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Ten Twenty Nine

October 16th, 2018 by Magdalena Tabor

Image result for apron on clothesline winter

They live there still. Behind the old wrought iron fence that bellied out punctuated with a chorus line of rosettes. Beyond the gate there were double glass doors topped with a transom window, the numbers 10-29 stenciled in gold. This was the address of the families living there. Six apartments, six families, three stories high, most of whom were related one way or the other to the landlord, an amiable, often absent Cousin Joe.

We kids had the run of the place, racing up and down three flights, including a cellar. We hosted marionette shows from the second floor landing, dangling Barbie Doll wanna-be’s (mom thought the real version too risque) attached to twine trapezing the hallway on the main level. There were dark polished oak bannisters we slid down ending the trip with a hearty thwack on the tailbone hitting the newel post. These activities were rivaled only by our numerous trips to the cellar which led to a backyard. However, it was the cellar that most held our attention, a mysterious world just beyond the steel door that easily swung on its hinges.

There was an assortment of storage bins held together with wooden slats that curious eyes could peer into behind the padlocked doors. In ours, heavy wooden steamer trunks that were filled with delicate glass Christmas ornaments once belonging to a grandmother I had no recollection of. Closer to the holiday, one might glimpse a gift or two hidden by unsuspecting parents of nosy offspring. But the most vivid of these memories was the thick pungent odor of red wine in the making.

Wooden crates were delivered every so often and deposited at the cellar steps, the recipients of whom were my mother’s two old uncles. They were the proud owners of a working wooden press and a collection of huge wooden wine barrels. The process of procuring the potent serum from the plump unassuming fruits was eagerly watched by three or four wide-eyed children. In its time, the special reserve was tasted by the grown ups and met with nods of approval and grunts of satisfaction. We children could only wonder what all the fuss was about.

Our taste buds were instead tantalized by the glorious aroma of vanilla almond cookies magically assembled by my mother. The ghost of that experience must still linger in the air as I can swear I smell them whenever I happen to think of it. If I never ate another thing, it would have to be one of those, melting on the tongue, eyes crossed in heavenly bliss.

From our second story window, dime store Christmas glittered on the glass, matching the sparkling coating of frost accumulating against the pale brick brownstone outside. Under the halo of light from the old-fashioned street lamps, diamond dust flickered in the frigid night air.

A floorboard creaks in answer to what I can’t let go of. The long gone tenants at 10-29. The two old uncles. Cousin Joe. My father. My uncle. And now my aunt who passed just this morning. I see her in a vibrant red sweater 1960 something. I see them all in their prime. Happy in their routine. Pressing wine. Washing clothes. Aprons on the line carelessly flapping in the breeze stiff with cold.

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