Recommended Reading returns after the holidays.
Many years ago my parents gave me a book of photographs from the first five years of my life. I treasure it, especially the photos from my first few years where I have no memories.
I was just four months old at Christmas in 1967. My grandparents (Mom’s parents) still lived in their big Queen Anne on Park Avenue in downtown South Bend. Most everybody in the family is sitting on the big L-shaped couch in the photo: Aunt Suzanne and Uncle Richard, Mom, Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Jackie with me in her lap, Uncle Jack, and Great Grandma Sue. I’m older now than my grandparents were then! My father isn’t in the photo as he was probably behind the camera. My Uncle Dennis isn’t in the photo either. He was probably running very late, as was typical of him. The lamp in the back corner is still in the family, in my mom’s condo with its twin. Richard and Suzanne are both gone now, Jackie divorced Jack in the 1980s, Sue died in 1981, and Grandpa and Grandma died in 1987. Jack is still with us.
Great Grandma Grey lived less than a mile away in a small foursquare on Kunstman Court, a narrow lane just off the Lincoln Highway. That’s Mom Grey there on the left, and then my cousins Susie and Josie, then my Aunt Betty holding me, and then my cousin Barbara. These are the Grey family members I spent the most time with as a kid. When I was in college, Betty hired me one summer to drive for the courier service she owned. I ended up closest to Betty of anyone in Dad’s family and it was a deep shock when she died suddenly in 2000. I saw Barbara most recently when we scattered Mom and Dad’s ashes.
If I have any memories of the Park Avenue house, they’re faint and spotty. Grandma and Grandpa sold it in 1969 to retire to a mobile home on a small lake in Michigan. But I remember Mom Grey’s house very well, as she lived there until she died when I was seven, and we visited frequently. Dad liked to go over on Sunday nights with a sack of Filet O’ Fish sandwiches, Mom Grey’s favorite.