Flashbacks of people and events that have touched my childhood hover before my eyes, particularly during the holiday season; commonplace and ordinary incidents, but as extraordinary as an unexpected kiss. I feel the onset of tears for the loss of those moments in time, moments that will never be relived except in the part of the brain reserved for activating nostalgia. The smell of that special hot apple pie with its burnt around the edges brown crust, preserving the taste of butter and cream cheese - that special dessert my mother baked as she watched me greedily gobbling up my first slice fast enough in order to eat 3 more slices before it was all gone - a behavior I have still not outgrown.
Getting my head stuck in the apartment’s protective window gates - valiantly trying to catch a glimpse of the lone tree on the block’s newly budding leaves; my head squeezed between thin rusty iron bars until my beloved Omi (grandmother) came to the rescue, her strong rustic hands pulling the rods apart. And the time the same temperamental Omi, while babysitting for my sister and me, when my parents were at work, having experienced some unknown slight to her sensitive psyche, decided to turn on the oven and stick her head inside - a dramatically perverse gesture, one that was nullified by the fact that she first opened all the kitchen windows.
Walking hand in hand with my twin sister at 3 years of age - barely getting one skinny foot in front of another - tripping and stumbling off to Mrs. Lang’s kindergarten where we would draw and hear stories of the blonde-haired Roxanne - a name I still treasure - a vision of a princess in braids giving me an exhilarating reason to dream. My first crush, I am sure.
This was an antidote to Max and Moritz and Heinrich Hoffman’s 1845 classic Struwwelpeter - the darkly humorously illustrated tales that were read to us at home - wild and rebellious children who incurred brutal punishments for their misdeeds. I remember mutilation with scissors figured prominently as did other grotesque humiliations. Strange that my parents, refugees from Nazi Germany would impart these Teutonic morality tales on their children.Being a very easily frightened child, at night after the requisite milk and cookies, I would pull my cover sheet and blanket so tightly around me that I was barely able to turn around, in order to prevent any other presence from entering into my bed. On the other hand, my more robust sister would tricycle around with abandon - much braver and happier shrugging off the effects of visions of children being baked into pies, etc.
On a lighter note, Sundays were spent at Fort Tyron Park - where there existed the largest hill I had ever seen - we would begin at the very top rolling down the grass, over and over, a never-ending flight over greenery - a trip into the carelessness of oblivion. And then off to The Cloisters - a frightening Palace of sorts - dark and dank - the beauty of unicorn tapestries and wooden sculptures took me decades to appreciate, finally getting over my fear and fascination with this medieval treasure.
And the end-of-the-day ice cream treat - black and white popsicles bought from the man with a cart filled with goodies, watching the melting chocolate-covering slide off the white creamy interior, quickly licking away before it dripped all over what I was wearing - a sensual and satisfying respite to the day’s activities. A memory I cherish.