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.