My Aunt Nancy (not really my Aunt, but my mom's cousin's wife) passed away suddenly. I hadn't seen her in probably 8 or 9 years. She was diagnosed with cancer 2 weeks ago and before they could even start treatment she passed. Her passing has opened up a floodgate of my childhood memories. I realized that although our families had lost touch over the years, she is so ingrained in my childhood memories and I wonder how it is that we lost touch.
They lived two blocks away from my old house. She and my uncle Jimmy had one son, who I used to babysit when they would go to the Sabre's hockey games. He used to love me to put him on my lap, hold his hands bounce him up and down and say "bring out the Hellman's and bring out the best" and when I would say the word 'best' I would open up my legs, so he would 'fall'. I was probably 11 or 12 at the time. No idea how that got started, but he loved it. I wonder if he remembers that.
I became a big hockey fan through them and they would sometimes get an extra ticket and take me to the games. I remember loving that and after the games they would take me to this Irish bar in Buffalo where all their hockey friends would go. I would fall asleep in a booth while they laughed and did those adult things.
The funeral home was in the neighborhood in which I spent the first 13 years of my life. Lots of memories driving down the road. How many hundreds of times I rode my bike along those streets and how small everything looks now.
Past the 7-Eleven where I found my cat Trouble. Named because when I brought him home my dad said "that cat will be nothing but trouble."
Past mean old man Becker's 'farm', now gone and in it's place a whole street of patio homes. I never saw old man Becker, but his reputation was frightening. I remember he always had chickens and I used to think how mean could he be? he's got chickens! But I sure pedalled as fast as I could to get by his place.
Past the piano teacher's home who always left a basket of full-size candy bars on her porch at Halloween and everyone only ever took one.
Past the spot where the milk machine used to be. Countless times did I ride my bike down to get a quart of milk and bring it home in my little bike basket attached to my handlebars.
Past my favorite house - it was brick and stucco (so unlike all the other 1960 ranches that surrounded it) and had a big lot full of trees. Now only one sad looking tree was left and the house looked too close to the road and a bit neglected.
Past the (now closed) ice cream shop "Hansel and Gretel" where my sister Laurel had her first job. I was so proud to be her little sister. Everyone likes Laurel.
Past my dentist's office and I can still picture what it looks like inside and the smell of it.
Past the place where the bookmobile used to come. That was the best day of the week in the summertime. Ride our bikes and get out new books and make a fort from sheets and blankets clothes-pinned to the front porch railings and read the day a way.
Past the Convenient store where we would buy candy cigarettes that we would 'carve' with our front teeth into bedposts. And buy juicyfruit gum and save the wrappers to make gumwrapper chains.
Past the McDonald's that was just being built when I lived there and we would hang out the school bus window and shout to the workers "I'll have fries with that!" and the bus driver would yell at us to sit down.
By the time we arrived at the funeral home, I was emotionally drained. And then the full on reality that my cousin no longer has his mom's voice to hear and my uncle will go home to an empty bed and have to sort through her clothes and everything I was mourning for in the loss of my childhood seemed trivial.