I remember the excitement and anticipation that we felt when Daddy would say (as he reliably did each Sunday afternoon):

“Who wants to go to Grunning’s?”

With squeals of delight we scrambled into the back of his old station wagon that served not only as the family conveyance but more importantly, a humble workman’s pickup. Seat belts hadn’t yet been imagined, thankfully, so we climbed in via the tailgate, not caring if our clothes picked up the chalk dust of grout and ceramic shavings, evidence of the week’s artisanal labors. Daddy would roll the rear window down all the way, so that we could feel the rush of air on a hot, soggy, summer day, and watch with wonder, as the road slid away, disappearing into the distance, before our eyes.

We babbled incessantly about our sugarplum dreams:

“I’m going to get a double-scoop of Banana on a sugar cone, with jimmies!”

I was confident that my decision was perfect and my previous dalliances with Butter Pecan and Black Raspberry were securely behind me. I don’t recall what Eileen or Matthew, opted for, but they too had their favorites, and we competitively extolled the virtues of our choices.

The thirty-minute drive from Orange to South Orange was fascinating, as we marveled at how ‘rich people’ lived, their well-manicured terraces spreading out like plush carpets in front of huge mansions.  Daddy would drive by way of Llewellyn Park, a private section of West Orange, home to Thomas Edison and “…many other famous people”; where Dad had done some bathrooms and kitchens. With flair and pride he, like an impassioned tour guide, would give us the ten-cent tour, as he deftly maneuvered his junky, old, station wagon up and down and around the hills and private estates of Llewellyn Park.

Miraculously (or so it seemed to us) he’d find the ‘secret shortcut’ (egress onto Mt. Pleasant Ave.), and head over to Wyoming Avenue (the widest street we’d ever seen) to South Orange Avenue. Then, the ultimate decision: Grunning’s in the Village (left turn) or Grunnings on the mountain (right turn).

It’s remarkable that so many decades later, my senses are easily awakened by stopping in a charming ice cream shop in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. Again, I smell the lush, green, freshness of wide open spaces, as I leaned out of the rear tailgate.  I relive the sights, sounds and smells of Grunning’s so long ago.  And of course I remember licking my banana ice cream, in an attempt to slurp it up before it melted in my sticky hands.

Vivid images come flooding back from the deeper recesses of my mind. Wistfully, I am transported to another place and time and for a moment, I relive the innocence and happiness of those Sundays with Mom and Dad and Eileen and Matthew.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Vivid

11 Comments on “Vivid

  1. This is a lovely essay. Nice imagery and sensory descriptions. I found this via a writing prompt link one of our editors found as we’re always looking for strong literary works; we are an online arts and literary magazine and you can see our latest issue, as well as writing features, on our site here:

    If interested, please email me at referencing this post’s url. Hope to hear from you,
    Sandra Tyler
    The Woven Tale Press


  2. A trip to the ice-cream shop .. what a wonderful memory. Here we had so little of that.. I do not think that ice-cream by the scoop became available until I was grown up. All ice cream I had came in packages.


    • Yes – wonderful indeed! Though on hot summer nights when the Good Humor Truck (Ice Cream Man) came to our little street, the neighborhood was instantly filled with screaming kids running into their houses to ask parents for a nickel or a quarter to buy ice cream. Our street was transformed from a stick ball court/bicycle park to a line of orderly kids of all ages, patiently waiting their turn to get packaged ice cream.


  3. What a a wonderful post! Brought back memories of my childhood when dad would drive, mom would ride shotgun and my 4 brothers and I would fight over position in the back of the station wagon before we all headed out to do “tummy ticklers” up and down the hills near our home – ending up at the local Dairy Queen for chocolate dipped vanilla cones 🙂 Small pleasures, great memories.


    • It’s comforting to know that I am not the only one with these memories. It’s remarkable how much pleasure we derived from these simple things. I’m sure our parents didn’t realize at the time that these special moments were being indelibly etched into our hearts and memories. Thank you for sharing.


  4. This post brought me to tears. What a flood of memories! The current decade of drives through those very streets, back and forth to gigs at daycares in Irvington, the Oranges, Maplewood. Recent decades– Emack & Bolio’s with our kids when little, in Orleans, Mass (their blackboard menu is identical)– and long-ago memories of getting many a ten-cent tour via the bumpy open back of Dad’s pick-up truck. Thank you!!


    • Thank you. I am glad that my observations resonate with others. I, like many in our generation, was the first in the family to go to college and to be economically more secure than our parents. Sadly, that may no longer be the case. Thanks for your comment.


  5. Very good! And, your descriptions are vivid. This awakened some memories I have of childhood. We also road in the back of a truck…going on a “joy ride” to nowhere. 🙋


    • I guess it was normal back in the day. We thought it was, and we are happy to have had those experiences. Thanks for your comments.


  6. You said it so well, like you were inside my mind, with the exact same memories. Things we will never forget. Loved it so much


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