My September Exercise ... untitled so...

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
My September Exercise ... untitled so...
12
Mon, 09-23-2002 - 7:47pm

My September Exercise ... untitled so far.


I'm so far behind, but I thought I ought to get September's assignment up before moving on to soy sauce flavored toothpaste. This was done this evening in under an hour, so level one feedback, please, although anything at all is appreciated.

Thanks, Terry *********

I never knew it was Art. I thought it was just a dime store print that hung above Gramps' chair in every apartment they lived in. I know when I was very small, there was a Murphy bed in a living room closet, where I slept on those special sleepovers. And a piano in the corner. Always a piano. Nana played, and I'd dance around the room pretending to be a beautiful ballerina. And when I asked, she'd play "Nola" which had me bouncing and spinning until I was too dizzy to do anything else. Later, I taught my younger brother the art of dancing until he fell down, too.

With Gramps, it was "rap-a-tap." We'd stand on his feet, and he'd bounce us up and down to the beat. His shoes were always shined, and he wore a shirt and tie every day of his life. At least I can't remember ever seeing him without one. I can't remember him playing anything else with us, ever. Except for "pull my finger," and we were young enough at the time to think it was funny.

In every apartment was a cardboard carton of toys - coloring books and crayons, paper dolls, some blocks, and some modeling clay. One afternoon, my brother and I spent hours-or the child's eye equivalent-making tiny bits of fruit, vegetables, and other shapes out of the caramel colored plasticine. When Dad came home for dinner, we showed off our platter of creations and shrieked when he popped one in his mouth. He thought it was marzipan, but that was something found at my other grandmother's house. He figured it out soon enough, but my brother and I thought we were something special to have fooled Dad.

Nana and Gramps's place was always about food. "Have you eaten?" came before "Come in," when you showed up at the door. They never had a dining room; everything happened in the kitchen. Eating at Nana's meant roast chicken, brisket, or, for special occasions, turkey. Two vegetables, one of which was canned peas. At Nana's, peas tasted good. I watched once, when I was old enough to understand some of the ins and outs of cooking. She drained all the liquid from the can, and added a generous amount of butter in its place. Potatoes for sure. Applesauce, jello, usually red, sometimes with fruit cocktail, and a yellow cake. And there was always a backup chicken in the oven, should the chicken, brisket or turkey not be enough. I can't remember her ever cutting into the backup bird.

If we were there for breakfast or lunch, she made pancakes-oval pancakes, because she spooned them onto the griddle with a big oval serving spoon. She used a mix, but never once read the back to see what to add. Recipes were not part of her kitchen. Blintzes were here specialty. Learning to make her blintzes meant going to her house, and making her stop as she added the flour, milk, and eggs to the batter to see how much she used. No matter how I tried, hers were always better. It was the pan, I thought.

One day in my late teens, I was looking at a museum brochure. A Van Gogh exhibit was coming to town. And there, inside the slick pages, to my shock, was a copy of Nana and Gramps's picture. "Sunflowers." Of course, theirs was a print, and probably a cheap one, but it was still Art. Until that moment, I never realized they had anything "worldly" in their home. That picture is my childhood.

I don't know what happened to the picture when they finally had to move into a home. My brother, who became a chef, got her big creamy colored Wedgewood stove, with its big oven, and the shelves for the salt, pepper, sugar, and flour containers. He still has it. He will pass it on to my son as soon as he moves into a house of his own. I got Nana's piano, which I sold with great sadness once there was nobody left at home who could bring music from its keys. But I still have her special blintz pan. I only wish the blintzes tasted as good.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Tue, 09-24-2002 - 8:39am

This is a very sweet piece, Terry! (m)


There's a lot to like about this. It reminded me of childhood visits to my own grandparents. You pack a lot of emotion into a few short paragraphs.

{For the record, I didn't say anything about soy-sauce flavored toothpaste! But if that's what you want to write about, well, more power to you!)

I've put some comments in <> below. Very nitty stuff, as is my wont. My comments are really closer to level 3 or 4 -- hope you don't mind.

Jodi

****

I never knew it was Art. I thought it was just a dime store print that hung above Gramps' chair in every apartment they lived in. I know when I was very small, there was a Murphy bed in a living room closet, where I slept on those special sleepovers.

And a piano in the corner. Always a piano. Nana played, and I'd dance around the room pretending to be a beautiful ballerina. And when I asked, she'd play "Nola" which had me bouncing and spinning until I was too dizzy to do anything else. Later, I taught my younger brother the art of dancing until he fell down, too.

With Gramps, it was "rap-a-tap." We'd stand on his feet, and he'd bounce us up and down to the beat. His shoes were always shined, and he wore a shirt and tie every day of his life. At least I can't remember ever seeing him without one. I can't remember him playing anything else with us, ever. Except for "pull my finger," and we were young enough at the time to think it was funny.

In every apartment was a cardboard carton of toys - coloring books and crayons, paper dolls, some blocks, and some modeling clay. One afternoon, my brother and I spent hours-or the child's eye equivalent-making tiny bits of fruit, vegetables, and other shapes out of the caramel colored plasticine. When Dad came home for dinner, we showed off our platter of creations and shrieked when he popped one in his mouth. He thought it was marzipan, but that was something found at my other grandmother's house. He figured it out soon enough, but my brother and I thought we were something special to have fooled Dad.

Nana and Gramps's place was always about food. "Have you eaten?" came before "Come in," when you > showed up at the door. They never had a dining room; everything happened in the kitchen . Eating at Nana's meant roast chicken, brisket, or, for special occasions, turkey. Two vegetables, one of which was canned peas. At Nana's, peas tasted good. I watched once, when I was old enough to understand some of the ins and outs of cooking. She drained all the liquid from the can, and added a generous amount of butter in its place. Potatoes for sure, applesauce, jello, usually red, sometimes with fruit cocktail, and a yellow cake. And there was always a backup chicken in the oven, should the chicken, brisket or turkey not be enough. I can't remember her ever cutting into the backup bird.

If we were there for breakfast or lunch, she made pancakes-oval pancakes, because she spooned them onto the griddle with a big oval serving spoon. She used a mix, but never once read the back to see what to add. Recipes were not part of her kitchen. Blintzes were her specialty. Learning to make her blintzes meant going to her house, and making her stop as she added the flour, milk, and eggs to the batter to see how much she used. No matter how I tried, hers were always better. It was the pan, I thought.

One day in my late teens, I was looking at a museum brochure. A Van Gogh exhibit was coming to town. And there, inside the slick pages, to my shock, was a copy of Nana and Gramps's picture. "Sunflowers." Of course, theirs was a print, and probably a cheap one, but it was still Art. Until that moment, I never realized they had anything "worldly" in their home. That picture is my childhood.

I don't know what happened to the picture when they finally had to move into a home. My brother, who became a chef, got her big creamy colored Wedgewood stove, with its big oven, and the shelves for the salt, pepper, sugar, and flour containers. He still has it. He will pass it on to my son as soon as he moves into a house of his own . I got Nana's piano, which I sold with great sadness once there was nobody left at home who could bring music from its keys. But I still have her special blintz pan. I only wish the blintzes tasted as good.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Tue, 09-24-2002 - 8:54am

Thanks, Jodi -- m


from your comments, looks like, if nothing more, the story evoked strong memories for you, too. Glad for that -- it tells me the story is "worth" something, even if it's still rough.

Terry

Visitor (not verified)
anonymous user
Tue, 09-24-2002 - 2:15pm

I smiled all the while I was reading this...


I love pieces that tell about a person's unique childhood. This one is beautiful. I think it's my favorite thing you've written. Thanks for sharing this!

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Tue, 09-24-2002 - 3:11pm

Thanks, Rose -- and add my welcome as a new CL here..m


This was my first shot at a 'real life 1st person' so the fact that it worked is all the more special.

Terry

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-19-2003
Tue, 09-24-2002 - 4:45pm

Nice work, terry.(m)


I loved your descriptions of their various apartments. How grandpa always wore a clean shirt and tie, and grandma's cooking. Amazing how they do that without recipes, isn't it.

This was a very tender story -- almost read like a personal essay. Now, see? You can write short stories!

Linda

cl-ozarker

"We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master." - Ernest Heminway

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Tue, 09-24-2002 - 5:11pm

Well, it WAS a personal essay, I guess. Does that disqualify me? m


I even had to call my brother in California to verify the make of the stove -- which, he indeed still has, and with all those little cannisters intact, is probably worth a pretty penny. It even has the lid that comes down and covers the burners.

Terry

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-25-2003
Tue, 09-24-2002 - 10:18pm

Terry, this was fabulous (m)


I really enjoyed reading your essay and not only because Van Gogh is my FAVORITE artist, but because it was great. The whole essay was woven together so well that it read quite smoothly. The only thing I questioned was are the parents divorced? There's no mention of Mom. Not a big deal, I was just curious.

Thanks for sharing,

Mac

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Wed, 09-25-2002 - 7:05am

Thanks, Mac, and no -- my parents are still together ... 50+ years ...m


and I realized poor Mom had been neglected and did a couple of tweaks -- she's in there, although only as a 'canned peas' comparison. I guess since the grandparents were my paternal ones, Dad stuck out much stronger in my mind. Funny, even as little kids, how those things make subconscious impressions -- Mom wasn't all that close to her inlaws. No animosity or hostility, but re-reading the piece, I realize I don't think of Mom with Nana & Gramps.

Wonder how much a shrink would have charged for that relevation?

Terry

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-19-2003
Wed, 09-25-2002 - 11:12am

LOL, no we'll keep ya.(m)


There is sometimes a fine line between creative fiction and creative non-fiction, and some people fictionalize their lives into short stories or novels. So as long as you don't tell, we won't--LOL.

I'll bet that stove would be worth a pretty penny now. Antiques are all the rage these days. I love to see them just to know a little more about how people did things in "the old days". (Gosh, does that mean we're antiques too?)

Hugs,

Linda

cl-ozarker

"We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master." - Ernest Heminway

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-26-2003
Wed, 09-25-2002 - 6:59pm

nice piece Terry (m)


This was such a rich and affectionate portrait of your grandparents. I know it started with the picture, but it was the food descriptions which got me salivating, and which I think were the focus of the piece, but what the heck. I liked it anyway.

btw, some of us never stop thinking the finger-pulling thing is funny ...

e

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