Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Mom and Pop take a few hours off together

My parents worked at the store, seven days a week, from 9:00 am till 2:00 am every day for 365 days a year. One of them was always at the store.

The store or Magazi, which we always called it, was an ice cream parlor.
It had a long counter on the left side when you walked in with about ten stools. There were stained glass Coca-Cola lamps hanging along the counter (Coke was in my life from an early age). On the right were the candy display cases and the cash register. The cases were full of Pop's hand made candies and some packaged boxes of chocolates, I think Schrafts. In the back were two sides of double booths, maybe twenty in all. In the far back was the kitchen, where Pop made his chocolates. We served soft drinks, ice cream concoctions and sandwiches; the hottest food we served was a grilled cheese sandwich. It had a tile floor made of tiny black and white hexagonal tiles; a nice old-fashioned look, with circular fans and two big display windows at front.

We managed to have dinner at home as a family for a couple of hours pretty much every day, except weekends (much too busy at the store).

Mom would take us on holiday to the Greek hotel in the Catskills, Kallithea for the first week and Pop came the second week to be with us. That was it, two weeks in the summer; this pace went on for years.

The store was the center of our existence. I did my homework there, used it as a base for my friends, kept my Schwinn there, played out front, did my drawings at the first booth, the one the family used. Pop proudly displayed them around the store.

In the evenings during the summer, Pop would go for a swim at about 6 in the evening. He always smoked a cigar. He would swim around the Steeplechase pier with it lit all the way. He had a strange stroke, on his side that kept the cigar in his mouth lit. He called it “his Australian crawl”. When he got to the shore, he would stand on his hands, to keep his feet sand-free and walk on his hands to his clothes.

I have tried it and the cigar always gets wet, and goes out. Forget the walking on your hands to your clothes. I concede that to you Pop, but I will manage the lit cigar.

Many of the Asia Minor Greeks that lived in NY would come out on Sunday. They seemed to have a desire to see the sea; they would sit on the boardwalk and stare at the sea longingly.
They would come to the house later and Mom would have food and drinks for all. She never knew how many would be there, but we never ran out of food Fish, meat, vegetables and every Greek dish you could imagine.

Every now and then, one of their friends would insist that they joined them for a couple of hours on the beach, together, Mom and Pop, a rare occasion. I am still amazed at how hard they worked. I never heard them complain.

I wonder how Pop learned to swim with a lit cigar, where did he find the time.

Try it. It is almost impossible.

Forget the walking on your hands to your clothes,
that is really impossible.

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