Last week my wife Nina and I were at Della Terra one of our favorite spots Los Angeles. We enjoy Della Terra because the food is great and the service is unhurried; it’s where we go when we want to get away from our regular routine but don’t want to travel far. At one point, as we mapped out plans for future adventures over a casual dinner, I noticed my wife’s attention had shifted from our table and was focused on someone or something behind me. I stopped talking and gave that “We’ll are you going to tell me what’s going on?” look to Nina who said: “That mother and daughter are wearing cool matching vests?”At first I was hurt that she found matching vests more interesting than our conversation but as I saw them sit down a few tables to my right I noticed they were fabulous vests…and then something happened, I stopped paying attention to where I was and started to think of Long Island on a snowy day in 1982.
In the winter of 1982 my parents had been split up for only a short while. My mother, brother, sister and I were living in a basement apartment where we mostly played Atari and ran around like maniacs. Freed from her relationship with my father my mom was trying to balance the hard work of raising three kids on her own with having a little fun. Since we were poor this usually meant improvising some fun at home like roller skating in the house or drawing cartoons on the walls. Most of the time we’d adjourn to the one room in the apartment where we were allowed to say dirty words and swear our heads off. Yeah, it was a magic time even if we barely had money for school lunch and warm clothes. The lunch money issue could be dealt with by bringing food from home. The clothes issue was manageable since we lived 100 feet from the school and running could keep us warm.
On a snowy day that winter found ourselves in a bind: school was closed and my mother had to work. The woman who lived upstairs could keep an eye on all three of us kids in morning until someone could get to the house to watch us but she had two kids of her own so she just opened the door to our place and told us to come and go from her place to our apartment as we pleased. My sister took her up on her offer but my little brother and I headed outside to throw snowballs at cars, which we believed was the best thing life had to offer. The problem was we didn’t have coats; between the two of us we had a sweatshirt and a vest and it was cold. My brother came up with the idea: one of us would wear the sweatshirt AND the vest until the other one got cold too cold and then we’d switch back.
I thought of these memories, which I had forgotten for nearly 30 years, in a matter of seconds as the mother and daughter took their seats. I shared the story with my wife who is always amused by absurd moments from my childhood and impressed by the fact that I’ve grown up to be a normal adult. I always tell her that I grew up just fine because I never thought my life was different from anyone else.
After dinner I thought about my brother who knew that keeping us warm one at a time was better than both of us freezing. As far as brothers go mine is top-notch and always has been, especially when it comes to helping people. Many miles away from my home in Los Angeles, my brother and his wife are expecting another child. Their baby boy is due in the summer but at the first sign of cold weather my brother will surely give the shirt off his back to keep the baby warm. Hopefully someday soon we can all get together, throwing snowballs at cars will be optional.