Tuesday, February 14, 2012

the house at 6-19

The living room is only for company....

I grew up hearing that each time we made the trek from the city over to New Jersey to visit my Aunt Carrie and Uncle John.

I always wondered what that meant..
We were not there often, weren't we company?

I used to sneak peaks into that living room, always perfect...
Pale blue carpeting that always, always revealed the vacumn cleaner lines as if she only ran that machine one way in and the same out...now in retrospect, it was much like a beautifully manicured Japanese Zen sand garden..as if her vacumn were a rake... And her hands were that of the old wise Gardner...
As if keeping house was her form of meditation.
In the corner of the room she had her record player and her artist of choice was always, and still is, Charles Aznavour.

I actually stepped into that room once and panicked when I saw my foot print on the rug.
I say foot print because shoes were taboo in my Aunts house.. I tried desperately to remove the mark I had made so my Aunt would have been none the wiser, but each attempt only made it worse.

I finally gave up and confessed before it was spotted.

The nuns at St. Margaret Mary's always said honesty was the best policy...they were right.

The living room contained a beautiful sofa with two wingback chairs, all upholstered in a rather fancy pattern with peacocks. The rooms coffee table always had the music box that my Uncle had given to her years earlier, a crystal ashtray ( although smoking was never permitted inside ), and a silver bowl with blue plastic wrapped candies that I had never seen anyone touch.

I remember my Mother always warning me to be good when we went there, although I was far from a bad boy.
She would always say, you know how your Aunt can be..

I think now, that my Aunt had always been considered a bit of an outsider
My Uncle had married this tough, loud Italian girl, not something a good Spanish boy should have done back in those days.
The days of appearances...and of neighborhoods....and of cultures, not just races, staying together.

She made them move away from my Grandmother, also unheard of in tight knit Spanish households...

My Mother, the faithful daughter, had done the right thing years later..she married my Father and promptly moved right in with my Grandparents..... you all know how beautifully that worked out.

My Aunt would have none of that.
From the first, I do, she was planning their escape.....out of that city, to a place where they could have their own home..with a yard..and yes, dare I say it...a white picket fence..

There was an eleven year difference between my Mom and her Brother...
This is important to know because he was always her big Brother....always.

Carrie and John took an apartment one floor up from my Grandparents home on 118th street right after marriage.
She had however, given her Husband a timeline....

Forced him to take a decent job, with benefits at the post office as a mail carrier....

My Uncle worked his way up to an extremely high position within the U.S. Postal Service, overseeing five U.S. States and Puerto Rico. 

I was always very proud of visiting his offices on the upper floors of the Post Office on 42nd street.

She found property in New Jersey and set sites on building that house at 6-19.

During my recent visit to Spain, my Godfather remembered how the whole family went out to Jersey on many a weekend over many months to help build that home.

My cousin Mannie was born while they were in that city apartment and my Mother made the perfect built in babysitter for her new nephew..
She always remembered how hard my Aunt fought to get away from them, that life, that way of thinking...

My Aunt Carrie was, and is, a tough cookie..

Mom remembered one specific fight between my Aunt and Uncle when he chose the unfortunate road of siding with his Mother over his Wife..

My Mom heard my Uncle (upstairs apartment and something about voices carrying through the radiators) take his Spanish Macho stance and tell his Wife that this was how it was going to be before he stormed out of their home and came down to my Grandmother's for some dinner.

Well it wasn't more than a few moments later that they heard a bang on the front door.

When my Grandmother opened it it was my firey Aunt with a bag full of my Uncles clothes, and her, not quite a year old, son...

She thru the bag in, handed my cousin over to my Grandmother and said to her....you want them? You got them! And stormed off....

My Uncle never spoke to his wife that way again....

And from then on he put his marriage first which was always very difficult for him..

My Aunt used to say...
Your Grandmother used to bathe that boy of hers until he was almost shaving...an exaggeration I'm sure..but probably not by much.

My Mother dotted on me in the exact same way...it was just what they did.

My Uncle was a silent man...
A gentle man...
One of the quiet heros that made our country what it is today.
He served in the military...married, had children, built a home, cared for his family and worked every single day of his life... never complaining.

Neither rain nor snow, you know the rest.

He let my Aunt make the decisions in the house and always provided everything she and my Cousin needed to be happy...to be successful.

He was a man of very few words, but always gave me a couple of bucks before I left and always whispered in my ear.... don't tell your Aunt.

My Uncle was a decent man in every sense of the word..
He spent his life doing for others never really getting, nor needing, any form of praise nor approval.

Towards the end of his life Alzheimer's had gotten the best of him..

Sadly that disease took my sweet, silent Uncle away from my Aunt long before now.

My Aunt said he had mostly bad days and some good ones, but that even during the bad ones he would still sometimes ask for my Mom, his Sister..
Forgetting she had been gone for nearly seven years.

He passed away on November 5th 2010.

And will be silently and lovingly missed.


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