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Are There The Ghosts At Holiday Celebrations?

21 Sep

Another holiday.  A festive meal. Visits with family and close friends. Celebrating. But as I entered the room for dinner, for a moment I saw my Dad the last time he celebrated a holiday at my friend’s home. And next to him was their mother.  Both passed away years ago. But I saw them smiling and talking. 

This is not the first time I saw a vision of a loved one who has passed at a holiday table or at a special event. I am sure some think it is just my imagination or a vivid memory.  Perhaps it is both. 

But I am not so sure. 

How can a vivid memory describe the moment at my daughter’s wedding when, for a brief moment, I saw my parents standing to the side smiling. Was it something I wanted to see so badly, that my brain produced the image for me? Perhaps. 

But what about those times when I can still hear my mother’s voice as I am preparing a holiday meal. I do not use recipes, I just listen to that inner voice telling me what to do next. But that voice is always my Mom or one of my Grandma’s.  So are they there?

Or when I went to purchase holiday challah. At first I thought I would just get one round raisen challah.  We really do not need two challah. But then there was My grandfather’s image pointing to the plain challah as well. Yes I purchased both. Grandpa was a baker, so I had to follow his advice. 

At our Catskills home I have the most vivid images.  One day this summer, as my sister stood at the kitchen sink, I saw two images next to her.  Both my Mom and Grandma stood there and each was superimposed on the kitchen that existed in their time.  It was just an instant, but for a moment I was in a time warp. My sister, my Mom and my Grandma all standing at the sink speaking to me. (They were probably all giving me instructions!)

We have spent over fifty years in the house in Kauneonga Lake, and the memories are so strong there.  We spent many Rosh Hashannah holidays eating a festive meal and preparing for the new year. But there are also so many summer memories infused in the being of the house.  It is not difficult to imagine a loved one walking in the rooms along side me. 

There are ghosts of people I knew in my synagogue as well. Since I go regularly, I am used to people sitting in certain seats. They are not assigned. But people seem to find a place that is comfortable and so sit there every week. I have my seat and from my vantage point I can close my eyes and envision the room filled with those who passed. 

Recently a 92-year-old Holocaust survivor passed.  When I turn quickly I still see him smiling as he sits in his seat, his walker close by. Other survivors who passed fill the seats as well. When I see their children and grandchildren still coming to synagogue, I feel their spirit of joy in the congregation. 

But the most poignant for me happened about two months ago. I noticed a young man come in to shul with his wife and newborn son. They walked directly to the seat where his grandfather always sat. He sat in his grandfather’s seat holding his son, whose name was a memory for his grandfather. I really thought I could see Sol smiling at his grandson and great grandson filling his seat. It is one of my new favorite memories.  

I believe when someone dies they do not totally disappear.  A bit of them, an essence, stays behind. A smell, a sound, a place can bring their memory and their spirit/presence  back to us. I hope I always see and sense the ghosts of the ones I love at my holiday and other celebrations. 

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Grandma’s Ceramic Strawberries Were Meant To Be Mine

13 Sep


My Grandma had two ceramic strawberry shaped jam jars that she never kept jam in.  They were filled with thumb tacks, safety pins, buttons and other little items that she needed to keep corralled in a safe place. She kept the jam jars on her kitchen window sill along side her plants. 

I remember them always being in her home. When she moved out of her West New York, New Jersey,  apartment up to her home in Kauneonga Lake in the Catskills, she took the two strawberries with her.  And they once again graced her window sill. Always there.  A beacon in the kitchen. 

I don’t know why I loved them, but I did. They were a shine of color that brightened up the kitchen. Perhaps I loved them because the red strawberries look like two hearts sending a hug of love. 

When my grandmother died, my grandfather left the house basically how Grandma had it. The knick knacks stayed where they were placed by her.  So even though Grandpa lived about eight years longer, the Catskill’s house still felt like Grandma.  And the strawberries stayed in their place in the kitchen. 

The house in the Catskills went to my parents. Mom and Dad remodeled the kitchen and packed up many of my grandmother’s  tchotchkes and placed the boxes in the garage. 

Eventually my Mom had us go through the boxes. She wanted us to take what we wanted before she donated the rest to charity. So my sister, my cousin and I searched the boxes. I focused on finding the two strawberries. I wanted them. I did not know it, but my cousin wanted them as well. 

“I remember seeing them at Grandma’s!” My cousin said…whined…pled. She knew when I wanted something I was one minded, so she made her case to have them as well. 

I was the older cousin, so I should have them was my first thought.  But there were two. And she really wanted one. So we did the right thing.  We each took one. We shared.  I always say, I gave one up for her because I love her. 

My strawberry returned with me to Kansas, where I put it on my kitchen window sill. It looked lonely without its mate. No matter, I knew my cousin deserved one as well. 

But I think Grandma was looking out for me. I think she knew that I really wanted to have two. I am sentimental. Having one was great, but two would be better. I should have known fate would intervene. 

About a year after I brought the strawberry jam jar home to Kansas, I went out to lunch with a work friend on a summer day. I do not remember the exact day, but Grandma’s birthday was in July. 

  We parked near a small antique/trinket store.  After lunch, since we still had time, we decided to browse in the shop. We had never been there before and honestly, I never went there again. But it ended up being a magical place! 

I still remember the moment I saw it: a small ceramic strawberry jam jar.  It seemed to be exactly like my Grandma’s strawberry. EXACTLY!  I knew I had to buy it.  

The owner wrapped it up in brown paper.  I carefully carried it to my friend’s car. I was so excited. She tried to calm me down a bit by telling me it might not be the same.  But in my heart I knew it was a match. 

Later that day, when I  put it next to my jam jar, I was not disappointed. It was a perfect match.  To this day I cannot tell which one I purchase and which one was Grandma’s!  

Do I believe Grandma had a hand in my finding it?  Is it even possible? I am not sure, but sometimes events happen that have no explanation. I think the jam jar falls into this category.  

As for my cousin, the strawberry jam jar she so wanted, she no longer has in her possession.  She told me that she moved so many times since Grandma died about 36 years ago. At some point the strawberry was lost.  I only moved twice across the country, always taking my strawberries with me. 

But it really does not matter whether she kept hers, for I have the two strawberry jam jars that were meant to be mine. 

The Way to My Husband’s Heart is Ice Cream

31 Aug

During a recent conversation with my daughter, I realized that even my children understand that their Dad loves ice cream more than any other food. She was discussing a man at work, who when offered ice cream, said something to the effect that he loved ice cream and if they wanted any, they should take it now because he would eat it all. And he did.

In telling me about it, she said, it made her laugh so much because he ate ice cream the way Daddy did. She was actually still laughing when she told me how he put the spoon in the ice cream and just dug in.

I knew exactly what she meant. My husband eats ice cream with gusto! He scoops his ice cream with a whole heart and a big spoon.   My husband does not savor his ice cream. He devours it!   He absolutely loves ice cream. He even rates his travels on how good the ice cream is. We have tasted ice cream across the USA and in countries far and wide.

Although he speaks a bit of Spanish and Mandarin, my husband’s word of choice in any language is Ice Cream. In Italy it is Gelato. When in Milan, my husband ate ice cream every single day from the ice cream parlor around the corner from our hotel. On our last day, he went back for a second treat before we left. I would say he loved that ice cream.

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The most delicious ice cream in Rome, Italy.

In Rome, a friend of his took us to the La Gelateria Frigidarium, a place he called the best ice cream ever. And he was so right. I loved it because they had sorbet. But this sorbet was so creamy, I was sure it had dairy in it. But it did not!!! Yum. My husband had three scoops there. I know if we had stayed longer in Rome, there would have been many trips to Frigidarium. As it is, we recommend it to anyone heading to Rome.

His least favorite ice cream was in Turkey. He said they put taffy in it, which destroy the value of true ice cream. He is an ice cream purest. But he still ate it. Ice cream addicts need their fix.

When we were in Israel in December, we took a private tour in Tel Aviv. My husband was interested, but not so much as we walked through an outdoor pedestrian shopping area. Shopping is not his favorite thing to do. As the guide and I were talking, I noticed my husband stopping. One word came from his lips, “Galida.” Ice cream; his one real word in Hebrew.

The tour came to a thirty-minute stop as we all had an ice cream treat. The guide said, “This is a great idea, especially when I have children on a tour. From now on, I am stopping here for a treat as we do the tours.” I am glad my husband’s ice cream fanaticism helped the tour guide with future successes.

Last week when we went to see the eclipse in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, he found Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream in Jackson. I enjoyed the Huckleberry sorbet the one time I went.   I am not sure all the flavors he tried over his multiple trips to Moo’s.

In February of 2016, my husband, sister and I went to Universal Studios in Florida. We had two-day passes. On the first day, while my sister and I used a rest room on our way out of the park, my husband found an ice cream parlor. He loved the ice cream, so we had to have some as well. It was great for me, as they had sorbet. The next day, we had a planned stop for ice cream there as we left the park. My husband was so excited when he found out it was part of a national chain, with a store not too far from our home…about four miles. Stone Cold Creamery was his new favorite ice cream.

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Out of the hospital for about 20 minutes. The smile is for ice cream.

This past year he had to have some major surgery. On the day he was released from the hospital, I took him to Cold Stone Creamery for a treat. It might have been hard for some people to eat ice cream with a neck brace on, but not my husband.

I posted a picture of him, and a few days later, he received gift cards in the mail from some of his friends so he could get more ice cream. Two weeks later, when the neck brace came off, I took him back for more.

The way to my husband’s heart is ice cream. The way to cure pain of surgery is ice cream. The way to deal with stress is ice cream. The way to end a day is ice cream. I know my husband loves our children and me. I even joke with him by saying, “I love you more than ice cream.” But when it comes down to it, sometimes I am not quite sure if he has the same sentiment.

PS: my 96 year old grandfather died after eating ice cream. His last words were, “yum, delicious.”  I hope, way in the future,  my husband’s ending is as happy.  

Mr Anoff and the Sardine Sandwich

11 Aug

When I think about why I love sardine sandwiches, I realize it all goes back to my childhood and one specific incident.   I must have been four or five years old. I was in West New York, New Jersey, visiting my grandparents for the weekend. They owned a bakery on Palisade Avenue around 53rd Street.   Until my sister was born, we lived in an apartment above the bakery. But in 1958, when she was born, we moved to a larger apartment in North Bergen. (See a blog about the bakery below.)

My parents were overwhelmed at times. And I think my grandparents missed us. So every weekend, either my brother or I spent the weekend with my grandparents. This must have been my weekend.

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My grandparents and the Anoffs in the Catskills about 1951.

Also in West New York lived my grandparents’ best friends, the Anoffs. Their daughter and my Mom were best friends. And their granddaughter and I became best friends as well.   Since she still lived in West New York, whenever I came to visit, I often played with her, while my grandparents worked.

I still remember the day of the sardine sandwich.   We had been playing outside for a long time, when Mr. Anoff called us in for lunch.   STOP right there. Mr. Anoff never fed us lunch. It was my grandmother, or my mom, or Mrs. Anoff or her daughter who made sure we ate. NEVER ever Mr. Anoff.   So looking back, right there something was different. Something must have been happening, but I do not what. Neither I nor my friend know why he fed us that day. I can only imagine that the women were doing something. Could it have been a shower? I do not know, but the women were gone!

In the meantime, my friend and I followed her grandfather’s instructions and went upstairs to the apartment for lunch.   I had been in the apartment before. But this was different. Mrs. Anoff was not there! Mr. Anoff was preparing a special lunch. He had out rye bread, lettuce and sardines.   He toasted the bread, mushed the sardines on the bread and added lettuce. He asked if I wanted to try it. I nodded yes. He cut the sandwich in half.   I remember eating sardines for the first time and Loving the taste. My friend did not eat it. She had peanut and jelly if I remember correctly.   (I did not like PB andJ — peanut butter and jelly.)

I ate the entire half sandwich and asked for more. I remember Mr. Anoff smiling at me and giving me another half of a sardine sandwich. It was amazing. I actually can still see the table in my mind’s eye. I can see him making the sandwich. It just has stayed with me forever.

I will admit it started a craze for me. I would often beg my Mom for a sardine sandwich, just the way Mr. Anoff made it. I think I drove her crazy for a while. Everyone else loved the normal PB and J, but not me.  I would watch her to make sure she made it just the way he did!

Honestly, I do not often eat a sardine sandwich. When they were little, my children hated the smell. So I did not eat sardine sandwiches when they were around. Now they are out of the house and I am free to do as I like. As a special treat, I purchase a can of sardines (packed in water) and make myself a sandwich.  It is a moment of memory heaven.

 

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I almost always try make it on rye bread, but since I am the only one who eats rye bread, I often substitute challah or a bagel. I always put either lettuce or cucumber on it. Just as I did when I was a child. I try to make it as much like as Mr. Anoff did as I can. I mush the sardines onto the bread and carefully place the lettuce or cucumber carefully throughout the sandwich.

I do not think Mr. Anoff ever made us lunch again.   Even in the Catskills, where we spent over two months every summers, he never made us a meal. We had mothers and grandmothers there all the time.  And even though he was almost always around,  I never remember him ever being on lunch duty again.  It was just that one magical time.

I do remember talking to him about sardines once or twice, possibly because my Mom brought up the topic. I think it was a sort of adult joke that I was still eating sardines.  I remember him smiling whenever the topic came up.

But now, most important, I almost always text or email my friend to tell her when I am eating an Abe Anoff sardine sandwich. I think it makes her feel good to know that I am remembering her grandfather, and the good times we had as children.  Mr. Anoff has been gone for many years.  But a piece of him stays in my heart and my taste buds.

 

 

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/02/01/bakery-aromas-bring-back-delicious-memories/

 

The Dress Fiasco That Almost Wrecked My Brother’s Wedding

4 Aug

On September 2, my brother and his wife will be married for 38 years. Their Labor Day weekend wedding was notable for several reasons: his was the first wedding in our immediate family; he got married on our youngest sister’s 21st birthday; the drama of the dress my Mom wore to the wedding.

Why would a dress be so memorable? Here is what happened. My sister in law chose orange, yellow and beige as her wedding colors.   My mother did not want to wear beige, as she felt it was too close to the bride’s white dress. But she could not find a dress anywhere, in a color she liked. She decided to have one made specifically for her.

She chose an orange/peach color fabric, with a lace inset at the top. As a teacher in West New York, she knew many people. Someone recommended a good dressmaker.   The dress was well made, but it looked absolutely horrid on my Mom. I can still see the dress, even though she never wore it to the wedding, just tried it on for us.

My husband and I, who were engaged at the time, arrived in New Jersey about four days before the wedding. That evening, my Mom tried the dress on for all of us. My Dad, my sister and I stared at the dress, without words. Mom looked horrendous. The color was WRONG! It took all color from her face. The style was also terrible. She looked like she was wearing a nightgown to go to bed, NOT a gown to wear to a wedding.

My sister and I were stunned.  We were silent for a few minutes. We actually had no words, no way to tell her how terrible this dress looked. Mothers and daughters have a connection,  from our silence, and probably the looks on our faces, she could tell. “It looks horrible, doesn’t it,” she asked…or something like that.

Then the tears started. The wedding was just four days away. What would she do? We had a major disaster on our hands!  My sister and I were up in an instant.  We would do something!

My father was somewhat calm. “DO not worry. You will find a dress.” He was positive. But he was also insistent that she no longer tried to save money.   This called for emergency shopping, and we knew the perfect store: Gail Browns, located on 58th and Bergenline Avenue.  (Thanks North Bergen friends for this info.) It was a high-class dress shop near by. A store that we never shopped at because the prices were way too high for us. We usually went to Little Marcy’s, occasionally Corduroy Village, but never Gail Browns.

The next morning, as soon as it opened, my sister, my Mom and I went to the dress store. With in minutes, the sales lady brought over a beautiful beige dress with a brown belt. It was the same exact color as the tuxedos the men were going to wear. Mom put it on. Stunning.

Grandmas. mom, sister and me

Mom in her lovely dress stands in the middle surrounded by my grandmothers, my sister and me.

Yes, there were just a few minor alterations. The hem had to be shortened; the belt loops moved; an extra snap on the bodice. But the seamstress knew it was an emergency situation. This was Friday. The wedding was Sunday. By late afternoon, the dress was complete. I believe they even dyed shoes for her!

The Dress Fiasco was over.  The discarded dress disappeared.  Never to be commented on ever again.

Mom looked wonderful at the wedding of her oldest child. She looks lovely in all the photos. There is a picture of my Mom and Dad dancing that I can still see in my mind. It was a great dress.

I missed Mom when I purchased the dress for my daughter’s wedding last year, 37 years later. She also got married on Labor Day Weekend. My Mom is no longer with us.  She did not get to go dress shopping for this wedding.

Instead, my daughter and I went shopping, and narrowed the choice to two dresses, which I brought home.   Later that day my sister arrived from New Jersey. I tried on both dresses. I took the advise of my sister and daughter who both loved one specific dress. They said it was me. The other dress, which was grey drained me of color. Another dress fiasco was averted. I wore the lavender dress that they loved.

Now my sister is facing this hurdle. Her daughter is getting married next June.   I know she realizes that I will be there to make sure that her dress is the perfect one.   There will be no tears four days before another wedding because the mother’s dress is horrendous. No more dress fiascos ever!

Another blog about shopping: https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/shopping-on-the-avenue-i-dont-mean-fifth-i-mean-bergenline/

Death By Chihuly…Or So It Seemed

24 Jul

I was 3 ½ when my family moved from West New York, NJ, to North Bergen. The reason for the move was the soon to be arrival a new sister. The apartment we lived in was too small with only two bedrooms.   So we left the safety of West New York, and my grandparent’s bakery, to venture off to North Bergen.

We lived in a three-family home, we had the second floor. Next door was a family with one daughter, known here as DAS, who was a bit older than my brother, and 18 months older than me. DAS became my buddy. We loved each other, even though over the years she almost killed me several times and got me into the biggest trouble ever!

But I guess it does not matter. We are tied together though the bonds of our childhood memories, the close friendship of our parents, and shared memories that no one else, but my siblings share. DAS has to love me for life for all she has done to me over the years.   And I tell her that.

I have written in another blog about being pushed through a basement window and almost dying. That was DAS. I have written in a different blog about hitchhiking with a friend, even though my parents had forbidden it. Yes, that was DAS. Or the time we almost killed my brother by tying a rope across the driveway and pulling it up just as he rode his bicycle toward us. Yes DAS!

I could write about smoking my first and only cigarette…YES DAS.   Or even my one time of shoplifting as a tween.   DAS!  She dared me and told how to do it. Or the time I broke my big toe walking on cinderblocks after my grandfather specifically told us not to do it! Since my parents are no longer alive, I can now tell all. 

So over the years, I have complained to DAS about her being the cause of my biggest troubles as a child. Oh, I admit she was also the cause of some of my favorite memories.   It was not all bad with DAS.

I have known DAS for 59 years. That is a long time for a friendship. I won’t go through the years we did not see each other. It does not matter. What does matter is that now, even though we grew up in New Jersey, we live just three or so hours apart in the Midwest. I live in Kansas and she lives in Arkansas.   And over the past few years we have tried to see each other several times a year.


This summer it was mine turn to go visit her. My excuse was that I wanted to see the Chihuly exhibit at the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville. I did write about the exhibit. (See below link). That is not my issue here. The issue here is that DAS is still trying to kill me. Not on purpose, but it happens.

First night in her house. She tells me that she cannot use the shower in her bathroom, she needs to shower in the guest bathroom. Okay, so when I was done, I went to her bathroom to brush my teeth while she showered.   I think she forgot I was there, and turned off all the lights while I was in the bathroom.

Luckily I remembered that when I left her bathroom (up three steps) and then walked through her bedroom into a small hallway, there were two little steps somewhere. I could not see them. I did not know where the light switch was, so I walked very carefully. It did not matter, I hit the steps and fell to my knees. Luckily I was going up! So I really did not hurt myself too much.

Her dog, Rue, started barking. And she yelled out, “Did you fall? What happened?”
“You turned the lights out. You tried to kill me for the 59th time!!!” I yelled back, while rubbing my knees.

She was sorry. And I forgave her. Something, I have been doing for along time. And I thought we were done. One death per weekend seemed enough.

But the weekend was not over. We still had the Chihuly Exhibit to see. The day time went fine. We went to Crystal Bridges by car, it was hot in Arkansas, and walked through the museum. We had a fabulous time. We both love the blown glass masterpieces designed by Dale Chihuly.

We had lunch. We visited. We got ready to go to the Chihuly Exhibit in the Forest. This is where we made our mistake. The museum is in walking distance from my friend’s house. So we decided to walk. We both love to walk and were used to walking a mile or two every morning.

But we did not check where the outdoor exhibit was located. We did not know that it was actually about two miles away.

And so we walked and walked and walked. Up and down paths, past the museum, up a hill into the Chihuly in the Forest exhibit.

We made it to Chihuly in the Forest, now we have to walk back!


We made it. We walked all around the paths. We saw all the wonderful Chihuly. But we realized we made a big mistake. We had to walk all the way home. And if we waited too long it would be dark. Walking those trails at night was not a good idea.   So we headed back before dark. We went back down to the Museum, through the paths, across the parking lots, up the hill, back to the streets of Bentonville.

In all we walked over five miles in the heat and humidity of a June evening in Arkansas.   And as we walked I moaned….”Now you are killing me by Chihuly. It wasn’t enough that you turned the lights off on me last night. This is the 60th time you tried to kill me. One for each year.   But I never expected Death By Chihuly.”

Needless to say, I lived.   And I loved the Chihuly exhibits. I learned where the light switch was in her home.   I guess I am always ready for another DAS adventure.

 

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2017/06/20/a-wonderful-gift-at-crystal-bridges/

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/10/07/oh-how-i-dream-about-ice-cream-in-the-catskills-in-the-summer/

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2017/07/22/the-big-snow-in-the-winter-of-1960-61/

The Big Snow in The Winter of 1960-61

22 Jul

Among my parents collection of photos and memorabilia were several little booklets of black and white photos called a Peek-A-Pix Album. When we went through their home, we sorted through the photos, and I took home all that looked important or interesting.   So now, whenever the mood strikes me, I take out the bag of photos and search through them.

Since it was 99 degrees outside today, I decided today was a good day to look at photos, specifically ones of snow. Why not?   It might cool me off!

I remember the big snow in North Bergen, NJ,  when I was five years old.   School closed. The roads closed. Dads could not go to work.   It was a wonderful holiday from life.   Even without these photos, I remember this snow storm.

I remember the work and effort to get into our snow clothes. I especially remember my sister. She was only 2 1/2 at the time. My Mom got her all bundled up, when my sister announced that she had to go potty.   Mom sent my brother and I downstairs to join our Dad, while she dealt with my sister.

Sliding down the backyard mound.

Ready to sled down the backyard mound.

The Dads were all very busy shoveling. Shoveling out their cars, shoveling out the walkways, shoveling out the streets. You really could not go anywhere. But all this shoveling created the giant mounds of snow that we could climb on!

I still remember climbing to the top of a giant mound of snow on Third Avenue. My brother, neighbors and I were all playing King of the Mountain. It wasn’t until we had been jumping and scrambling up this mountain for a while, that the green top of a car was exposed. The snow pile was so high, we were able to climb on top of a car! That made a major impression on me.

My Dad and my friend’s Dad, (they lived next door), made a giant mound of snow for us in the back yard. We could sled down from their back porch into the relative safety of their yard.   I have pictures of the three of us and our sled. You can barely make out our faces as we are so covered with clothes.

Mom and Risa 1960

My sister and my Mom…In the background the window where I almost died.

One of my favorite photos shows my Mom and my sister at the corner of the house. My sister is hiding from the camera. But that is not the exciting part for me. If you look closely you can see a basement window. That window almost cost me my life, one spring day, when my friend accidentaly pushed my head through that window.   Luckily the Dad’s were home. I remember my Mom standing upstairs yelling at me not to move, while the Dads went into the basement to figure out how to get me out without cutting my face. It was scary.   But as an adult, I am glad to see the window as in reinforces my memory. It really did happen.

I love seeing the backyards and all the old garages with their wooden doors. Each photo brings back memories of the cold and the snow. But most of all it brings back memories of the fun we could always have on Third Avenue. I know I will never forget the Big Snow.