Last night I was trying to go to sleep when suddenly I was struck by the memory of this little park Oma (my grandmother) used to take me to in Shawsheen, the neighborhood in Andover where she lived. It was like my brain suddenly dropped some random cards and I had to pick them up. In the process, I realized I remembered all sorts of details about the park, plus details of every other place in the neighborhood I used to go with Oma.
Going around in a circle, centered at the Aberdeen, the converted 1920s office building where she lived.
1. Little rectangular park. Just around the corner, up the street. Had some old playground equipment. I believe it was on land donated by some rich family who lived next door. I used to fly my "kites" there -- usually just pape streamers on a stick. I remember milkweed grew there and I would play with it. Oma would tell me how you could use the sap as a kind of medical treatment, though I don't remember what for. There is also a vague memory of one day finding some sort of wooden crate and filling it with something.
2. The liquor store. Yes, Oma took me to the liquor store, though not for alcohol. She would go and get her True cigarettes and for me, Chunky chocolate square and Tab. (As if I needed to be more hyper!)
3. The "waterfall" by the pond. Right across the street was a little pond. The only access point was this spot in the liquor store parking lot where you could see the water pouring down out of this concrete damn type of thing. To me, it was a waterful. Oma had previously lived in the Bronx for 50 years, so this was "nature" to her, too.
4. Shawsheen School. There was a public school up the street and the playground was fair game outside of school hours. I loved the animals on the springs. There was also the opportunity to see the pretty houses nearby and this one big trees that had been patched up with bricks.
5. Lawrence. This wasn't really "nearby," but more than once, Oma walked with me up Rt. 28 to Lawrence. We never went all the way into town, but only to certain stores. One of them was called "Julie - Wendy's" and I thought it was SO awesome it had my name AND sold candy!
6. Ice cream store under the bridge. If you headed south and turned at the car dealership, then walked past the railraod overpass, there was this little convenience store that, among other things, sold ice cream treats. I would get the Strawberry Shortcake treat, popsicles, etc. Mmmm!
7. Another rectangular park. This park was bigger but we didn't go there that often since a lot of times kids would be playing soccer or something there.
8. "The Little House." At the corner of Shawsheen Green is a little stone house. I don't know it's actual history, but it's basically an old stone house dating back quite a ways. Every time we walked by I would insist on stopping -- and promised Oma that when I grew up, I would buy the little house for her so she could live there.
9. Shawsheen Plaza. Up the hill about 1/3 mile was the big shopping plaza, basically one or the only strip malls / power centers in town. One place we would go was DeMoulas, the supermarket. Oma would always fill up her little cart or shopping bag with lots of dairy and sweets :) My *favorite* store, however, was always New England Stores, a five-and-dime that sold EVERYTHING, and what's more, really cheap. Oma always bought me stuff there, like little cheap toys, puzzles, art supples, etc. I even got my pet birds there. I loved that store. There were other stores there we liked like the clothing store where Oma bought me little girl clothes -- *new* ones instead of the thrift shop clothes Mom bought me. I was so spoiled.
10. The memorial park. There was also another little park, right by the building. It had a sculptural stone fountain that was dedicated to the memory of some family's dead daughter. They had bought the land in her memory. Oma and I would sit around there on a bench and I'd do things like play with whirlygigs.
This was all 1979-1981 when I was 5-7 years old (see my icon), so old memories that apparently are etched deep!
My earliest memory also relates to Oma: Looking out the venetian blinds of her Bronx apartment to the ugly parking deck across the street. I must have been 3-4.