We put some big changes in motion at the end of 2017. Our home in Brooklyn was originally my Aunt Cathy and Uncle John’s home when we were growing up. We spent many days there as kids, everyday memories and special occasions. It’s where I sat at the kitchen table with my aunt and hand wrote the recipes that are so important to me. “Sit down and copy these. One day I won’t be here and you’ll be glad you have them”, she said. These pieces of paper are a treasure to me and each time I make Irish Soda Bread I remember that day, more than 50 years ago, as if it was yesterday. Holidays and every days. Random memories. Aunt Cathy always managed to put everything on the table hot. And that was in the days before microwaves. I have a warmer feature on my oven now and think of Aunt Cathy each time I use it. She also read the Enquirer, which was considered quite scandalous if you were Catholic. And smoked Lucky Strikes and drank scotch and PBR. And whenever we left she always said. “Don’t forget to close the gate”.
We ran into my cousin Eddie (Cathy’s son) on Fifth Avenue when Mary was around 2. We were living in an apartment on Marine Avenue at the time, in a third floor walk up apartment. He asked us to move into his home, he said he was there alone and he’d love to have us there. So we moved in.
So many firsts there for Mary, and for Bryan and me, and for Eddie. She was the first child in the family in our generation and that was so much fun. Visits from Santa. Friends sleeping over. Our first dog – Seamus. Tea parties with steam fitters and a very little girl. Parties to celebrate milestones. Birthdays. Bryan becoming a member of the New York City Fire Department. Celebrating just because we were young and stupid. Enjoying life in a backyard with a kiddie pool and Rick Astley. Eddie and I both said to anyone leaving “Don’t forget to close the gate”.
Eddie loved helping us with Mary. She still remembers her favorite meal – tomato soup (Campbell’s) and grilled cheese cut into triangle quarters. He picked her up at the bus and brought her to the babysitter every day. Dorothy is still there. And still watching kids in her home. Mary spent many a day in that little kitchen doing her homework.
I wish we sold to someone who would love the house and create a life there for their family. But we didn’t. It was bought by a business. And we lost a connection to family members of our own in the process. But maybe giving Chinese immigrants a roof over their head is a different kind of memory. My mother, Aunt Marion and Aunt Cathy were all immigrants. So I guess it’s life coming full circle. And they provided security for us. To know that you’ve left life better for your children than it was for you is one of my measures of success in life.
Don’t forget to close the gate!