On Friday night after supper we stopped by church for 40 Hours Devotion. Then Dad drove us to buy groceries at Food Fair and let me ride the machine horse there for 25 cents. Then he drove us to Carvel for frozen custard. I got a Brown Bonnet flat cone, tall swirly vanilla ice cream dipped in melted milk chocolate and frozen again so the chocolate is crunchy.
On Saturday morning Dad went to Tony the Barber for a haircut and to hear all the news. Tony patted my head and said “Why Hello Sweetheart, are you here for a haircut too?” and all the men laughed and thought it was cute, a girl at a barber shop. Tony let me get on a chair and he pumped it higher and let me spin it around. He gave me a bubble gum with a Bazooka Joe carton wrapped inside and comics to read with ads for x-ray spectacles and sea monkeys.
On Sunday we went to earliest Mass before Church heated up through the windows. The candles had ripply heat over the flames. The Sisters had red lines on their foreheads where their wimples and veils were too hot and our mantilla veils and stockings felt scratchy and we fanned ourselves with the bulletin. Bees wandered in for the flowers on the altar. At the door the sponge in the font got dry and ran out of holy water. After Mass we went to Mondello’s bakery for Italian bread shaped like a crown. Dad picked out a peach pie too, and then Mr. Mondello packed it in a white box with red and white string in a bow. I looked at the display case of different bread shapes and licked my finger and picked up sesame seeds from under the racks to crunch on.
On Monday Mom took us to Jones Beach. The night before, she set out our bathing suits and towels and suntanning lotion and sunglasses and beach hats and shovels and pails and thongs. In the morning other families on our street left the house at like 9:00. Not Mom. No, she just had to get up way early to squeeze lemons and fill the big yellow jug with lemonade, and boil eggs and make baloney sandwiches in wax paper and cut up carrots and wash grapes. She loaded the car with the big wicker picnic hamper. She woke us up while it was still shiver cold out and the sun wasn’t even over the trees. We put on our bathing suits with clothes over them. She got us in the car, and drove the 30 miles. At 8:00 or so we were in our favorite spot by the Pen & Pencil Tower and the lifeguard chair, covered with suntanning lotion and eating breakfast with the whole beach to ourselves. I was always scared of the ocean but she picked me up and said “Look, a big wave! Let’s catch it before it breaks,” and swam us out fast so the wave picked us high up and carried us right in and then we did it again. The lifeguards had white zinc cream on their noses because they were outside all day, and they let me climb the chair for a look around. We looked at sand crabs and sandpipers and planes dragging banners or writing on the sky. We picked up stones and shells and made castles and popped the bubbles in the seaweed. Then at 11:00 Mom made us shake out everything and pack up and get going. Then the whole parkway to the beach was bumper to bumper traffic on the other side. But we cruised along going the the other way past sea gulls on the wooden street poles. The hot asphalt was melty in spots and smelled like Necco Wafers and had mirages way up ahead like ripply water until we got up close and then the water disappeared. At home Mom made us go take cold showers and change clothes and put on cocoa butter so our skin didn’t sunburn. She washed our beach things and hung them on the line and unpacked everything and washed off the seashells and aired out the lemonade jug and the hamper. Then they were ready for next time.
On Tuesday we helped Mom hang laundry out on the lines. It whipped around in the wind, and to get cool we ran our faces right into the sheets. Mom hung one line low and let us make a tent out of the wet sheets and lie in the shade. She even brought us Hawaiian Punch popsicles in Dixie cups out of the freezer.
On Wednesday we kids on the block all put on our bathing suits and ran in the sprinkler. That’s ok on Wednesday except not on Sundays, because Sunday is too holy for girls to walk around in a bathing suit right on the street. Then we went to Ridder’s Pond to slide down the sliding pond and go on the swings and feed ducks.
On Thursday it was too hot to cook in the kitchen. So Dad put a lot of charcoal on the barbecue and made a fire. He made hamburgers and hot dogs and corn on the cob and onions and potatoes and toasted buns, and Mom opened some Schweppe’s Bitter Lemon seltzer and made hot tea with ice cubes and spearmint leaves. She peeled and sliced up cucumbers and salted them and then squeezed out all the salt and mixed them with sour cream and dill. She picked tomatoes and basil. She cut up watermelon into cubes and we spit the pits into the grass. We cut up Navel Oranges with no pits at all, except girls can’t call them Navel because it’s not polite so we have to call them seedless oranges. Mom made butter sugar flour crust in a big pan and cut up peaches and plums in pretty designs and baked them on top for sheet cake. After supper Mom toasted marshmallows on the fire and ate them all black and crunchy. When the charcoal got cool we took pieces and drew black pictures on the driveway.
Then there were things to do for every day. We helped water the garden and pull the weeds. We checked all the tomato bushes to take off the tomato hornworms, and checked the roses to chase away beetles. When vegetables look ripe or big enough we picked them and brought them in.
We had steel roller skates with leather straps but we weren’t allowed to skate in the street. The boys drew circles on the ground and set out glass marbles and then flicked their marbles with their fingers to knock the other marbles away. We had Mexican Jumping Bean races. We had paddles with red balls on an elastic string. We had puzzles with number pieces to move around inside a little frame. We had waxy cardboard drawing boards that you could draw on a clear top sheet with a plastic stick and then lift the clear sheet and the gray sheet underneath, and the drawing disappears. We had boards full of metal powder with a dog face picture under a plastic cover, and we could take a magnet stick and move the powder through the cover to give the dog long ears or long fur. We had Etch-a-Sketch boards to draw pictures by wiggling the round knobs and then erase it by shaking it upside down. We took wire coat hangers and twisted one half into a loop, and stretched an old stocking over it to make a net for catching bugs. We had soap bottles with wands to blow bubbles. We carved bar soap into shapes, and then our mothers took the scraps and saved them in crocheted bags for washing the clothes. We drew hopscotch squares on the sidewalk with chalk and tossed rocks to use as the potsy piece, and hopped around yelling “Butterfingers!” We took Mom’s wash line for jump rope games. We tied a lot of rubber bands together and made a Chinese jump rope too, a big loop that two girls held open with their shoes and the rest of us jumped in and jumped with one line crossed over the other with our feet in between and then jumped and turned and jumped out again. Dad showed us how to play tinikling with mop sticks that you tap on the ground and then tap together, and you jump in between them like the girls over in Philippines. Mom showed us how to play ball & jacks. She took Hawaiian Punch cans and punched triangle holes in the top and ran rope through the holes and tied the ends to make a loop. Then we could stand on the cans and lift the loops and have stilts to walk on.
We played checkers and Parcheesi and Scrabble and Old Maid and Go Fish. We made houses out of cards and blew them down. We played dominoes, and pickup sticks. Somebody at work gave Dad a fancy roulette wheel and board and poker chips all in a leather briefcase, and Mom said we do not gamble in this house but it’s fine to play with poker chips and build towers with them. One time our cousin brought a really big jigsaw puzzle with like 1000 pieces and a picture of just flat sand and far away a tiny little runner. So we took turns all week putting together one piece of runner and 999 pieces of sand. We played Monopoly with house and hotel pieces getting in and out of jail and Boardwalk and Park Place. Mom and I played together as one player with her helping me against the others; she planned a lot of real estate deals in her head and won a lot, but I just liked to play with the Scotty dog piece and match the colors on the cards and look hard at the pattern on the dollar until it looked like lines were spinning around.
After supper it was ok to go back outside because in summer it’s not a school night. We caught lightning bugs in a jar and watched them flash around a while. The boys took a pinkie rubber ball and played stick ball against the stoop. The girls picked white clover flowers and we tied them into ropes and crowns. We used Dad’s flashlight making animal shapes with our hands. We climbed on the car and lay there looking for the first star. Then when the street lights came on we ran races. But then Dad told me to quit with the racing because I was getting too big and beating some of the boys and that isn’t polite. So I rode my bicycle instead. It’s really a bike but girls can’t say that word because if they do it’s not polite at all. Girl bicycles don’t have a bar in front for in case we wear dresses, and girls can’t ride a boy’s bicycle because everybody will laugh at her. I rode mine all through the streets in the dark and raced all over Park Circle, jumping the curbs. The boys called their bicycles just bikes. Some boys had extras like a banana seat or high handlebars or tag with their name or a tiger tail on the back. They took wood clothespins and clipped baseball cards to the wheels so the spokes ticked like a clock. When it got later Mom called us in and put rubbing alcohol on our bug bites, and we washed up and went to bed.
Sometimes it was way too hot to sleep upstairs. Then Mom and Dad let us stay up later. Some nights for our TV snack Mom got the iron fry pan and made a lot of popcorn with butter and salt. Or Dad made leftover fried pizza. Or we had blender malteds with ice cream and Bosco milk and eggs. Dad rigged the TV cord out the Dutch door to the sun porch and we watched with the breeze through the screens. Sometimes there were crickets chirping in the corner, and we let them stay inside because they are good luck. One time Mom let us stay up for the Alan Burke Show. A father and son came on the show to talk about their adventure with Martians. They showed a film as proof. In the film they were running away all scared, looking over their shoulders in a panic. But Alan Burke waved his big cigar and said “Who’s holding the camera — the Martians?” Then the guests explained that the film was a dramatic re-enactment. Then Alan Burke said “Cut their mike!” and “Get off my show and don’t waste my time.” After that Dad had this joke. All he had to do was hold on to his glasses and look over his shoulder and pretend to run away in panic, and then we yelled “Hey who’s holding the CAMERA?”
Nights always got cool again. Then it was time to go upstairs. Mom sat with me to hear my prayers. Then she tucked me in with my glow in the dark rosary and turned on the angel night light and said “Good night, sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite!”
Outside the older high school boys stood under the street light listening to the transistor or working on a car or maybe smoking a cigarette if their parents were in bed and didn’t see them. Next door the TV was turned down low, with a high pitch signal and blue flicker light. All along the street, Norway Maple leaves flickered and shushed in the breeze. Click bugs ticked back and forth in the branches. Every little while a propellor plane flew over. With all the windows open, the little thrummy noise went from curtain and screen to curtain and screen all across the attic, over the house and away to Idlewild.