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Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday By Request

Nono somehow forgot that his first grandchild was supposed to be a boy...

This weeks request comes from Sheri. Hers is a simple request and surprising to us both, one I have never had for Friday By Request. Sheri asked “What is your most memorable moment as a child?”

This one will have a bigger lead-up than the actual request! Memory is one of those interesting things. First off how one remembers something and what actually happened, even what they actually felt at the time changes as it moves from event to memory to memorable moment. Taking the request at face value, to mean a chronological child, for me, they are all memorable moments now, and there are a ton of them!

We all take different things for granted. I was in my mid 20s before I realized that women’s dress shoes are not supposed to fall off your heel every time you take a step. Between Grandma coming home from a workday with sore feet, to television where the first thing a tired woman does to relax is shed the shoes, I always accepted that dress shoes were uncomfortable. When I started wearing them, I understood why. They fall off the heel with every step and you have to curl up your toes to keep the shoe from falling completely off.

I was around 26 when I made some comment about that, why dress shoes were terrible, to my shoe-freak Mother. She looked at me incredulously and asked me to repeat. It turns out that I have narrow heels on medium width feet. Dress shoes are not supposed to flip off the back of your feet when you step. I had no idea because all I’d known about shoes was that dress shoes were uncomfortable. Finding them suitably agonizing to endure, I accepted that things were as they should be.

A lot of things you accept as normal until you’re told you aren’t in the norm. With me, such is the case with memory.

I was shocked when in conversation, my brother said he remembered the Christmas morning he got his first drum set, but doesn’t remember a time when he didn’t have drums. That makes that Christmas his earliest memory. He was FIVE! I was shocked. But the reason I was shocked, shocked my parents.

You see, I couldn’t fathom someone, anyone, not remembering five years of their life, not even a memory of a moment. I am told that it’s not uncommon to not be able to remember the early years of one’s life. I have a lot of memories, moments form before I was five. In my earliest memories, I recall that my Mom was pregnant. Mom had 2 kids, me, then my brother. He is 14 months younger than me.

So, you see I have a bunch of childhood memories to choose from! But that realization of how far back my memory goes, is why I can, without a lot of trouble, answer the question Sheri presented.

My Most Memorable Childhood Moment(s)
for Sheri

My most memorable childhood moment is actually a set of moments. I think this particular set of memories became precious to me the day I realized that remembering moments that far back is unusual. It became something to cherish.

If my brother, grandchild number 2 on each side of the family, doesn’t remember before Christmas after he turned 5 and the next grandchild on my paternal side is three years younger than he is, then I am the only one of my paternal grandfather’s grandchildren that has any real memory of him. The day I realized that, is the day I came to cherish his memory even more.

My Mother had told me that Nono wanted a grandson. He warmly, but with resolve told his daughter-in-law that he wanted that baby to be a boy. For his grandson, he’d throw a huge Christening party. For a granddaughter, he’d throw a party, but not so big. When I came into this world, without the necessary appendages to be a grandson, Nono was the one at the glass of the nursery in the hospital with tears in his eyes telling anyone around that he had the “most beautiful grandbaby in hospital.” When Dad got to the factory he and Nono both worked at with cigars for all the guys, he found them already puffing and congratulating him on his girl. Nono beat him there with cigars.

I guess I erased some old-world notions there, huh? My actual memories about Nono are episodical, maybe a brief part of a scene or a word or two, a picture in my mind.

What I believe to be the oldest picture of him in my memory is the bar Nono frequented. I recall indoor neon from a jukebox and the signs in the windows. The view is looking up at the counter. I remember the sounds of happy voices. Mom told Nono not to bring me to the bar with him. The bar he was a regular at, much like men hanging out at a coffee shop now, was just on the other side of the railroad tracks of the park that was right next to their house. He took me with him to show me off to his friends. Mom said she could always tell when he took me because I came back with a fist full of chocolate covered quarters. Gifts from Nono’s friends. What I remember is that the lights were pretty and I was happy. I felt safe.

I remember a few years later. All three of the grandchildren that would be born in his lifetime were born, my cousin was a toddler. I remember the three of us with Nono in his backyard, it was spring because there wasn’t anything grown yet, but late enough spring that the fig tree was unburied. Dave, my brother “helped” Nono with a couple of things he gave him to do, my cousin, Johnny ran around and tried to climb into the garage attic, where Nono had birds. I think I’ve been told they were chickens, but I had remembered pigeons, I know there were pigeons back there. I followed Nono around the yard, holding things that needed held, helping as I was asked. I loved to be with him. He always smiled warmly when he looked at me. I realized later that the word for how he made me feel is cherished.

I had mentioned in a blog a few years ago about cake on my sixth birthday. By the time I turned six, Nono was dying. He had the advanced stages of cancer and was resting at home. There was no more they could do for him at the hospital. He was “fed” all his meals, by milling the food in a blender and feeding him directly into his stomach through a tube. I didn’t comprehend that he was dying. I new he was sick, but to a child, sick is something that gets better and you can ingest your meals through a tube indefinitely.

When we visited, which was fairly often as we lived very close, I would always stop and see him. I remember a scene of me sitting on his bed, showing him a book. He still had that same proud and warm smile for me. At my birthday gathering, I asked if a piece of my cake could be added to the blender for Nono. I don’t know what the answer would have been if he hadn’t heard me, but Nono said “yes” before anyone could say otherwise. After “eating” that night he told me it was “best birthday cake I ever eat.”

I remember that day in September of that year. At the end of the school day, Sister Ann, my teacher, asked me to stay when the class left, that my Mother was there to pick me up. Mom came in the room after my classmates had left and Sister Ann hugged her. Then she came to me and crouched down to look at me face to face. She said “I wanted to come tell you right away. Your Nono died this afternoon.” Then Mom broke down in tears. Sister Ann, whom I absolutely idolized, stood close enough to be comforting, but not so close as to impose. I hugged Mom and told her not to cry. I told her Nono was in heaven now and he would never have to eat through a tube again. "He can taste all the cake now."

Of course, I can’t type that now without crying. I think at that time I had no realization how permanent death was or how long “until we all meet in heaven” would be.

So, that’s my most memorable package of childhood moments, everything I remember about Nono. They are part of who I am, part of what makes me always feel safe and loved, part of what always reminds me that I was cherished.


Kristi said...

These are some great photos--and memories! Great stuff :)

Beth Nixon said...

what a lovely set of memories you have. The line about tasting the cake . . . well, it got me all teary!!

thanks for sharing!

Beth at

Rdanielharteis said...

no fair, Nani, to make me tear up at work!!!
It was worth it. Thanks for that beautiful story. What a wonderful thing to cherish....How marvelous this thing called family truly is!!

Best to you!


Creative Junkie said...

such wonderful and sometimes bittersweet memories! I love your photos as well. How lucky you are to have them both - the memories and photos.

Sheri said...

You just had to do it didn't you? When I gave you your Friday By Request, I didn't mean for you to make me bawl like a baby!

Your Nono sounded like a great man, I wish I could have met him.

Those were wonderful memories, Nani.


Sherrie (RCMama) said...

Nani, what a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it. I teared up on the "taste all the cake" part, too, and I almost never cry.