Friday, April 05, 2013

NaPoWriMo #4: nostalgia

Drinks at the Christmas Café

The last half of my first grade year
we lived with my mother’s parents
their home overlooking Puget Sound
my mom, dad and four kids under seven
packed sardine-like
in a basement bonus room
with pine paneling and a dry bar

the liquor cabinet had been relocated
to safer climes upstairs
but the shelves behind the bar
remained populated with teacups
shot glasses, saltshakers, vases
crystal-hung candlesticks, figurines
and a porcelain Christmas tree
with electric lights

my family moved into a rental
before I started second grade
but by then I had already found my place
as proprietor and hostess extraordinaire
of the Christmas Café
open Sunday afternoons
with special sleep-over hours

in my little world within itself
patrons sipped their drinks
perched on woven-rope barstools
Stevie Wonder sang Sir Duke
on the transistor radio
hand-lettered menus announced our specials
(Cheetos and dry-roasted peanuts)
and the drink of the house
(homemade lemonade
garnished with fresh mint
and strawberries in season)
ginger ale and cranberry juice
available upon request

Nana gave me the run of her ornaments
tinsel, garlands and lights
kept me stocked in lemonade, peanuts, Cheetos
colored toothpicks and swizzle sticks
and in the off hours I cozied up to Grandpa
in the brown vinyl Barcalounger
watching NHL, Wild Kingdom
Barney Miller and ballet

when I was nine I learned
the meaning of passed away
saw a stranger in a casket
wearing Grandpa’s tie
with the watercolor seagulls
we still had sleepovers
but Nana got up early
cooked the eggs and bacon, while Max
their long-suffering German shepherd
wagged his tail, hoping for a handout

within a year, someone broke in
stole Grandpa’s distinguished flying cross
along with some cash and jewelry
Nana moved to a condo
a few miles away
and so ended the Christmas Café

a few years ago I was in town, drove by
the house is unrecognizable from the street
and I can only wonder
if it still has a bonus room in the basement
with dry bar and pine paneling.

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