The Wise Novelist

Love Long Weekends – Memorial Day

This Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer (actual start date, June 21st –

Back in the Bronx, this is the weekend when the RNH Pool opens, and everyone who didn’t have a summer house in LI or NJ, would stake out their tables with their coolers and towels and toys, and kick off the summer splashing in the icy and highly chlorinated water of the RNH Pool. On the adjacent baseball field, there would usually be kids baseball games in the morning and adult softball games – with a mandatory keg – throughout the rest of the afternoons. Many of the members would barbeque in the designated areas so there was always the smell of roasting meats interspersed with the ubiquitous sweet scent of sun block spray and lotion.

For a stretch in the 90s the younger adult parents of my generation had afternoon volleyball games, which led to lots of funny stories, shit-talk and unsupportable bragging.

There would usually be a small concert or party at night held on the RNH premises. The adults discretely drank their alcohol from thinly disguised bottles or cups, while their teenage children did all their drinking less discretely in the PS 81 woods or Mush Park. The more daring older teens drank openly in the adjoining Courts after sundown.

Beginning when I was a child, and right up until I moved out to Colorado, each evening of this weekend, my family would usually stage their own bbq at the McCaffrey compound just down the block from RNH. Blood and adopted Clan members would arrive at some point during the three day cycle to sit around dispersed among the back yard tables, benches or porches situated between the adjoining houses, eating, drinking, ball breaking, bullshitting, laughing and gossiping till they got too tired and called it a night. The real Clan members appeared all three nights. Most still smelled of Chlorine from their day at the pool.

We would take the time to catch up with each other’s lives. Celebrate the wins and console the losses. Toast the living and the dead. Seek guidance from the communal brain trust. Ask for or offer help when and where needed.

We made the time for each other.

Everyone who made it to those bbq’s would kill for each other.

Mike Moulton always sat like a Sultan on Spaghetti’s bench right in front of Spaghetti’s Tulip Tree.

The family Merlin, Ferd Beck, who bore a striking resemblance to Charles Montgomery Burns from the Simpsons, would regale the crowd with stories that rivaled James Joyce’s Ulysses in tangents and complexity.

My mother always ended up unintentionally doing something that would get the crowd roaring.

If we were lucky, there were no emergency phone calls that required trips to the ER or the 50th Pct. We were rarely lucky.

I miss that. The feel of the Clan around you. The stories. The laughter. The neighborhood. The Family.

This weekend will be quiet. Lisa and I will split our time taking care of chores and projects. I’ll spend a lot of time around Claire, Honey, Blue and Jeter. We’ll probably interact with our dispersed human family and Clan on Facetime. Talk a little shit, just for old times sake. Maybe go out to eat, or order in. Binge watch some TV series. Maybe sit outside on the back deck and watch the night sky – assuming we are still awake when darkness falls.

And given that it is Memorial Day weekend, we will remember the fallen, those that serve in our military and as first responders. And thank them for allowing us the luxury of a lifetime of fine memories.

But now I have to start my day.

A kitty to cuddle, rounds to make and a dreadmill that won’t take no for an answer.

Then chores.

You fine, five readers go out and enjoy the weekend.

Have your bbqs, go swimming, play ball, engage with family and friends. Live.

And take that moment to remember why we call Monday Memorial Day.

But most of all, make today a great one.

3 Responses

  1. Very nice Mem Day piece, Tom. Thx for putting some perspective on the “holiday happiness.”

  2. Petey: I’ll always remember the stories you told about your Dad’s holiday escapades with John Philip Sousa and the flags waving. It’s those little moments you remember.

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