Wednesday, May 07, 2008

dateline delray beach

After being denied access to the Kingspoint clubhouse Ryan decides to leave his own special cannonball in the adult pool.

We’re stretched thin between holidays, which generally bring with them a seasonal greeting card from my sister, so I thought I’d recycle an old one. This is from the inside flap of a thank you card from a Christmas a long time ago. Her son Ryan has since cleared 5 (I think. Maybe only 4? I’m such a bad aunt.), so he’s quite a big bigger than he is pictured here. It’s been hanging from a pushpin over my desk all that time.

This was snapped in Florida, at D’s in-laws, near Kingspoint, the retirement community in which my grandparents lived (technically, my step-grandparents -- if you’re trying to keep all of this straight -- but we never called them that or thought of them that way) in Delray Beach.

There are four of us kids in our family, two older girls and two younger boys, and it wasn’t uncommon for us to get chunked according to gender and shipped off to relatives in the summertime for a couple weeks at a stretch.

One summer Grandma and Grandpa S made the long drive up to Denver from Florida in their full-size American made sedan and took me and my sister back with them. That road trip, in the summer of my fourth grade year, is a thing of romance in my memory (although I’m pretty sure we drove my grandparents crazy) -- I had my first jumbo sized prawn, learned the Swedish word smorgasbord, and my grandfather’s glasses steamed up suddenly like magic when we stepped out of the air conditioned interior of the car into a muggy Louisiana summer day.

D has a movie musical running in her veins and was forever orchestrating all four of us in a full on symphony routine. The ride to Florida required some re-scoring, of course, because she had fewer resources to work with. Our repertoire included endless repetitions of Dream by I don’t know who (which was her favorite love ballad until Samantha Sang usurped that position with Emotion, backed by the Bee Gees, some years later), along with Yankee Doodle Dandy and You’re a Grand Old Flag, probably only because we had saved the paper American flags that were stuck in our sandwiches on toothpicks at Sambo’s somewhere in the South, and then animated them like Barbies across the terrain of the back seat.

Our cast also included two molded plastic pirates that we picked up at a rest stop who inspired a unique composition from D, the refrain of which included: “Yo ho ho and a bottle of orange juice / Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.”

Truthfully: The piece was all refrain.

There was also the tune that we called “Monomanop”, which I’m sure has a real and very different name, which we lifted from a Sesame Street skit and in which I got the boy’s part, which meant I got to sing skat. (For a refresher, see Flickrite Sidereal’s take on the theme »)

But to my point. Our destination was Kingspoint, which was populated then as now (I’m sure) by New York Jewish expats, who treated children like incoming insurgents.

I exaggerate. There were some kind ones in the bunch. But there were so many rules.

The pool and the shuffleboard court were off limits during what seemed like most of the afternoon, so while we waited D put us to work publishing our first newspaper, which we typeset using rubber stamps and populated with interviews extracted from the bathing beauties around the pool (where bathing caps studded with oversize flowers were in fashion -- I wore one myself -- and most of the women’s bathing suits had skirts). The issue that I remember best featured the return of Howdy Doody to daytime TV (we got some GREAT “I remember when” interviews).

That was the summer of my first remarkably warm Atlantic ocean swim, of cream cheese and jelly sandwiches, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and my first exposure to the Lawrence Welk show. It was the summer of my embarrassment when, in my excitement, at the home of my grandparents’ friends, I shattered the glass-topped coffee table when our contestant won the Miss America Pageant, and the grownups who were playing mahjong in the next room came rushing in. (So yeah: It's an old habit.)

They laughed it off and I remember thinking I got off easy.

That summer is the reason I know the Fox Trot and the Box Step and the Tango, because our grandfather taught us in the living room darkened by heavy drapes against the fierce Florida sun, illuminated by the little lights that lit up each of the oil paintings that he brought home from Europe on his travels in the garment trade. Taught us to trace the patterns and measure out the steps as he lifted the needle and found the track on the vinyl again, looping Fernando’s Hideaway until we got the cadence right, got the the harmony of moving across the floor as one.

I danced the boy’s part, my sister danced the girl’s. And it’s the reason to this day that, when the occasion calls for ballroom dancing, I find it nearly impossible not to lead.


Anonymous said...

Oh, my sweet sister, thank you for this! And for the record, you're a dang good dancer. Though my big toe still cramps up at the sound of Fernando's Hideaway.
And to further the "Car as Theater" thread, do you recall our "bare foot puppet shows" put on for the benefit of the cars behind us? So much could be done in the days before seatbelt laws.
love you tons...thanks a million for a beautiful post.

suttonhoo said...

I remember we had full confidence that our feet were emotive enough that it didn't matter that none of them could hear a word that we said. ;)

anniemcq said...

I needed this. Thanks, D&D! Wonderful memories!

I, Rodius said...

Your sister sounds like a wonderful correspondent, with real paper mail and everything. To evoke all of that with a snapshot and a one-liner: priceless!

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