Golden Lucy's Spiral Journal

Going on 87...Savoring and Surviving the Senior Years

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Happy Birthday Millie!

Before I begin my post I need to wish my inspiration, the Divine Diva of Elderblogdom, Millie Garfield, a very happy 81st birthday! You're the best, Millie and I think of you with love whenever I post.

It's ironic. I'd just finished writing a reaction to Millie's last post about social life without a car. The kids and I had taken a short trip to visit family in KS and I'd been off-line for 3 days and I'd been composing a piece expanding on Millie's post. So now, in addition to wishing Millie a very happy BDay, I want to share my recollections.

60 years ago having a drivers' license---never mind a car, was not a matter of fact. If you lived in the city the public transportation system could take you where you needed to go. If you lived in ND or KS you started driving whatever you could get you hands on when you were 8 years old and you never worried about whether it was legal or not.

I grew up in Cincinnati. The only people I knew who had a car were rich relations, like my Uncle Will the psychiatrist---or folks who lived on the "other side of the tracks." In my circle, people took the streetcar or walked to wherever they needed to go. This included dating, which believe me, I knew little about.

I'm not exaggerating. I was shy, overweight kid from a poor family. As a teenager I worked at at Zellman's Fish and Poultry store gutting fish and chickens. (I'll never forget how mortified I was when Irene Kaufmann, a friend from my class, came into the store and saw me up to my elbows in entrails. "Oh, Lou!" she exclaimed, "I didn't know you worked here!") Oh, the shame.

But Thursday was the good day. I sat on a stool (I can see it even today) by the telephone and called people to confirm their orders for the Sabbath. One Thursday, Rose, the wife of the store owner, approached me with the offer of a date. (A date? Who would want to go out with me?) Rose said she had arranged a date for her sister Marion (an equally overweight, gawky and unconfident girl in my class.) Harry, Marion's intended arranged date had a brother who wanted to go along. Would I be his date? Marion and I conferred and decided to give it a go.

Harry and his brother Barry, (I kid you not) showed up for our "date." They were 18 and 20. Newly arrived from Israel (now very fascinating to me) with accents a mile thick--and most certainly "greenhorns" to my way of thinking. But I didn't think it was odd they didn't drive and we went to the ice cream store by streetcar without a thought.

It was a disaster. We didn't talk. I mean the boys and girls didn't talk. Barry and Harry were obviously less than thrilled with us and Marion and I decided that fellows who repeatedly sang "Itty Bitty Fishes in an Itty Bitty Pool" instead of attempting what might pass for polite conversation, didn't deserve even our modest attention.

We rode and walked to and from the streetcar in silence except for the repeated "IttyBitty..." refrain by Barry. Marion and I huddled together until the boys walked us to our doors. Needless to say we never saw them again.

I don't know what happened to any of these people but my disappointment and embarrassment have never been truly forgotten. It certainly didn't have anything to do with not driving and taking the streetcar but it's a perfect example of how something even peripherally related can bring back the most exquisitely intense memories.