Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Grandmothers, Dutch & Cuckoo

August 26, 1968, Narrowsburg, New York.

Dear Mom & Dad, Camp's Great! I made two friends yesterday and they only hid my eyeglasses for three hours. Tomorrow they are going to show me how to make a splint for the arm they broke for me.

Love, Sonny Boy

Scout Camp was getting to me. Heat, Mosquitos, Counselors. Every day, we were forced to sit down for a half hour and write postcards. Didn't matter whether you had anyone to write to, during that half hour, you could do nothing other than write in your tent. The first day I wrote two postcards, one to my Nan Dutch and one to my Nan Cuckoo or Kook for short. I was 14. This is embarrassing, let me explain the names.

My mother's parents name was Ryan. They lived on York Avenue between 85th and 86th Street. They had a backyard off the kitchen of their first floor railroad apartment. The Ryans next door neighbor had a German Shepherd named Dutchess. I called the dog, "Dutch."

My father's parents lived on York Avenue between 83rd and 84th Streets. Their name was Pryor Rode, you know second marriage name plus first in front. I couldn't pronounce the two names, so I called them Nan and Pop "Cuckoo" because they had a beautiful cuckoo clock in their kitchen.

The nicknames stuck. My parents got a kick out of this, so did the Ryans, not true with the Pryor Rodes. I remember a conversation between Nan Kook & me when I was around 6 yrs old.

"Tommy, you know I'm a big lady and your other nanny is not so big, so why not call me Big Nanny, and call your other nanny, Little Nanny, OK?"

"That's silly, your Nanny Cuckoo!"

My grandmother ran her hand through her hair and that was the end of that.

Here's the first postcard. They're both widowed at this point.

Dear Nan Dutch, I miss you, please send me two bundt cakes with lots of powdered sugar. Camp's great! We swim every day. love, Tommy

Here's the other one.

Dear Nan Kook, I miss you, you miss me? Camp's great! please send me a lot of cans of Bumble Bee tuna and a ballpoint pen this one's running out of ink. love, Tommy

On the Saturday after we arrived at Ten Mile River on a Sunday, I get a huge box in the mail with two bundt cakes in it. "God bless, Nan Dutch!" And a smaller box with six cans of tuna. "I Love you, Nanny Cuckoo!" Holding a can of tuna in my hand it dawned on me, we had no mayo and there was no mayonnaise at the post to be bought, these cans were useless, i forgot to ask for the Hellman's, tuna is cat food without the blue label condiment. Upset, but still happy about the bundt cakes, I put them under my bunk and covered the cakes with the box they came in.

We went for our afternoon swim in the lake. An hour later, we got back to the camp site. My tent looked like it had a stroke. I looked into the opening, and saw a humongous raccoon with half a cake in its mouth splitting out the backside of the tent. I hate camp.

photo above, compliments of Gerard, Mickey Mantle playing first base in his final summer in Yankee Stadium (1968).

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