Friday, November 14, 2014


Growing up in Detroit, we were blessed to live within blocks of both of my parents' parents.

Gramma and Grampa Frank lived one block west and two blocks south of us at 16609 Rutherford, in the home my mother and her two sisters grew up in. We spent much time over there (for we could walk there if dad was at work with the car): eating, watching tv, playing with the cousins, shooting pool, getting grampa a beer from the basement refrigerator, eating, playing cards at the kitchen table, playing kickball in the backyard, looking at the cutouts of scantily clad women that grampa had on the laundry room wall that I knew we were not supposed to look at, and eating. They seemed to always have lunch meat over there, wrapped in white paper secured by a type of masking tape. Always good, and always with some spicy mustard, cheese similarly packaged, and between two slices of bread - real bread that was dark and soft and smelled of caraway and rye and melted in your mouth. Nothing like our nefarious choices at home: Wonder or Hillbilly.
Also, this huge chunk of butter sitting on a plate, soft and ready to be applied generously to anything we wanted, was always out on the table. Gramma called it 'oleo', but we didn't know what that meant. At home, we had margarine, which had to be kept in the fridge, which meant it was always rock hard, which meant my Wonder slices got absolutely mutilated during the grilled-cheese-building process.
Also, when we were fortunate enough to spend the night there, eggses cooked in the morning were fried or scrambled in butter - the same butter sitting soft and ready for me on the table! At home, mom cooked eggs in bacon grease, which wasn't bad, but oh how i loved Grammas soft-scrambled eggs done up in butter. (Mom liked to cook everything quite well, and the eggs were usually crispy if fried, or brown and hard if scrambled.)

My mouth is watering as I think about these things, from some 40 odd years ago...

16609 Rutherford, where the butter was always soft

Grandma and Grandpa Baldner lived almost exactly a mile away - to the north and east - in the home my dad grew up in, on Coyle. They had a two-story home with a dining room we all fit in at Thanksgiving and CHRISTmas-time when we were young; as the families grew, we needed more and more kids tables strewn about the living room and den. But no matter how many tables we sat at, it always smelled like Thanksgiving from when we walked in the side door, an aproned Grandma always greeted us with a hug and kiss, and Grandpa always looked sharp with a sweater and bow tie.
The cousins here we did not get to see as often as we did our other cousins, and we always seemed to be dressed up here (not like going to Rutherford) and so we didn't do as much playing. We sat and listened to the big people chat politely and drank our Vernors and didn't burp.
Summer time was different. Grandpa would grill burgers outside and we'd have a picnic in the back yard with corn-on-the-cob and potato salad. When we finished the meal (and were granted permission to leave the table), I remember us rummaging through Grandpa's old things in the garage as a form of entertainment. As the big people finished eating, they would retire to lawn chairs to continue conversations of divers natures, with laughter spontaneously erupting frequently. At the end of the day we would lower and properly fold the American flag, not letting it touch the ground ever.

There was no fence around Grandpa and Grandma's corner yard on Coyle, where we ate often and played jarts once

I do not remember ever going upstairs here. The front room facing the street was the living room with a couch and several chairs, where we would chat together after meals. The back of the main floor had a den, where there was a couch and two very comfortable chairs, magazines, toys and games in cupboards, and a small tv (actually, every tv back then was small, compared with to-days'). I remember watching The Wizard of Oz on that tv in the den with the cousins more than once after a filling Thanksgiving meal. And Uncle Elton always seemed to be sitting back there reading something or other - he didn't care much for the chatting in the living room with the other big people.

Thank You, Father, for family. Thank You for the memories we all have, for the people we have memories of, and for the time that we were able to share with these people. Thank You for the traditions and the love. 
Thank You for loving us so much. 

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