Sunday, July 30, 2017

Memories of Summers Past

See that hot looking Italian chick in the middle? Yep, that's me! I was about 15 or 16 years old at the time. The girl on the right is my best friend from the age of 13, also named Barbara. On the left is Carol, sister to the one who is taking the picture, namely Connie, the third member of the Three Amigos. The picture was taken, so I am told, in Central Park. I have no memory of this particular picture but I do know that one summer we spent a great deal of time in Central Park. All of the English rock groups that came over to do the Ed Sullivan Show on a Sunday night (it was all live in those days, folks) always wanted to see the famous New York City Central Park while they were over on this side of the pond. Hence our presence there as well ... plus, you met some cool regular dudes.

Another summer memory came to me the other day as I was in the grocery store. I was holding a fresh fig in my hand and suddenly I was transported back to my cousin's garden out on Long Island. I couldn't have been more than 8 or 9 at the time. In the late 50's, Long Island was still in the process of becoming the suburban capital of the world. The GI Bill had allowed men returning from the war to purchase brand new homes and Long Island was sprouting new home developments like weeds. My cousins lived in the town of Plainview, in a development that was so new you could look out of the back windows and still see farmers working in their potato fields near by. My older sister and I would take turns spending a week each at their house in the summer, and my cousins, both girls around our own ages, would come to Queens so we could take them into the city sightseeing.

My attraction to their house was all the open space and, especially, their garden. My Uncle Vince had a golden touch with vegetables and the tomatoes we picked were still the best I have ever eaten even now. They were so juicy! You had to hold your hand under your mouth or it would drip down your chin! The greens were crisp and tasty, and the garlic was robust, but what I loved the best were the figs. Uncle Vince had brought a fig tree back from Italy when he last visited his mother (these were the days when you could bring plants back from Europe without an Act of Congress) and it was thriving in his garden. I don't think I have ever tasted figs so meaty and delicious as the ones from his tree. I have even gone so far as to spend a small fortune for fresh, organically grown figs in a health food store, and they never did compare from the ones that he grew. I think what I learned from him, besides what a passion for gardening looked like, was that when you grew things with love, they just tasted better.

Wow, so many memories, so many years gone by. It's funny the things we remember, like hanging out with our best buddies, or tastes, sights and smells from our childhood. How I wish I could bring them all back. Luckily, I still get to keep in touch with my other two amigos via Facebook as they live on the opposite coast. Sadly, my uncle passed many years ago. One of my cousins also lives in California but the other one lives just a few hours north of me here in upstate New York. The last time I saw her was for a surprise birthday party my kids threw for me a few years ago. We stayed up late into the night talking about those summers we spent together: chasing fireflies, running through the sprinklers, visiting new places together ... and tasting love.

Memories don't get any better than that, folks.

And so it is.