Fairvale Revisited

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Dad borrowed a friend's Pontiac station wagon on Saturday for the three hour drive to Fairvale. It was tan and looked exactly like the one Mrs. Brady cracked up on The Brady Bunch.

Dad gave me a five spot and I walked to the bodega at the corner. I loaded up on Cokes, chips, and Twinkies. On the walk back I saw Dad put my baby blue Samsonite luggage into the wagon. As I crossed the street I caught his eye, and I could tell he was in an pleasant mood by the easygoing half-wave he gave me.

"Twinkies? Cokes? You're killing me, kid." Dad ruffled my hair and then laughed when I protested. I pulled my hair back with an elastic band from the pocket of my jean cutoffs. After starting the car, Dad adjusted the radio to a Motown station.

Dad and I always had a great time together. My friends liked to complain about their parents, but Dad's cool. Windows cranked down, the wind whipped through the car. We sipped our Cokes and sang along to Marvin Gaye and The Supremes. Before I knew it the hand-painted "Welcome to Fairvale" sign ushered us onto Main Street.

Dad drove past the houses, the electric company, and the local middle-high school. It looked much as I remembered it from my last visit. Fairvale and New York City were a study of contrasts. Instead of concrete and traffic, there were neat rows of tract homes and  yards. Kids in bathing suits ran through sprinklers. A lemonade stand was set up on a corner. A father and son washed the family car in a driveway. 

He pulled into the Getty station to gas up, and I got out of the car to stretch my legs, waving at the grizzled man that met us.

"How are you, Ozzy?" Dad asked the man as the gas pumped. Dad had grown up in Fairvale and Ozzy was a permanent fixture. We saw him every time we stopped for gas. 

"Can't complain," Ozzy said.

I leaned against the hood of the station wagon while they chatted. Idly, I watched the cars sedately pass by. Fairvale's Main Street was quieter on a Saturday afternoon than the street below my bedroom window in the wee morning hours.

I heard music pounding and turned to see a dented red Mustang park at the pump next to us. "Footloose" blasted louder when the teenage driver opened the door, three other boys waiting in the car. He was probably a good five years older than me with the bluest eyes I'd ever seen. I blushed when I realized he caught me staring, and looked away quickly. I could feel his gaze on my back.

Dad pulled some bills from his wallet and handed them to Ozzy, and I gratefully escaped into the station wagon, my eyes averted. Grandma lived a few blocks from Main on a quiet street, next to an abandoned house with boarded windows that hadn't had an occupant in years.

Grandma Laura was all right. I usually got along with her okay, but the last couple years she began making suggestions. She wanted me to wear dresses and get confirmed at her church. Luckily, so far Dad stood his ground. He insisted my mother wanted me to decide about religion for myself. He told Grandma I didn't have to go to church if I didn't want to. Hallelujah.

Usually, it's required I hang around for an hour once we arrive--until I'm awarded freedom. We'd sit in Grandma's hundred degree living room and I'd be allowed a tepid bottle of Coke while I listened to the adults talk. Grandma's couch was itchy and her house smelled like mothballs. I fully expected to spend the next two months putting in time with Grandma the warden, waiting to be granted parole.

Dad parked the wagon behind Grandma's Horizon in the driveway and got my suitcases from the trunk while I knocked on the back screen door.

Grandma Laura wore a print reminding me of one of Thelma Harper's dresses on Mama's Family.  Standing in the doorway, she squinted through her horn rimmed glasses as if she didn't recognize me.  I didn't think I had changed that much.

"Land of Goshen, you're grown up, Titania."

"I go by 'Tye' now, Grandma," I protested. Dad put the cases down behind me.

"What kind of name is that? Titania's silly enough, now you want to be called a boy's name! David," Grandma bellowed to Dad as she held the screen door for me to enter. "This young lady needs a Maidenform!"

A pair of adolescent boys playing frisbee in the street heard and guffawed uproariously, holding their stomachs and falling to the ground.  Mortified, I wished the sidewalk would open and swallow me.

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