There is a Pepperidge Farm outlet near where my mother lives. Today I bought a coconut cake for sentimental reasons. When we were kids it was one of our favorite desserts. You find it in the frozen food department so it has to be thawed before you can enjoy it, but I cannot remember my childhood without a coconut cake.
It’s been a most nostalgic few days. Tina arrived on Wednesday and we have been spending a great deal of time seeing the old sites and visiting some beloved haunts—many of which have changed -- like Kelly Lane. We used Kelly Lane as an escape route. If we got in trouble on Holmes Street, which we often did with the Kelly kids—who were too poor to have a street named after them but so large the town gave them a lane--we would cut through Kelly Lane to Old Boonton Road and from there were had all kinds of alternatives. If you try to find Kelly Lane, you can, but it is no longer a cut through. It only exists on the Holmes Street side, and if you try to walk through you wind up in someone’s back yard. I don’t know how they confiscated the land to make it private property butthe last time I cut through, the people were not excited to see me.
Tina moved to Wisconsin when she was a freshman in high school. I was in eighth grade. Until that time we saw each other every day. Her mother and mine were like sisters from the time they moved to Boonton when Tina was about four. She was a really great tomboy, and I was a really great follower. I admired her athletic skill and worshipped her ability to develop a plan. For example, when we needed to make money because we wanted to buy something that was not on the approved parental list, we would sell lemonade on the corner in front of the A&P. But first we would steal the lemonade from said supermarket so we had no development costs. Or there was a hole in front of Tina’s house which we would charge other kids 5 cents to look into. Once we found kittens in a backyard and tried to sell them but when it didn't work we built a hut in the woods to house them. Months later we burnt down the woods -- by accident. I can remember running from the scene of the crime as the Boonton Volunteer Fire Department rushed to extinguish the flames. On most weekends we would stalk customers in her father’s drug store, making certain they didn’t steal anything – we had descriptions of their clothing, where they walked in the store, what they touched, and if they bought anything. Yes we were hypocrites but our skills were better than the FBI and certainly Homeland Security—and we had no technology. We were usually in trouble, sometimes big and sometimes small, but we were inseparable. That is until we stole the keys to Tina’s dads car (we were eight) and drove up and down the driveway on Yom Kippur and crashed the car into the side of the house. Then they forbid us to see each other—that lasted two days. We encouraged mischief and had not patience for friends who thought twice about doing something outrageous. We smoked when we were ten, had kissing parties when we were eleven and cried bitterly when were twelve and she said broke the news about the move.
But we never lost touch. As our lives moved along we had to find ways to keep connected and we did through calls and visits. I met her husband soon after she did in high school. She met my first husband when we were dating and I went to her house when I thought we could save the marriage. Even then, there was no shortage of antics. My husband was invited to give a most prestigious lecture at the University of Wisconsin in the genetics department. It was thrilling, but not quite as thrilling as when Tina and I appeared at the seminar dressed in full head to toe costumes as Ducky Lucky and Froggy Woggy – I know you think that was the end of the marriage but in fact, that is what made it work.
Anyway that marriage ended, but before it did, we were there for births of our children and grandchildren and the death of Tina’s beloved spouse, Mark.
Over the years we have connected in Madison or Milwaukee Wis. In Washington or Arlington Va. or in Boonton at the old homestead. My mother has owned her home for 55 years, so it was really a place filled with good and playful memories for us. Like when my grandmother would baby sit and we would pretend she was the enemy so would designate territories as hers or ours. We would communicate through a vacuum cleaner hose and we would raid the refrigerator by filling an empty sock with food, tying a rope on it, and pulling it back into my bedroom—a safety zone. Of course, we never cleaned up so weeks after the visit my mother would still find food and drink hidden in my dressers and closet. Life with Tina was always an adventure.
We have been in Boonton for four days. The reunion, as always is wonderful. But there is an emptiness we have never felt before. We are staying at mom’s house without mom –she has moved to assisted living. For years, we would pop in and out, say a quick hello and go somewhere else. We were too busy to spend any time with her. And now the tables have turned. Every time we go to visit her, she is participating in another activity. If it’s not bingo, it’s exercise class, coffee hour or she’s dipping strawberries in chocolate. Next week she’s going to the circus. It's not a sentence I could ever have imagined writing -- circus and mom. Now she’s too busy for us. It’s yet another era. And although it’s for the good, we can’t help being a little sad about a change we never could have foreseen. So we bought the cake and even if we don’t eat it, at least we can feel some things will stay the same. We’re just sayin...