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Curious

I've noticed recently that there's a 'Writer's Block' box on the LJ home page that suggests something new weekly to blog about.  Does anyone do this?  This week's question is: How did you spend summers as a kid?  I think I blogged about that once, a long time ago because I seem to remember Lyddy teasing me about playing in the water from the fire hydrant, that she thought that stuff only happened in the movies.

The question about summers made me think about my grandmother, my Mema.  I can't believe she's been dead for three years already.  It feels longer though, from the way she sort of faded away with Alzheimers.  At the end,  she was just a shadow with none of the feisty Irish personality left.  I remember being next to the bed as she died and wishing that I could hear her tell someone to 'fuck off' or call one of our  neighbors a bastard just one more time.  I was lucky to grow up surrounded by family.  My grandmother lived directly across the street from me in her two-family house.  My aunt, uncle and cousin lived upstairs and she lived on the first level. 

My summers as a kid in Newark, New Jersey, were spent mostly in my grandmother's backyard.  She always had a pool for her grandkids and our friends.  It was one of those aluminum, above-ground pools and it filled most of her postage stamp yard.  Next to the pool were her clothes lines that she used every weekend for laundry-- hers, my great aunt's, and two of her daughter's clothes.  Mema did laundry all weekend and yelled at us kids constantly for splashing pool water on the clothes, which she swore was going to result in bleach spots from the chlorine.

Between loads of laundry, she'd come out into the yard in one of her worn housecoats and bring us popsicles or those plastic barrels of sugar water masquerading as juice.  She'd light the gas grill and make us those frozen hockey puck hamburgers or hot dogs and sit on one of the chaise lounges and watch us splash around and perform underwater stunts for her.  She'd throw our wet beach towels over the fence to dry.  I always used one with a cartoon diagram of the zodiac.  Nela had Strawberry Shortcake.  Marybeth had Woody Woodpecker and Mema used one with the Budweiser logo on it.

My Aunt Allison lived in the second floor apartment of my grandmother's house.  She'd often come down to the pool and horse around with us in the water.  Aunt Allison always seemed more like one of the kids than one of the grown-ups. 

It's funny, all of the kids who lived on Lentz Avenue in those days called the members of my family by .the names I used.  Mema was Mema to everyone.  So was Aunt Aggie, Aunt Allison and Uncle Timmy.  Aunt Anne and Uncle Mario.

All of the kids would play all day outside and then as soon as it started getting day, we'd begin the wait for the ice cream truck to come.  We'd try to predict where the truck would stop along the street each night and line up orderly, waving our dollar bills.  Within five minutes in the August heat we'd all be covered in melting soft serve.  I remember that if my mom gave me a dollar bill, and I got a chocolate cone with chocolate dip, I'd still get change back.  If I saved my change all week, by Friday I could get a sundae or a float.

I wonder if streets like the one I grew up on exist anymore-- neighborhoods where everyone knows everyone else's name (and everyone else's business).  Kids would ring doorbells and actually ask if other kids could come out and play.  We all outside played together along the sidewalks, riding bikes or big wheels, pushing wagons, roller skating, whatever.  I don't remember being specifically watched by an adult, unless we were in the street, playing in the water from the fire hydrant.  I can't imagine sending the kids out to play now and feeling okay about it.  But that was what we did back then.  We only went home to eat and wash up.