Grandparents can have a terrific influence on their grandchildren. In my case, it was my
grandmothers that held that distinction. They were very special to me and have colored how I look at life. Sadly, I don’t remember my paternal grandfather. He died when I was only two years-old. My maternal grandfather (PopPop) was a busy, over-worked physician who was either tending to his patients or playing golf. So, I didn’t spend much time with him.

My maternal grandmother was a nurse and a very practical, no-nonsense type of person. My sister and I would visit her in Golden Beach, Florida during our Spring vacations and in the summers. She and my grandfather lived in arguably the smallest and most modest home in that neighborhood at the time (which now-a-days boasts multi-million-dollar mansions, but not back then.) It was a family neighborhood where children ran freely in the streets, happily rode their bicycles and played in the local, small park which housed a few swings and a sliding board. The local police were our friends and knew every family by name. The sleepy Florida township had no significant crime of which I was aware. It was a safe place. The good humor man came every night and a large truck delivered tin cans full of potato chips and pretzels to us once a week.

Golden Beach lies between the ocean and intracoastal waterway. It is situated between Sunny Isles and Hallandale Beach. (or for those of you not familiar with Florida’s southern coast, between Miami and Ft. Lauderdale). It has its own private beach which is reached by crossing over A1A. Residents reach the ocean by entering through an open-air, roofed structure that we called “the pavilion.” (Today Yoga and painting classes are held there.) In my day, it was an area to escape a sudden downpour or get out of the sun for a while.

I have wonderful memories of going to that beach. My grandmother Momo, my sister and I would lug our beach towels, sand toys and picnic lunches for the two and a half block trek to the ocean. Momo always carried a bottle of Seabreeze in her beach bag. I don’t know if people use it much anymore, but recently I saw it on a shelf in CVS and it brought back so many happy memories. Momo truly believed that Seabreeze was a magic elixir that cured everything from acne, mosquito bites and even painful jelly fish stings. Her fall back position was that if Seabreeze didn’t cure what ailed you, the salt water from the ocean would.

The three of us would spend most of the day on the beach, chasing sand crabs, building castles and searching for shells. When we found a Conch shell, perfectly intact (which was quite often) we were ecstatic. Sunscreen was not popular back then so sunburns were a regular occurrence.

(Again, Seabreeze to the rescue) After many hours of swimming and soaking up the sun, we’d gather our belongings and trudge home, tired and hungry, but exhilarated from the day’s adventures in the sand. My sister and I would take turns using the outside, cold shower and then run through the house wet and naked looking for our clothes.

Momo’s tiny house had what today is referred to as “an open concept” floor plan. The center portion was one long, narrow room running from front to back. There were no walls delineating the living room from the dining room or the Florida room. A small kitchen was set off to the right. Two bedrooms and one bath were on the left. The house had no air-conditioning, no dishwasher and no clothes dryer. Momo would hang the sheets, towels and clothes on a line in the back yard, to dry. With the open floor plan, there was no place for my sister and me to hide or do anything naughty. We couldn’t even sneak a cookie without her seeing. She watched everything and ran her home with an iron fist. When she said it was time for supper or for bed, my sister and I complied, with no arguments. Momo was the absolute boss of her domicile.

In spite of its size, magic happened in Momo’s small kitchen. She was a plain but excellent cook. She didn’t believe in preparing fancy dishes or wasting unnecessary ingredients. What she made was delicious, comfort food and we always wanted “seconds.” Her specialties were hot, sticky buns for breakfast and home-made, chunky vegetable soup. I still treasure those recipes. Her Christmas sugar cookie recipe has been lovingly passed down to her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Whenever the Christmas holidays arrive, Momo’s sugar cookies magically appear on all our family’s tables. Those cookies and the memories associated with them are a tribute to a wonderful woman. I hope she knows how much I loved and respected her.

Until my next inspiration…ciao.


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