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Looking Back to the '60s-The Comfort of Memories During a Family Crisis

Dealing with my brother's stroke has put me firmly in the present.

The aftermath of my brother’s stroke has put many things into perspective. When nature does a whammy on us, we’re riveted into the present, and suddenly life takes on a certain poignancy that may have been dormant.

Who am I, and what I haven’t done? Am I the person I want to be? Is there something missing from my life? How can I recapture it? Perhaps our childhood pleasures are the answer.

Maybe we can’t relive our youth in its entirety, but those things that gave us joy as children are still there, perhaps waiting to be rescued from the annals of our mind, especially in times of duress.

Growing up in Studio City provided so many wonderful experiences for me. Lately, these memories have become particularly important.

Your first crush-Was it at Carpenter? Perhaps it was at Walter Reed, or North Hollywood High when you felt like your heart was made of helium, moods soaring and then cascading when your hopes and dreams weren’t met. The memory of a long-lost love works wonders on a battered soul, especially when you find them on Facebook!

Noodles-My mom used to make noodles with butter and pepper when we were growing up. It wasn’t a fancy dish, as we didn’t have much money, but it was one of my favorite meals. I used to hug her hard whenever she made them.  I’m surprised I didn’t crack one of her ribs.  Even today, I revel in the memory of this delightful dish. What marvelous meals do you remember?

Going to the beach-A trip to the beach was a wonderful excursion, with eight of us packed into our old beat-up Ford.  There, we’d ride the waves at Sorrento Beach, dig for sand crabs, or create sandy mansions on the shore, until they were demolished by the rising tide, and we’d have to start all over again.

Walking down Laurel Canyon Blvd.-We’d always head to Thrifty’s to get a burger at the counter, or to get a cheap ice cream cone. The summer days would swell with heat, and what better pleasure than to cool our palate with a hefty scoop? If we were on the playground, the chime of the Good Humor Truck always announced the arrival of many cool treats to tame the sting of summer. Back then, a simple ice cream cone conquered all.

Playing in the gully-We were fortunate enough to have a deep ravine at the end of Pacoima Court. There, we would spend countless hours immersed in mud, dirt clods and ivy.  Together, we would create an army of stories, where we’d conquer tall monsters or some other enemy.  We’d use the broken eucalyptus branches as swords as we stabbed Godzilla and watched him fall into the muck. Then, we’d recount our victories for days to come.  Maybe you’ve got one more Godzilla to conquer? I know I do.

Playing sports-Back then, most kids delighted in some sort of play, whether it was team sports, hopscotch, or simply running toward nothing.  The abandonment found in physical activity brushed away all problems, even if only for a minute. I miss the freedom of unplanned play and endless hours of pure adrenaline. Maybe it’s time for me to play more games with real people instead of Words With Friends on my computer.

We baby boomers are on borrowed time.  Some call it the dark side of the moon. Others call it the back nine. I’m trying more to embrace today, in whatever fashion I may.   

In fact, after I finish this column, I’ll be heading to the beach. Maybe I’ll even build a sand castle or two. 

Yvonne Westover March 21, 2012 at 02:22 PM
Wonderful article that invokes all sorts of good memories...some worth reliving a d others carefully hidden away.
Mary McGrath March 21, 2012 at 02:24 PM
Ah, the memories of that first crush...Didn't we all fall hard that first time?
teresa mcgrath March 21, 2012 at 03:52 PM
hmmm my post didn't take again...one more time....such fine memories mary...thx for the great article....the gully holds the finest memories....we'd build forts with dennis, and hike for eons...we would dig up some dirt, put it through a discarded screen, and try to sell it as "soil"....hahahha
Andy Steiner March 21, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Meatloaf. Hungarian meatloaf differs in that it's usually a mixture of meats, beef, pork and chicken in the case of my Mom's. Plenty of grated onion and bulked with a panade of french bread and milk that keeps it moist. But what really makes it different is that instead of a loaf, it's shaped into patties, coated in bread crumbs and fried in a skillet. The next day, cold, it's perfect for a sandwich. As a stagehand in the mid 1970s, I used to frequent a diner on Burbank Blvd. near Vineland. It was run by a Czech and his wife. That man cooked a perfect egg and had the best home fries. He always had a wide variety of meats for breakfast besides the usual suspects of greasy pig meats. One day I walked, took my usual seat at the counter and sniffed the air. I could swear that I smelled my mother's meatloaf. He was just off to my left working the egg pans with his back to me. I sniffed again and looked at all the cooktops and counters. Sniffing again, I finally spoke the Hungarian word for meatloaf... fasírt? He turned to look at me, his eyes beaming, a smile forming. Reaching down, he opened the oven door. Baking away, getting ready for the lunch rush was an entire sheet tray of fasírt. I hadn't eaten a home made meal from my mother in about 5 years. But that smell, oh THAT aroma was so firmly imbedded that it took me back to my childhood. And that breakfast took me home where I asked my mom to teach me how to cook my favorite dishes.
Mary McGrath March 21, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Oh, what poignant memories Andy! That dish sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing.

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