The palpable chasm between a fond memory and the present is the definition of nostalgia.
Today I thought of the milkman.
It was a train of thought that started with me thinking of second grade, then I remembered Englewood, then I recalled the day they opened La Lecheria, Garden State Farms. Ultimately, by free association, I thought of milk and milk made me think of…well, the milkman.
Immediately, my mind was flooded with a host of memories that could easily fill my personal buffet table of nostalgia.
As I chuckled and held back happy tears (the older I get, the more sentimental I become) I thought of my Abuela Nina’s porch and the battered aluminum box where the milkman swapped out the rounded top bottles with fresh milk on delivery days. For some odd reason only known to writers (who notice and file away everything), I recall the lid was broken and it just sat atop the metal box, barely closing it. I remember trading out the ’emptys’ and pulling the delivered, fresh milk on winter mornings – cold from the Jersey winters and delicious to the taste right from the boddle (before it became warm cafe con leche).
Nina’s porch on winter days also braved the elements and had a rusted metal swing chair which took on the chill as well. It was hard to just sit there for it was like being embraced by ice.
But sit there we did as we enjoyed our winters, our summers and every season in between.
Every child should have the opportunity to have a near perfect grandparent and I was blessed to have three who influenced my life (I never met my Abuelo Manuel who died in Cuba).
The memory of Nina’s porch took me on a journey this morning where I recalled meeting my other grandparents, my mother’s parents, when they made their way to the states from Cuba (by way of Spain in the seventies). My Abuela Maya was a perennial party girl. She could hold her own at any social function, dancing, laughing and having a great time. Abuela Maya was also a lover of spirits (and I’m not talking about the Holy kind).
Maya loved what she called ‘Espagetti Americano’, boiled pasta with a just a little marinara over it. She always wanted me to make this for her and for my Abuelo Valero. As a teenager, I would ride my bike to my grandparent’s apartment and I would cook dinner for them. We’d eat, they’d tell me stories about Cuba and I got to know them for the people they were. Not having grown up with them, we didn’t share this immediate connection. By the time they both left this world, much later in my life, I am proud to say, they were both my grandparents and they certainly knew who this grandson of theirs was on his way to becoming.
My grandparents have passed on now, but I think of them often and I’m grateful they each had a hand in lending their affection and influence in my life. Memories of them, unlike the ’emptys’ that could be exchanged on delivery days in the battered aluminum box, are permanent and everlasting in my heart.
And while the Milkman no longer delivers the goods, today he delivered an entire shipment of happy thoughts just for me.