Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God… 1 John 4:7
Ah, Philip Avenue … our first “home.” It was a three-room attic apartment, just big enough for the two of us. We had to get our bed box spring sawed in half and reassembled to get it up the stairs and around the corner. In fact, most of the furniture needed professional movers to navigate the sharp corners and low ceilings.
But it was home. We learned so much there — about each other, about ourselves, about life in general. I learned a new language — womanspeak — and expanded my vocabulary with words like “period,” “PMS” and “cramps.” I discovered Midol was a real product with a real purpose and uncovered the true meaning of mood swings — didn’t understand them, mind you, but quickly recognized their existence. I learned what not to say (usually after it was too late and my foot was firmly inserted in my mouth) and always to put the toilet seat down. I learned the difference between the playful and light “Joe,” the are you kidding “Joooeee” and the very serious “Joseph.”
Mom taught me how to eat leftovers and we actually built up a tolerance for 1,000 recipes with Spam. Spam and Beans with Maple Syrup was my favorite.
I introduced Mom to sleeping with the window open — even in the dead of winter — and the pure exhilarating pleasure of waking up with snow on your nose … going to Dairy Queen during a blizzard … sleeping in the nude (although she never really bought into that one) … and shopping and doing laundry at three in the morning.
Even back then, we managed to do a lot together … always starting with a cup of coffee in the morning and ending with us tucking each other in at night.
I do think Mom was very happy and comfortable there. I don’t remember much stress or fretting, but, then, I don’t remember much.
There are a couple of anecdotes from our time there, though. We had two cats, Charlie and Boozer (named after the football player, Emerson Boozer). Mom liked Charlie, a golden calico. I took a liking to Boozer, a black cat with just a couple of hints of white and an umbilical hernia. They were good company for Mom while I was working the night shift at the paper.
I’m not sure how we found time together. I worked usually from 7 p.m.-2 a.m. and Mom had a regular 8 a.m.-4 p.m. job. Yet she wouldn’t go to bed alone. She would usually fall asleep on the couch watching Johnny Carson. When I came in, I turned off the television (we didn’t have remote controls or sleep function in those days) and off we went to bed. I usually got a couple of hours of sleep before Mom got up and the smell of coffee awakened my senses. After she went off to work, I would go back to bed for a couple of hours. Pretty exciting, huh.
I do remember one night I let her sleep, just pulled the blanket up to tuck her in. I no sooner got into bed when she ran into the bedroom asking why I was mad at her. It was precious … and it was something I never did again.
Another thing I remember quite vividly was a marital spat by our landlords, Blaise and I think her name was Linda. They were at each other’s throat all day … yelling … screaming … carrying on. We just snuggled on the couch. With each scream Mom just squeezed me tighter. Finally, she just looked at me and said, “Promise me we’ll never fight like that.” I answered, “I promise” and we never fought like that. Over the years we fought and pouted and expressed our mutual displeasure with each other … but we never screamed and we never yelled and we never carried on… sometimes to Mom’s frustration. But that was a legacy of Philip Avenue.
That day did end up rather humorously, though. About 8 at night, Blaise, in a blaze of righteous indignation, slammed the bathroom door and screamed out, “Goodbye cruel world!” All we could do was laugh hysterically.
To be continued …
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.