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Ree Remembers
by Rita Milo

There are so many things I remember about the "old days."  I was a true child
of the Fifties, born in 1954.  When Mattel launched its Barbie doll, I had
one of the first series.  Traveling on a NYC subway or bus was a treat, not a
combat exercise.   Radio City Music Hall was an awe-inspiring place; the
yearly trips to the Easter Show and the Christmas Show became pilgrimages to
a rich and musical fantasy world.  My mother wore lovely full-skirted
shirtwaist dresses around the house - the skirt like an upside-down hollyhock
- and always wore a hat and a special "church" outfit on Sundays.  Life was
full of special events then; we took nothing for granted and no one was
demanding.  It was all right just to be.  And to enjoy the pace of life.

The memories float by in my mind's eye like the images clicking on an old
Viewmaster (which incidentally I also still have): My dad's Cadillac Coupe de
Ville, in a soft powder blue with cream roof; how proudly he drove that and
how majestic that car looked!  My parents celebrating my First Communion in
May,1961 by taking me to lunch at a "ladies who lunch" restaurant called
Patricia Murphy's in Westchester.  I still have a pretty candle they bought
me from the gift shop - all pink and floral - and I still have the
photographs taken of me and my parents in the gardens for which the
restaurant was famous.  I felt so special and grown-up that day.  The photo
album yields snapshots of me, first with one parent, then the other, then
with both, their arms protectively around me and around each other's waists,
their bright white smiles.  They look like a movie star couple!  Who are
these glorious celebrities, my parents - I don't remember how young they
really looked and were, although they were in their 40's when I was born. 
Will my daughter say the same thing about me in years to come?

Going to the Cross County Mall (one of the first shopping malls in the US) to
either Gimbel's or Wanamaker's with my mom was always a special shopping
occasion.  She would go to either store's Charles of the Ritz counter and
order her face powder, which they mixed from scratch.  I was so fascinated by
the way the cosmetician measured each color of powder, mixed it, tested it on
my mom, adjusted the formula, and then filled the loose powder box (which
looked like a mini-hatbox), and then pressed a compact.  I can still smell
the fragrant scent of that face powder!  And I remember my mother getting her
lipstick "bullet" refill for her lipstick tube - and I seem to remember her
having a red lipstick that smelled like roses.  I don't really wear red
lipstick but I have one in my makeup box that has a scent which reminds me of
those days.  I remember marveling at this elegant being my mother was, that
she could have her makeup made just for her!

Neighborhood shopping trips were special too: getting an apple from the
greengrocer, a cookie at the bakery, watching my mother chat with each
shopkeeper.  And they actually delivered your purchases!  The only thing my
mom carried home was the fresh blueberry or huckleberry pie for that night's

I recall getting dressed up "fancy" to go out with Mom - white gloves, black
patent Mary Janes, freshly pressed dress.  And at special family gatherings,
my mother had a cocktail, never a "drink."  And having that cocktail looked
like a special, secret grown-up's ceremony.

I remember my mother and I having lunch at Schrafft's in Eastchester - my
mom's cup of tea and the glass of milk for me, which was brought to me with
the glass perched on a paper doily on a saucer.   I also remember her taking
me to the Automat, and handing me the silver change that was the open-sesame
for those little compartments.

I remember my girlhood Easter outfits, and the hats, and my little white
gloves and white or black patent leather shoes and little tiny matching
purse.  I remember my mom's great hats and purses - she had a high forehead,
beautiful brown-black softly waved hair, and wore hats beautifully; I kept a
few when I had to clean out her closets after she passed away, as I couldn't
bear not not keep them, or a few of her purses, and a velvet suit she wore
for Christmases.  I remembered and saved the flame-red size 4 chiffon dress she
wore to my cousin's wedding in 1962 - and she was 50 years old at the time
and wore very high-heeled black lacy pumps with it - and from the photographs
I still have, what a knockout she was!  And I have a dressy suit she always
referred to as her "Jackie Kennedy outfit" complete with pillbox hat. 

I remember the old-fashioned luncheonettes where you could get an egg cream
or a vanilla malted unlike any other; and no malted I've tasted lately can
match them!  There were small chocolate shops - Loft's, Barton's, Fanny
Farmer, with fresh candies nestled in their gold foil cups in a sparkling
glass display case; you pointed to the candies of your choice and the
saleswoman filled a box for you. 

Things were so special so long ago and those memories waft across my mind
like a fine scent, full of flowers and love.  When I look at the vintage
clothes I've saved, I'm taken back in time as if by magic, enjoying the
magical times with my parents, safe and secure in the love and warmth of the
memories of the dear loved ones I miss.   As I pore over the photo album, the
snapshots form a mental quilt in my mind, a tapestry of love that I hope to
pass down to my daughter and to my grandson.

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