of new in town and still have to get a car.  So I am kind of limited in where I shop”   She seemed to be embarrassed to admit this.

“Medina’s Market is only a few blocks from here and has the best buys and good quality, I can show you where it is.”

“Oh thanks, that’s very kind of you but I wouldn’t want to put you out.” she retorted.

“No trouble at all.  After we are done here I’ll take you there.  By the way what’s your name, mine’s John.”

“Gloria.” was the answer.

“That’s a pretty name, it suits you.”

To be continued

DAY 6 OF NaBloPoMo/MY FAVORITE RECIPE

YUM!
YUM!

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO EVERYONE

 

This recipe is one of the all time favorites in our family.  It has been handed down over the years in my family, starting with myself.  I made them most every Christmas even before I had children.  And then for years after I had a family, and we adopted the tradition, I continued to make them every Christmas.  And now my children  are making the cookies  for their children and grandchildren.  I got the recipe from my sister Anna originally, who got it from her mother-in-law, who was of German descent.  And probably goes back a long way from her mother also.

This recipe is for half the original as the original is for so many cookies that you would be up all night baking otherwise.  Depending on when you started of course.  I recommend you start in the morning.  Giving you a head start and with lots of energy.  And also I do it in spurts.  After everything is mixed and a ball is formed, you can let it sit (covered with a tea towel)  in frig until you are ready to do the rolling out, cutting out and baking.    They are certainly worth the effort though as you will get praise galore.  Well you really should even if only for having the stamina to complete the job!

So onward we go with the recipe:

1/4 lb. butter or margarine

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup milk

1 1/8 cup sugar

1 1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. (or more) Anise oil.  (I like a lot of Anise oil so I use more)

3 cups  (sifted)  flour

Cream butter/margarine and sugar together.  Butter/margarine should be soft.  Add egg yolks, milk and Anise oil and mix.  Add (sifted) flour and baking powder, one cup at a time and mix.  Form into a ball  (or two balls if you like) and refrigerate for 1/2 hour.  Roll out to desired thickness (I like mine thick so they take a little longer to bake).   Cut into shapes with Christmas cookie cutters.  Grease baking sheet once and bake at 350 degrees for 5 – 7 minutes, the tops will be white but a little brown on the bottom.

Icing:  Beat egg whites that you separated and saved from yolks, until stiff.  Add 1/2 box confection sugar, (1) drop Anise oil, ((1) pinch of salt (optional).  Enjoy!  Don’t put icing on until cookies are cool. You can also put the colored sprinkles on top of icing if you prefer.

Day 15 of NaBloPoMo/Aunt Anna (cont.)

 Anna continued going with Jim as the years rolled on.  Towards the end of their relationship, he was little more than a bum.  He was now renting a room and drinking pretty heavily. His mother had died some years before and he went downhill after that.  He contacted lung cancer from his constant smoking and was now living on a small pension.  Still, Anna was loyal to him and she tried to do what she could for him, seeing to it that he ate and took his medicine.

They would rarely visit us but he now sounded strange as he had throat surgery and wore a voice box but he still smoked.  My Mother would offer him a good meal but he could never eat much now.  He died soon after and Anna decided to moved to New Jersey to live with one of her two sisters who were living there.  One was single and had a good job and one was married and had several children.  She moved in with the single one since they had more in common and it was quieter.  That only lasted a short while and she found herself a room in a private house.

Soon after moving, she got a job as a hospital aide.  She visited her sisters on her days off and found herself another boyfriend.  He was an Irishman of course, and Kelly was his name.  He was quite a bit older than Anna but they got along famously.  He was a gruff truck driver and generous with his money.  He was also a widower.  He showered her with gifts and attention.  She certainly wasn’t used to this but she loved it.

Anna became the talk of the family but it didn’t seem to faze her.  The family was Irish, Catholic, boasting a priest.  And Anna was a devout Catholic rising at five a.m. to attend mass before going to work every day.  She would also walk several miles after work.  She was a Health Nut before they were popular.

She seemed unaware of the controversy surrounding her and Kelley’s relationship.  So when he gave her a large diamond and asked her to marry him, the family was surprised.  Kelly was Catholic and widowed so he was fine in the eyes of the Church.  But when Anna asked the priest in the family to marry them in the church he refused to perform the ceremony.  He was always an arrogant pain in the ass anyway.  Anna was devastated as he was her favorite nephew.  And she had showered him with gifts and money over the years when he was struggling.  He didn’t think Kelly was good enough to be in the family.

In spite of this Anna and Kelly planned a small wedding.  Just family.  Then, a few weeks before the wedding was to take place an unexpected thing happened.  Kelly had a heart attack and died!  I remember attending the funeral.  It was a very sad affair especially so since it was supposed to be a wedding.  By this time I had also moved to New Jersey with my family and lived not far from Anna.  She was sad but stoic, not showing much emotion.  But everyone knew she was that way.  No nonsense.

Anna held up in spite of her grief, getting up early and going to mass each day.  Then she’d go to work and walk miles afterward.  She never did marry!

The End

Day 14 of NaBloPoMo/My Aunt Anna (cont.)

Anna and MarionWhen Anna came alone to visit, she usually gave my Mother a lot of advice about how to run her life and raise her family.  After she left one day, my Mother groaned and said, “I am so sick of listening to her give me advice.  I wish she would not come so often.”  So being an outspoken ten year old, one day when Anna was at our house and started to give advice to my Mother, I piped up with, “Why don’t you mind your own business and not come over so often?”

Well, Anna was incensed!  She slowly raised her arm, which had an umbrella at the end of it, and approached me.  Her eyes ablaze, her nostrils flaring!  I ducked behind my Mother.  My Mother grabbed Anna’s hand and took the umbrella and asked her to leave.  That was a close call for me and one of the many times my Mother would save me from God knows what!  Anna was insulted and huffed out the door then.  Needless to say, we did not see Anna for awhile after that.  I guess the story became legend in the family as my Uncle John said to me one day when he was visiting, “I heard you told your Aunt Anna off the other day.”  He had a sly grin on his face.

Anna couldn’t stay away too long though, as she loved my Mother’s cooking and she loved to eat.  Months later when she was over for dinner, the main course being pork chops, one of her favorites.  And they of course, had a wonderful aroma especially with onions the way my Mother cooked them.   Anna wasn’t exactly a quiet eater.  So she was going at the chops very noisily and obviously enjoying herself.

When all of a sudden a scream escaped her throat!  Our little kitten had latched onto Anna’s greasy hand and was licking it, the smell of the pork being too much for him to handle.  Anna had put her hand down without wiping the grease off it.  So still screaming and in order to get the cat off,  she shook her hand and the kitten went flying!  The kitten still howling ran outside and confusion reigned for awhile.   Anna had a few scratches on her hand and she was moaning and groaning until Mother put a clean plate in front of her.  Things did settle down after a bit and we all went back to our dinner.  The kitten was okay though, just a little scared but he avoided Anna after that time.

To be continued.

DAY 13 OF NaBloPoMo/STORY

 

MY AUNT ANNA

My Aunt Anna was a no nonsense woman.  From my earliest memories, that was the one thing that stood out.  Anna didn’t mince words.  Either she liked you or she didn’t and if she didn’t you were painfully aware of it.  I knew she liked me.  Probably because of the similarities in our dispositions.  Strong and stubborn.

Anna never married and probably just as well, my Mother used to say.  In an era where women either got married or were considered an old maid, she was the latter.  Not that she didn’t have boyfriends although no one was breaking the door down to get to Anna.  She had a steady man in her life when she was young.

That was Jim and they were together a lot.  Jim was a quiet man, not unlike Anna herself.  They would come to our house on Sundays and always bring ice cream or some other treat.  So of course we kids liked them.  They would usually sit and chat with my Mother while my sisters and I would polish off the treats.  I always liked when they came, mostly for the treats. They would never stay very long and when they left my Mother would usually say, “they are a couple of strange ducks.”  I never knew what that meant but I thought it wasn’t very good.  But as long as they brought the treats I liked them.

Anna always talked in a gruff voice and had a strange sense of humor.  She would laugh when no one else was laughing and she made a strange sound when she laughed.  She did most of the talking when they were at our house and Jim would offer a grunt occasionally.  Everyone in the family thought they would marry one day.  She had a flat in the city and he lived with his mother, taking care of her in her old age.  He was the typical Irish oldest son, taking care of Mother.  Anna and Jim went on like this for some 20 years.

She would always say to me, “make sure you marry an Irishman!”  Whereupon I would reply, “not if he was the last man on earth.  No Irishmen for me!”  I was referring of course to my Father who had left us high and dry when we were small children.  Even so, Anna didn’t like it when I rejected the Irish men out of hand.

To be continued.

18 Day of NaBloPoMo/The Wake/The Wake Continues

Anna and MarionThe Wake

Mother and I went into the parlor and stood by the casket to say a prayer for Aunt Mamie. A shudder ran through me as I gazed at her lying on the pink satin lining of the coffin.  She looked so alive!  That part of the Wake I didn’t like, looking at the body and some people even kissed the corpse.  When I was little I will never forget  my Mother making me kiss my Grandmother in her casket. When my lips touched the cold skin, I screamed so loud everyone was holding their ears.  So of course Mother did not try to make me kiss any more corpses.

Aunt Mamie had makeup on for the first time in her life and she was dead.  She was also wearing her best dress even though she wasn’t going anywhere.  Except maybe to Heaven which I thought was doubtful.  The dress was black and of course and my Mother remarked that she looked better in death than she ever had in life.

After viewing the body, we went into the kitchen where the rest of the family and a few friends were sitting around the big wooden table.  A few of the women were setting the table with plates and silverware.  My Grandmother was slicing a big ham that someone had brought and there were assorted salads including macaroni and potato salad.  All kinds of cakes and cookies were piled on the table and of course the children were hovering around that area.  Mother went to help the other women putting the food out and I ran outside to play with all my cousins who by the sound of it were having a merry time.

In the big yard a was an outhouse that we sometimes used for hiding when we played hide and seek.  Of course you had to hold your nose for as long as you could stand it in there.  It was a great hiding place as no one ever found you there.  Or maybe they just didn’t want to come in there.  As we were playing, I noticed through the fence that Father Kelly was coming up the walk.  He was going to lead everyone in saying the Rosary for Aunt Mamie.  I think we kids were exempt, thank goodness.  After that much time on my knees, they would be really sore.  We played outside until dusk and then were called in to eat.  By that time everyone was ravenous and we noisily started chomping on whatever was put in front of us.  After everyone was done eating, there was still quite a bit left.

It was very dark out by this time but a few neighbors were still coming in, mostly for the food I think.  I was still at the table finishing off a cookie but when I looked around I realized, I had not seen my father or Uncle John for all the time we had been there. I noticed the parlor, where the casket was, appeared very dark with a slight glow emanating from the doorway.

Just as I was biting into the cookie, a strange noise coming from the parlor made me jump and drop the cookie.  Tripping over each other, a few women ran to the doorway to the parlor and they let out a shriek.  I ran over to the doorway where my Mother was standing with her mouth open in shock, but she blocked the way saying, “This is not something you need to see.”  Most of the mothers there kept their children from the parlor until they left for the night.

Mother told me later that Himself, who was very drunk, was holding Aunt Mamie up in a sitting position and Uncle John, who was also drunk, was trying to pour whiskey down her throat.  They were both saying, “You old witch, you never took a drink when you were alive, so bottom’s up!”  Then they dropped her back down into the coffin as they danced a jig around the room!

END

Day 17 of NaBloPoMo/The Wake

THE WAKE

It was that Summer that Aunt Mamie stopped coming to visit us.  It wasn’t that we really missed her visits but we were curious as to why she had stopped coming so abruptly.  When we hadn’t seen her for several weeks my Mother remarked, “I wonder what’s become of Aunt Mamie?”  Summer turned to Fall and still no Aunt Mamie.  One Fall day when I was returning home from school, my Mother told me that Aunt Mamie had died.  Well we were shocked to say the least,  because no one in my Father’s family had said anything about Mamie being sick.  Mother said that Mamie had a stroke and died.  She was never really sick before that but still, I was not surprised at the news because I considered her very old.  And I thought that when you got that old, you just died.  I had been to several funerals by that time and death was a common occurrence.  Especially so, since we did not have antibiotics at that time.

So preparations were made for our family to go to the wake, which was to be held at my Grandmother’s house.  Grandmother always like parties, funerals, wakes and all occasions where the relatives and friends gathered and ate and drank and usually enjoyed themselves no matter the occasion.  Sometimes a Wake had to do.  It was a small town and everyone knew everyone else and when someone died, people would bring lots of cakes, casseroles, pies, etc.  It was usually an event to look forward to with some relish.  Sometimes it took someone dying, in order for a party to be held.  Of course Mrs. Kelly brought her prize-winning fried chicken and Mrs. Murphy brought her best chocolate cake.

And as kids, we also loved the wakes.  We got to visit and play with all our cousins and friends and eat until we were sick.  No one really noticed us, so we really ran rampant.  And being an Irish Wake, there was a lot of whiskey and beer consumed, mostly by the men.  Sometimes the women would take a drink but their usual drink was tea or coffee.  Someone had to oversee the goings on and make sure everything went smoothly.  The men often overdid the drinking and would break into boisterous singing.

My Father and his brother John considered Aunt Mamie an old maid and a tightwad, especially since she did not make the loan to my Father for his truck.  Both Himself and his brother John were sitting on the swing on the front porch when Mother and I arrived at my Grandmother’s house the day of the Wake.  They were drinking beer even though it was early in the day.  My Mother gave them a cool greeting and in reply they just laughed.

To be continued.