On those snow-covered roads of the 50’s and 60’s, the drive to my grandparents was always unforgettable. It seemed that the roads were hardly ever plowed, and there was no salt – just those coal black ashes mixed with tiny pieces of metal that would puncture a tire at least once or twice each winter. The trip to their house really was over the river and through the woods, as we crossed the old wooden plank bridge, and started up the back roads to the park, where they lived.
Dad was not shy about winter driving on snow drift covered roads. As we slid and crashed through the white stuff on those old, back country roads at breakneck speeds, he would laugh as if nature was just something with which to play. Rear wheel drive in those clunky old 50’s cars was just crazy fun, as the Buick turned into a high tech, machine powered sleigh. We would drive into total isolation where no unchained car had gone before us and thrill at making those first tire tracks in that freshly fallen snow. Mom would always be yelling, “Be careful, Charlie, don’t go too fast,” but he just laughed that baritone laugh as he put the pedal to the metal.
After our snow driving fun, we would have our snow playing fun as we romped and rolled in the snow in our grandparents’ yard. That could go on for hours or until our blue jeans were completely frozen. Then we walked like icicles toward the heat of grandma’s kitchen. We were so cold that even our long underwear was frozen. In fact, we looked like cold, hard kid-cicles. Once inside we would peel off layer after layer of wool and cotton until we were down to our frozen long johns.
Our grandparents’ house was a place where we were surrounded with more fun, love and craziness than a kid could ever imagine. Oh, and food? There were pots and pans bubbling and jumping on every burner of her old gas fired stove; spaghetti, meat sauce, home grown vegetables, cookies, and every type of Italian fruit or vegetable. In the middle of the table there was always a bowl filled with black gold, those wonderful fat, black olives that became candy to me. When the spaghetti was finally put on the table it was in a serving dish that reminded me of a soup bowl for Jack and the Beanstalk’s Giant. It could have been a bassinet for triplets. There had to have been at least two or three pounds of specially cooked pasta just waiting to become part of our collective muffin tops!
After we said grace (during which Grandma could be heard mumbling in Italian under her breath), Granddad would pass the wine around the room to all of the adult males at the table. His philosophy as he poured his homemade wine from the gallon jug was that warmth, laughter, love and fun came from the fruit of the vine. Throughout the entire meal, they would drink and laugh and sing to the tune of those carefully-cultivated grapes. I loved the lighthearted, happiness of those meals. We never talked about anything serious and if anyone tried to bring up a serious category, granddad would do something just plain crazy like dump his peaches into his coffee cup, and my Grandmother would begin her ritual, a ritual that she surely seemed to enjoy as she scolded him by yelling out, “Patsy, Patsy, you gonna make-a da boys be bad!” He would smile with that knowing smile that seemed to say, “Oh, they’ll be bad, alright, but not because of tonight. It will be because they have my genes!”
We loved the hugs, the love and the laughter. We always left there feeling that total nonjudgmental, complete love that only a grandparent can give.
It was all about that love.