My parents separated early in my life, I was two to three years old at the time. Japan, Germany and Italy came between those two young marrieds. My mother would have a small apartment over my maternal great-grandparents home in New Jersey not far from Philadelphia. My maternal grandparents would live but a block away. I was loved, dotted upon and for accounts and purposes, spoiled. My grandparents would always cart me along with them on any trip or outing.
I’m not sure which was my first trip, in the summer summer or winter,. I will write on both, these were trips with my maternal Grandmother and Grandfather. That would be Harry and Emma Wittman from Audubon, NJ. A trip to New York City prior to November 5th 1951 comes to mind. So, perhaps eight years old. I know prior to that date as the NJ turnpike was not open to Exit 10 from the Delaware Memorial Bridge as yet. We got on our bus in Camden, NJ and traveled old route 130 and crossed into NYC via the Lincoln Tunnel onto W. 36th st. I remember as a youngster, I would often hold my breath in a Tunnel.
We would stay in the Victoria Hotel, 160 Central Park South. It is now a Landmark, Marriott house. We would make this trip several times, always staying in the Victoria. It was quite nice back in the day and continues to remain so.
This particular trip was during cold weather and obviously close to Christmas. I know this as we went to Radio City Music Hall and saw their Christmas production. I shall forever remember the Rockettes.
We also saw some ice skating, it was so long ago I remember not where. Here is a little history on Ice Skating in NYC, should you be interested.
I remember walking about the city, going into Gimbels department store and being awestruck on the toy floor. I remember the elevator and the operator, announcing the floors. Being an effective elevator operator required many skills. Manual elevators were often controlled by a large lever. The elevator operator had to regulate the elevator’s speed, which typically required a good sense of timing to consistently stop the elevator level with each floor. In addition to their training in operation and safety, department stores later combined the role of operator with greeter and tour guide, announcing product departments, floor by floor, and occasionally mentioning special offers. I would always get a special gift on one of these trips. I remember also getting jostled a bit as the operator lined up the lift so as one would not trip exiting.
On the same trip, 6 months prior or 6 months later, warmer weather, anyway, we would have a boat trip. That trip would either be the Circle line around Manhattan or a trip from the Battery out to the Statue of Liberty. I got to do both back in the day.
The Circle Line Trip was a cruise all the way around Manhattan Island on a guided boat tour that takes in every angle of New York City’s iconic waterfront. Traveling by boat means unobstructed views of the Manhattan skyline, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty—ideal for snapping memorable photographs. With live narration throughout the cruise, learn about the Big Apple while passing all five of New York’s boroughs.
The trip out to the statute of Liberty was special also. Visits to the Statue of Liberty National Monument and Ellis Island are musts in the Big Apple. On this guided tour, you get boarding on the ferry from Manhattan to visit the two important historical sites. Visit the grounds of Liberty Island and go inside the Statue of Liberty Museum. Then hop the ferry to Ellis Island and learn about the millions of people who arrived here between 1892 and 1954 in hope of living the American dream.
The highlight of my first trip was the ability to spit out of the window and to watch it travel down however many floors we were up. I also remember hanging out the window to see if I hit anyone down below. My leaning out the window and my grandmother going bezerk is still implanted in my head today. Three steps up a ladder with my vertigo is a high climb today.
We would take several trips to NYC prior to age 13, the age my grandfather died. Those trips were always special. Oh to be able to recall such details. Now, to what do I attribute that gift?
Born in forty-three, yep, that would be me, married in sixty-five. We eloped with two others and never told our mothers. For Dan and Murph with a year gone by, Godparents would become the wife and eye. Three children we would raise, in Jersey, Delaware, and South Caroline. Once out of the Corps we settled in Maryland, the Old Line State. We didn’t stay long, thinking Nutmeg would be great, Connecticut that is.
Kathryn, Sarah, and Matt, the Brat, would make it through school in one town learning the Golden Rule. When the last was gone and I retired, we moved out of state, thinking back to Maryland, would be oh so great. Our children would marry and raise families of their own. The firstborn grandchild to Matt and Beth was was David Lee. Kathryn would have a Samantha, Sam to us. Sarah would bare us an Andrew who would lite up our lives for seven short years.
Others would follow, nine in all, we had an Abby, a Kevin, a Jill, and Rebecca. Tommy would fit in there and follow cousin Sam, he’s now at USAFA and will defend our land. The grands would give us greats, four from Sam, Abby had one, and Rachael had a great for us at 11;00 AM today. Jack Lee @ 7 lbs. 4 oz. would make his appearance on his due date. We now have a little Mister Rogers. The other greats are Mia, Ana, Dax, and Zoe, Alana was number five and now we have six.
I like to say we have three, nine, and six, (396) I’m thinking I should play that Number for the rest of the week.
I share with you the following, so true.
Welcome to this world, Jack Lee.
© Earline Brasher
Published: June 2007
Sometimes I really do wonder,
Why they are called grand?
Then I know A Loving Grandmother
Can always fully understand.
You get that important phone call
You have waited for so long,
Excitement really kicks in,
As you arrive and rush down the hall.
You see that precious baby,
Gender really doesn’t matter at all.
It brings back many memories
Of when your children were so small.
You congratulate the parents,
As you see mother and baby are o.k.,
You know without a doubt,
This was done in own God’s way.
Many sacrifices made along the way,
Are very much worthwhile,
When you see that sweet little face,
And that bright cheery smile.
Time rocks on as they grow and grow,
Then comes their future, rushing to and fro,
They will always be our babies,
If anyone should ask,
They are all very special,
From the first one to the last!!!!
When I read his blog I immediately thought of Mary Agnes, my wife of fifty seven years come this November and our beginning. I also thought of her and our fifth great grandchild Alana, soon to be six months old. As a side note, grandchild Rachael is due to bring into this world Great # 6 later this month.
In the beginning, that would be late spring of 1964, our first date took place in New Jersey, just across the Tacony/Palmyra bridge from N/E Philadelphia. That bridge would cross the famous Delaware river George Washington once crossed. After attending a movie with another couple, we stopped at a diner for a bite to eat and headed north on Rt. 130 towards Willingboro where the other couple’s parents resided. As we headed north we came upon a cemetary in Cinniminson New Jersey. The entryway was well lit and beutiful aeration fountain was spraying water in the air. I can still to this day shut my eyes and visualize that entryway.
We would pull in, park, and begin a leisurely walk about the grounds. I can still hear ducks quacking and the spray of the aerated water hitting the pond. At some point we found ourselves behind a hedge and with her permission, yes I asked permission, we kissed. “Botta Bing, Botta Boom,” bells, whistles, fireworks. We were a match! Eighteen months later the four of us would elope and marry in Fall River, Massachusetts. (That’s a story for another day.) A young Marine, a Sailor, and two recent grads from Nursing school would take one Giant Step in our young lives. Just as a side note, we played Pinochle on our wedding night.
Cemeteries have always held a special meaning to us over the years. Several years back on a trip to the Canadian Mari tines we must have stopped in a least a dozen and commemorated each with a kiss, “EH.”
When weather permits and the wife is doing child care for Alana she pushes the stroller into a close-by cemetery and tells Alana, this is where it all began. It was also fitting that the first date was on a weekend’s liberty from Marine Barracks, 8’th & I, Washington, DC. During my three years in D.C. I would quite often find myself at funerals in Arlington National Cemetery, including that of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
To so many, a cemetery signifies closure. To me and mine, it was a beginning. To Dan, the Sailor who began that journey with us, “May you rest in peace.”
Much thanks to Stewart Perkins for allowing me to share his Chicken Soup for the soul.