Sauntering Down Mt. Royal Avenue: The Origin

18 Feb
My grandfather, me and my cousin Danielle.

My grandfather, me and my cousin Danielle.

Yes that is me crying.  I didn’t want to take any pictures and it was my nap time.  You’d be cranky too.  For those of you that have been following the blog (by choice or by force for that matter), you’ll recall that I’m a bit nostalgic.  I’ve been meaning to write for the past few days, but nothing much has been happening, of any interest to you guys anyways so I figure I’d let you into some more of my childhood. So without further ado…

Really and truly, my grandparents house should have been a scene straight out of a book.  Before I elaborate further, I’ll provide the setting.  My grandmother’s house is set on Mt. Royal Avenue.  Vagrants were commonplace and for good reason.  Adjacent to my grandparents house was Cleso’s Bar.  That my friends, is what we call cause and effect.  The house itself was one of simple means and to this day has raised many different generations.  There was one air conditioned room for those hot summer days which was simply known as “The Cold Room.”  Not to be outdone, there was also a “Play Room” which stored all of our toys and books.  The Hanna’s were given a gift for gab.   Across the street was a Chinese food store that my cousins and I knew intimately, John Chea and Sons #9 was the name.  The number was indicative of how many stores were on the island.  Even back then, the Chinese were taking over.  As a kid this area was a world unto itself, that needed exploring and it is here that my cousins and I were raised.

The two main characters were my grandparents.  While there are probably many adjectives out there to describe my grandmother, the best one that I could come up with is eccentric.  She’s very prim and proper and as a result, this was instilled in us.  We were to refer to all adults by “m’aam and sir” and if we didn’t there were normally grave consequences.  To a child, standing in a corner is the equivalent of a lifetime jail sentence.  To this day, I think my grandmother had a short term memory problem.  Everyday during the summers, we went to Mr. Chea for items for my grandmother.  The process itself was simple.  She would make a list, we would get what was on the list.  That cause and effect thing again.  But while this was a simple procedure to some, my grandmother had a way of making this into the most complicated ordeal known to man. As soon as we would return from Mr. Chea, she realized that she had forgotten something.  It would be fine if this happened once or twice, but this too was a daily occurrence.

While my grandmother was a woman of many words, my grandfather was a man of few.  His day primarily consisted of sitting out on the front porch and watching the day go by.  Occasionally someone would honk their horn to say hi, and my grandfather would extend his hand to acknowledge and bellow out “Alright.”  And just like any other man, he had his vices.  While my grandmother would send us to the store for everything under the sun (and above it for that matter), my grandfather would send us for three things: a case of Coca Cola, a pack of Rothman cigarettes, and Murray’s Mints.  The fact that they sold cigarettes to a kid barely old enough to count is another thing, but more on that at a later date.  My grandfather started smoking much before I was born.  As I understand, he was a painter who hated the smell of paint (ironic much?), and began to smoke cigarettes to mask the odor.

While he never spoke much, I enjoyed hanging out with my grandfather.  Sometimes I would go sit out on the porch with him and he’d pat me on the head and smile.  We would sit there in silence.  If he waved to someone, I would as well.  I didn’t know them but it felt like the right thing to do.  I especially enjoyed when he would get together with my father and other men and talk. Because he spoke so little, it seemed like every word was monumental.

I remember sitting on the porch with him after school one day during my parents divorce.  For whatever reason, my cousins hadn’t arrived yet.  During that time I had a lot going on for an eleven year old.  You wonder if your parents will reconcile, you have questions and despite my parents saying that I could talk to them about anything, you never really want to.  I’m sure it was a difficult position for my parents as well, how do you explain a divorce to an 11 year old kid?  There was so much to be said but no one to convey it. It’s a pretty scary feeling.  Out of the blue, I remember him telling me whatever happened, that both of my parents loved me a lot and that things would be okay.  That was it.  Nothing more, nothing less.  I wanted to ask him how was he so sure, but for whatever reason, I didn’t and we just sat there.  I didn’t realize just how loud silence can be. I guess sometimes less is more.

I’ll share a little more in a few days.  Stay tuned.

One Response to “Sauntering Down Mt. Royal Avenue: The Origin”

  1. traceyraimondo February 19, 2014 at 1:48 am #

    Dear Little Brother, who knew that in that little head of yours there was such a fabulous writer??I totally loved your post and could relate to it in so many ways… It made me really miss Daddy and I wish my girls got the chance to know him…..

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