By popular demand, and because I am really proud of her storytelling ability, my Mother returns today as guest blogger with More Memories of the Season with Gran:
"I have been reliving childhood memories, as have we all I feel certain, and today two different ones are in my head and making me smile.
They both have to do with holiday traditions, so as each one of us is creating and repeating our own with our own families, we can think of the childhood excitement of four little girls as we dressed in excursion clothes and all tried to take mom’s hand as she drove us to Back Bay station to take the special weekend excursion train to New York City to visit Gar and Aunt Margie and to sightsee along Fifth Avenue on one of the weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas each year.
Ordinarily, we drove to New York when we visited Gar, but on this occasion we got to go by train, which was half of the excitement for me. I can still see the city of New Haven going by our smoky train window and vividly remember seeing the first wild swans I had ever seen on the Sound somewhere in Connecticut after we had passed New Haven. I can still remember going by the Pallisades and slowly creeping into 125th St station which was the gateway to everything strange and different and exciting about New York for me.
Finally we would arrive at Grand Central Station which seemed to be an entire city and a huge church underground as far as I could tell. I can see the stars on the ceiling and sense the pulse of more people rushing by than I could ever imagine.
Even the elevator and the buzzers we had to use to get to Gar’s apartment were part of the excitement. I loved everything about that apartment. The extraordinary portraits of sea captains on the walls, the Gracie china on top of huge bookcases in the livingroom, the box of ivory mah jong (sp?) chips that were intricately carved and endlessly fascinating even if we never knew how to play the game that they were really designed for. We would snuggle in all over the house and the next morning Aunt Margie would perform her ritual of pancake making at the table with sausage and bacon, not just one but both! All the while we children could hardly wait for the rest of the day to unfold, when we would all go up and down Fifth Avenue looking at every mechanical display in every store window, listening to brass bands playing Christmas music on every avenue corner, seeing buildings that you couldn’t even see the tops of from down below, and perhaps the most magical of all standing for endless time both outside and inside FAO Schwartz company watching incredible model train displays on multiple levels and seeing more miraculous toys than I could even believe existed. Somehow mom made it perfectly clear that all these things were just to look at. We never expected to find one of those marvels under our own tree,until years later when we finally realized that Santa did take a detour there himself when he picked out the tiny Stieff animals that appeared in the very tops of our Christmas stockings year after year. We certainly couldn’t blame him for thinking that his elves couldn’t have done any better if they had made them themselves!
...The other memory that is with me is one of Mom sitting in the little livingroom in Brookline with her Christmas music playing on the big Victrola ( that is what we called it, though I don’t know if it really was one) with her stacks of Christmas cards which Dad had taken and printed in the cellar, writing long letters on every single one. I can still see her addressing letters to families they had befriended when they, and we, moved from base to base across the country before Dad was sent overseas duringWWII. I can see the card she sent every year to the torpedoed British sailor who ended up on our doorstep one night looking for the only family he knew in the U.S. and finding that they had moved and we had bought their house. Since the war seemed like ancient history to me who had very few memories of that time, I marveled that Mom kept close ties with even these long ago friends."