Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Summer Day, 1975


I kept one eye on the TV and one eye on the front door. The humidity was already starting to build even at 8 AM, which made my butt stick to my chair at the dining room table. Don Kent deemed our oppressive weather an official heat wave as the temperatures were expected to reach the mid nineties. My Captain Crunch was having a hard time maintaining its crunch. I added some more cereal to my sugary milk. I would need my energy today because I was spending the day with my grandmother.

A cab pulled up in front of our apartment. My grandmother's voice boomed down the walkway as she settled up with driver, probably finishing up a conversation about her grandchildren or a movie she had just seen. She waddled up the walkway to our front door, where I was waiting. "Aren't you ready yet?" she scolded as I was still in my PJ's. "I'll get dressed right now!" I assured her and bounded up the stairs as fast as humanly possible. When I came downstairs my brothers and sisters were strewn about the living room watching "The Flintstones" already looking hot and sweaty. Two fans were strategically placed on either end of the room to maximize the cooling effect. It didn't seem to be working, but I didn't care. My Grandma was taking me to Nantasket Beach for a day of fun. I stood at the front door and waited for my mother and grandmother as they finished up their tea at the dining room table. My mother kissed me and told me to be a good boy. We were off.

We walked briskly to the end of the street where we would catch the first of three buses and two trains. I was 10 and she was 60, but she moved quickly. Living in the city her entire life she was a walker. She never had a drivers licence. She never had a need for one making her way about the city on foot, buses, trains or taxi's in a pinch. While waiting for the first bus I stood soaking in the summer morning. The smell of fresh cut grass permeated the atmosphere as Mr. Crowley was cutting his lawn that was kitty corner across the street from the bus stop. Honey bees flew in and out of flowers that grew along a chain link fence that bordered the sidewalk. The bus pulled up to the stop bringing with it the smell of diesel and exhaust. We took the first two seats across from the driver, although instinctually I wanted to head for the back of the bus as I did everyday during the school year. We hopped on another bus in Cleary Square. Then a train in Mattapan Square. Then another train to somewhere in Quincy. Then a bus to Nantasket Beach.

The hour and one half hour bus, bus, train, train, bus journey culminated in a crescendo of anticipation when I could see the giant roller coaster while driving down the beach road. "The Comet" was the signature ride at Paragon Park, a small 'Coney Island' style amusement park that beckoned from across the street from the beach. I dashed off the bus over the sea wall, into the sand while my grandmother waddled over the sea wall and down to the spot I had staked out for us, half way to the water. I spent the next few hours swimming, shell searching, rock throwing and sand digging, while my grandma waded up to her hips and watched me from her beach towel. Sometime after 1 PM she made me get out of the water and wait on my beach towel while she waddled over to the food shack to get us lunch. I lay there on my belly taking in the smell of the ocean, mixed with suntan lotion and fried food, while digging my toes deep into the cool sand and feeling the soft terry cloth towel on my cheek. We decided to eat lunch on the sea wall hoping to keep the sand out of our food.

After lunch we went back down to the beach for another hour. After sufficient browning we packed up and headed across the street for some sweet treats. We stood by the window of a candy shop and watched a machine push and pull Salt Water Taffy, my grams favorite. She bought a box. I opted for ice cream with a cotton candy chaser. We then made our way into the amusement park. My grams favorite thing to do there was Skee Ball. I played a few games with her then switched to pin ball while she continued to attempt to best her Skee Ball high score. After the treats settled it was time for rides. Grandma watched as I was spun, dipped, flipped and wrung by the Tilt O' Whirl, Round-Up, Scooters and of course The Comet. As the sun started down toward the horizon she joined me on the Sky Ride which was a ski lift type of ride which gave you a bird's eye view of the park. The setting sun combined with the haziness illuminated everything in the park with an orangish glow that can only be duplicated in mid summer by the sea side.

After the Sky Ride we made our way to the bus stop and the long ride home. I snuggled into her side during each leg of our trip home fading in and out of consciousness, visions of the surf and orange light in my head. Upon returning home I kissed my mother, thanked my grandma, kissed her and walked through the windy living room straight up to my bed, exhausted. The smell of cigarettes and conversation wafted upwards. I heard two toots of a car horn. I heard the cab door slam from my bed. Goodbye Grandma. Thank you. I love you.

12 comments:

Suldog said...

Excellent. You caught the feel of a summer day, for a city boy going to someplace "exotic", perfectly.

I could smell the bus exhaust, I could feel the sunshine, I could see the bees in the flowers, I could hear the surf, I could taste the taffy. Man, that was some sort of good writing!

I so remember being a kid and going to Paragon. Do you remember how they always used to advertise the place on matchbooks. and you got a dollar off or something if you brought the matchbook to the park? My favorite was pretty mundane - The Jungle Cruise, where you rode through dark tunnels filled with (looking back) really corny scenes of "wild" animals and hunters and (I'm sure patently racist) natives, and you ended with a small downhill plunge into water, splashing yourself a little.

You brought back some great memories for me on this one, Cuz. Thanks!

David Sullivan said...

I was going to mention those match books, but couldn't fit it into the story. I forgot about the Jungle Cruise Ride. Good Times.

Uncle Jim said...

Many many years before we made the exact same trip, only with Aunt Pat & Aunt Loretta. Trolley to Mattapan, bus to Quincy and bus to Nantasket. Same smells, same thoughts, same taffy... only thing different was a name change. Then it was named the, "Old Red Mill." It had monsters and as a boy of ten, I never could figure out why the dark tunnel was known by another name, The Tunnel Of Love.

David Sullivan said...

Thanks for the comments Uncle Jim. It was definitely a day trip that made those special to us even more special.

endangered coffee said...

nice story, you big ol'softie.

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plez... said...

dave,

you are quite a storyteller... i've never been to a new england beach in the summer, but you took me there with your story! thanks.

Anali said...

I love the atmosphere you created. I can feel it and smell it. Beautiful summer memories.

David Sullivan said...

Thanks for the blo love everyone. Its good to hear from all of you!

My gram was one of those few people in life who love you completely unconditionally.

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