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If you had a wish to go back and spend some time with anyone you knew, who and where would you like to visit?

I would think of two wonderful women in my family, My Grandma Ciero, and my Great Aunt Lorene.

My Grandma Ciero was the most kind, and gentle soul I ever knew. When I misbehaved as a child, may parents would usually spank me. My Dad would use anything handy and beat me hard depending upon how angry he was, a yardstick, electrical extension cord, or his belt. My Grandma on the other hand would not act angry, in fact I can not remember a single occasion when I ever saw her angry at all. My Grandma would be disappointed in me when I misbehaved. She would always say the same thing, "Oh you know better than that." When you think about the two contrasting styles of disciplining a child my Grandma's was amazing. It made me think that I was smart, good, and loved. The beatings my Dad gave me were accompanied by his vocal cursing and extreme dressing down. Dad's style of discipline would make me think I was stupid, hated, and unworthy somehow.

I was dropped off at my Grandma's very early in the mornings when I was on summer vacation from school. My summer days with my Grandma were wonderful. She allowed me a set number of hours to watch television, and then I would do puzzles, read books, accompany her and my Grandfather on visits to his sisters homes, and play with the neighborhood children.

It was an Italian neighborhood. My Grandfather's family came to America from Guardia Lombardi in the Italian Province of Avellino. My Grandmother was German with a smidge of Irish.I was a redhead with lily white or sunburned skin in a neighborhood that everyone had dark hair and tanned skin. Eventually a polish family moved in next door to my Grandparents. They had 4 girls, much to my delight.

My Grandma would make me a lunch that was usually a bologna sandwich on Roman Meal bread, with the little sweet pickles, and what she called corn curls, and a glass of kool-aid. The corn curls were really a snack named Jax, or cheese puffs.

At lunch time we would watch the game shows, like Hollywood Squares, High Rollers, Joker's Wild, and Price is Right. In the afternoon we would sit out on her front porch. There was an ice cream truck called Dairy Dan that would come and the driver would ring a loud bell to let the people know he was there to sell Ice Cream and Snow Cones. My Grandparents did not have enough money to buy me the ice cream treat everyday, so there was always a box of popsicles, fudgesicles, or creamsicles in the freezer for me to eat when everyone that could afford it in the neighborhood got Dairy Dan's Ice Cream Treats. I would love to spend a day as an 8 year old boy at my Grandparents in the summer.

Usually one day a week, I would spend the day with my Great Aunt Lorene. My Aunt Lorene was never married, and she lived alone on the third floor of an apartment house. She absolutely loved to have me for the day. I remember when her phone would ring, she had a funny way of answering it. She said Hello oooo. In a lilt that is difficult to explain in words, but I found it so cute. She would always tell whoever called "I have my young man visiting for the day". She spoiled me so much! There was only one hour that she would ask me to indulge her so she could watch her soap, Days of Our Lives. The whole rest of the time was for me to do whatever I wanted. Her house was like a toy store. She would babysit some other children, and have me and my cousin Carter to watch. Some days Carter and I were there together, but most of the time it was just me and Aunt Lorene. She was a real character, and she treated me as if I was an adult, and I loved it. She would tell me exactly what she thought of my other family members, and I would laugh.

She had one hallway closet that was filled from top to bottom with toys and games. My favorites were an Evel Knievel figure and motorcycle that you revved up and let go, a battery operated poodle that would walk, sit up, and bark, and a car that was powered by a propeller that I would race up and down her hallway.

Aunt Lorene was very crafty, and she had tons of art supplies.She made her own Christmas ornaments with styrofoam bells, balls, and other shapes covered in sequins. We would sit at a card table making these ornaments for hours. My thumb and fingers would be sore from pushing in the pins that held the sequins on the styrofoam. I remember making those ornaments and watching the talk shows with Aunt Lorene, like Mike Douglas, and Phil Donahue. I would draw with crayons and colored pencils. Sometimes in the afternoons we would sit on her porch. It was high up because she lived on the third floor, and it would take me 15 minutes to get used to being at such a high elevation. We could see the roof of a large garage that was originally a carriage house and barn, it had a second floor where she had some things stored. Behind that garage was a wooded area with a creek. In the warm afternoon sun, racoons would come up on that roof laying around and napping. I remember Aunt Lorene reading to me from a huge book of Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm. She also read poetry to me, and I remember her reading "Casey at the bat" with such inflection in her voice,
"Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville— Mighty Casey has struck out."

The apartment house had a decent sized back yard with a large weeping willow tree. I remember flying those little balsa wood glider planes in her backyard.
Aunt Lorene introduced me to a favorite lunch, and most every time I stayed with her I requested that she make it. Grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches, made with Cooper New York State Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese. They were heaven, and to this day I still make them and call them Aunt Lorene Sandwiches. With those we would eat ruffles potato chips with a glass of milk or Iced Tea. My Aunt Lorene had an incredible sweet tooth. She had tons of different kinds of chocolates and confections, most of which were from the Gertrude Hawk Candy Store. She loved coconut bon bons, assorted chocolate covered nuts, and those sesame seed sticks. She introduced me to Dark Chocolate. Until I had it at her house, I did not even know that there was anything other than milk chocolate.

I am eternally grateful to these two women that I spent my summer days with when I was very young. I would love the opportunity to tell them both how much I love them, and what a large part they played in making me the man I am. I owe a debt to them that I can never pay, and that makes me very sad. I wish I could express all of my feelings. You do not think anything will ever end as a child, nothing like death ever comes to the mind of a little boy. He always thinks there is time to spend with Grandma, and Auntie. Now I have these memories that dance in my head, as I think back on such joy and love that knows no bounds.
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John O Richards

April 2017

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