|Had to force the forsythia to bloom this year because of an early Easter|
We always arrived on Good Friday evening in time for a dinner of canned Franco American Spaghetti and fish sticks or tuna salad on hard rolls. Saturday we ventured into New York City--my father and brothers and me--while my mother stayed with Grandma and my aunt and went visiting. My father loved the city and had his favorite haunts--the old Barnes and Noble and Scribner's bookstores on lower Fifth avenue, the odd lot stores on Vesey Street, years before the area became the World Trade Center. He always had a must-see exhibit on banking, stamps, coins or equally boring subjects to a young girl.
I was fortunate when my brother reached the age when he could shepherd me around the city on his own. He was probably 16 and I was 10. We went to the Museum of Natural History and I weighed myself on the different scales representing each planet. We didn't have a pen or pencil on us, so my brother had an elaborate system of bent pages in a sightseeing booklet to keep track. When we got back to Jersey City it was a little confusing. Was I 13 pounds on the moon and 189 on Jupiter or vice versa? We always met my father afterwards and ate at a "nice" restaurant -- one even had fingerbowls which I managed to use correctly without embarrassing my siblings. I was dressed in my Easter finery, a yellow spring coat with cape sleeves and looked lovely until you noticed my black sneakers peering from below. My mother's motto had always been "be comfortable."
As time passed, the Jersey City neighborhood deteriorated and the park around the corner where we had played became off limits. A trip to the local store to get milk became less carefree, as we plotted our course to avoid the people hanging on the street corners, particularly near the corner bar.
Easter Monday was a glorious day. We would pile in the car to go to the shore to visit two sets of cousins--but never together. The early day was spent at one house, after an agonizing wait in the car, while my aunt did the shopping for the party--hotdogs, sauerkraut, cheetos, ice cream. As the sky darkened, we headed to our second cousin's house, a few miles away. As a kid, you don't really question things, but it was odd. My two aunts had a long standing feud which went back to some rivalry over their first borns. Eddie's new shoes or Patty's new dress had not been sufficiently praised. Years passed and life went on around the dispute.
We returned back to Grandma's late Monday night, exhausted and happy. The next day it was back up the Thruway and home, feeling happy and a little lighter knowing that our next trip would be to go "down the shore" for a long, leisurely summer.