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Childhood Memories

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Submitted By kelleyan
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Some of my favorite memories from my childhood happened at my grandmother’s house. When my sister and I were younger our family spent nearly every weekend at Grandma’s. Those weekends were great, but the best trips to Grandma’s were usually at Christmas break or during the summer. Mom and Dad would drop us off and we would stay for a whole week. Those visits, when it was just Allison and I, were when we’d have Special Parties. Special Parties were a big deal. It was usually on a Friday or Saturday night, and Grandma knew how to build up anticipation. At some point in the morning we would each find an envelope with our name on it. Inside there would be a handmade invitation. In Grandma’s carefully written Palmer Method cursive would be the phrase “You are cordially invited to a Special Party.” Time suddenly slowed. Minutes seemed like hours, days even. The wait was horrible because Special Parties had to start after dark. After we had eaten dinner and cleared the table we would sit on Grandma’s huge couch with the itchy brown fabric. We’d fidget around, casting furtive glances out of the living room window. As the first pink glow from the sunset started we’d cheer and tell Grandma it was time. She would always tell us to give her a few minutes. “Preparations need to be made!” After what seemed like an eternity, Grandma would call us into the kitchen. The only source of light would be a candle flickering away in a small pink Depression glass candleholder. Three chairs would be placed around the drop leaf table. On the table there would be a deck of cards, 3 pennies at each place setting, and a pink Depression glass sherbet parfait glass with gold around the rim. Grandma had gotten the glasses as a wedding present from her mother. They were very dear to her. The only thing I ever saw them used for were Special Parties. To me that made the glasses even more special. The three of us would take our seats around the table. Grandma and Allison would sit at either end of the table, and I would sit on the side where the lowered leaf was. The other side of the table was pressed up against the kitchen wall. Special Parties began with everyone telling a joke. Youngest went first and oldest went last. Grandma would always laugh at our jokes like they were the funniest thing she had ever heard. Allison went through a phase where the only joke she told was the repeating banana knock knock joke with the punch line of “Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?” Grandma could make it seem like every time she heard it was the first time. Grandma’s jokes were always great. I still laugh at a lot of them now when I remember them. My favorite joke to tell to this day is one I learned from Grandma about cats, mice on roller skates, and meals on wheels. When all of the jokes had been told and the giggles had stopped it was time for the show. After we received the invitations in the morning Allison and I would begin working on a story. We would act it out by making shadow puppets on the wall in the flickering candlelight. Our tales were somewhat limited by our rudimentary shadow puppet skills. Most of our stories involved magical talking bunnies who had wild adventures. Grandma’s shadow puppet skills were amazing. She crocheted quite a bit and it helped keep her fingers nimble. It seemed she could make anything at all appear on the wall by just adjusting the position of her hands and fingers. When I was older I learned that Grandma went to a boarding school of sorts when she was a girl. Her family lived out in the country and the Catholic school was in town. Every Sunday night she would be dropped off at school with the nuns and wouldn’t be picked up again until the following Friday evening. She and the other girls from farm families would entertain themselves by making shadow puppets in the dorms at night. That practice yielded some wonderful skills. Once the show was over we got down to some serious gambling. Every card game that I know was learned at Grandma’s kitchen table. The favorite game for Special Parties was Kings on the Corner. We would each bet with the pennies that were at our place at the table. After cries of “Ante up!” the game would begin. All three of us would put a penny in the middle of the table and the game would start. Whoever won the game won the pot. After you had lost all of your pennies you got to play one game “on your honor.” Grandma may have spoiled us, but she played to win. She wasn’t going to lose on purpose. She would often say “I’m doing my part to make you honest winners and gracious losers.” I think she did a good job with that particular lesson. These games could go on for quite a while. Allison would carefully study the cards, weighing all her options before she made her move. I usually rushed in and played the first card I saw. Allison’s slow and steady technique won her far more games than my slapdash approach. The grand finale of the Special Party was the most anticipated. Grandma would take the parfait glasses over to the counter. After a short wait we would hear the telltale “shhhhhhhh” of a two liter bottle of soda being opened. The parfait glasses would be returned to the table full of Hull vanilla ice cream. Grandma would then pour a healthy dose of Fareway strawberry soda over the ice cream. Strawberry floats! I would always use my spoon to scoop out the pink fizz from the soda that had mixed with some of the slightly melted ice cream. The mixture made it so that the bubbles would pile up into little pink clouds on the spoon. I would lick them off and greedily go back for more. Allison would stick a bendy straw in all the way to the bottle of the glass and quickly suck out all of the pop before eating the ice cream. We both discovered the dreaded ice cream headache in Grandma’s kitchen. When the floats were done, so was the Special Party. When Grandma passed away I was asked to share some of my memories at her wake. I talked about how she used to take us to bingo, how she would always let us play “Beauty Operator” on her hair, and how there was always dessert at her house. I told the joke about the cat and the roller skating mice. I also talked about the Special Parties and how they were one of the favorite parts of my childhood. After the wake a couple of my cousins approached me and told me about how they had many memories of Grandma that they treasured, but that they wished they got have Special Parties too. Maybe they didn’t have them because they were boys. Maybe it was because they lived in Akron so they didn’t sleep over at Grandma’s as much as Allison and I did since they saw her every day after school. Perhaps it was because they were older. I like to think it’s because Allison and I were the favorites. Allison had a son in May. His name is Ethan. He is the first grandchild for my parents. I told my mom to start practicing shadow puppets. I know I will be.

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