Friday, February 12, 2010

Night Hobbits

When I was five and my brother was three, Thursday nights were our night with Dad. Mom was a waitress at Mother's Pizzeria, and on these nights, she worked the late shift. It was up to Dad to feed us, bathe us and get us to bed.

Thursdays were sacred. After dinner, Dad would bundle us up in our snowsuits (this memory begins in winter) and we'd walk to Jac's Milk, our corner store, to pick out three snacks each. The walk was epic, a journey which left us worn out. In going back now, I'm reminded it was only two short blocks, the length of our street, then a short jaunt to the store, but when you're five...

These special nights, walking along moon lit, snow-covered sidewalks holding Dad's hand, he regaled us with stories of the snowbanks. It was said that under the piles of snow at the ends of driveways, the Hobbits lived, so we were not to jump on top of them. I thoroughly believed this, and in my mind were vibrant pictures of warm parties. Under every snowbank, a gathering of Hobbits, singing and dancing around a roaring fire. To this day, I cannot hear of Hobbits without thinking of their snowy warm homes.

Kookoo Bars, Ring Pops, Cracker Jack and 99 cent grab bags containing giant suckers painted with white flowers. The store was so big and offered so many amazing treats to choose from, we were literal, joyous kids in a candy store. Jac's Milk is still there, and just as tiny as ever, with just as tiny a selection as ever, alas, I was five.

Walking again, the epic journey home, and into the bath, into PJ's and suddenly it's summertime in my memory. So hot in our shared, attic bedroom, we'd run to the window and stand naked on the ledge, fans blowing at full tilt at the foot of our beds. Dressing, and bounding downstairs to the den, we'd settle on the scratchy yellow couch, with our candy, The Muppets, Fraggle Rock and Bill Cosby.

As years passed, the den would eventually become my bedroom, as my brother and I outgrew our shared attic, but Thursday nights remained. Then we moved. The Hobbits grew faint, we had a new candy store and we had air conditioning. One summer evening, I sat alone in my new livingroom, as Dad and my brother laughed at the TV down the hall. Staring at a picture of myself in my old yard, homesick tears blurring my vision, I just wanted to go home, back to Jac's Milk, back to the yellow couch and the fans. I had no regard for my candy that night.

However, it wouldn't take much to interest an eight year old, and Dad was clever. I was lured back into the TV room, and back into smiles, with the promise of a new show about an alien, who ate cats, named Alf.

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