Shopping in New York

A Trip East

By Diomedes | Robert O'Reilly | 23 Apr 2023



1*VZlZxIJr1MViGLVdimL4VQ.jpeg Sanita And I and Amaris, with her usual pensive face.

But back to my story. In August I took Sanita, Norma and the kids on a real vacation, a two-week trip East, three weeks for Norma and her children. She’d never had the money for any vacation since I’d known her and hadn’t seen her parents in Tennessee in fifteen years, and they likewise had never met their grandchildren. They were a large and fairly affluent family with something approaching a mansion on a small lake all to themselves, with a boat house and dock.

She had five siblings, I think, but they stayed near the home nest, as they all visited us while we were there. Norma must have been the odd-ball, perhaps even a runaway to California while still a teenager. I never asked, but all grievances were now long forgiven. This was easy to tell by the warmest greetings exchanged, all-round. So this reunion was long overdue and I was happy to facilitate. We flew first to New York City and stayed two nights at the Chelsey hotel, a little run down but rich in history to me, (Dylan Thomas and Sid Vicious dying there) and right downtown. We saw the sights, walking all day long, shopped, bought trifles, and dined out.

On this trip to N.Y.C. I noticed the first hint of some aberration, or lack of common sense, in Sanita’s behavior. She disappeared from the Chelsey hotel right after we arrived. I took a shower and when I came out she was gone. Norma and I began looking for her. She wasn’t on our floor. In the lobby the desk man said he saw her leave. We started wandering around looking for her, wondering why she didn’t tell us she was going out. After half an hour we became anxious and worried. Then we found her in a cheap and dark bar down the street, in the very back with two guys and two beers down the hatch, telling us with a smile she was leaving with them for the night.

In utter amazement we pulled her out of there by both arms and back to the Hotel. At the time I merely considered this a case of her extremely low tolerance for alcohol and poor judgement when drunk. But she wasn’t drunk when she walked into the sleazy bar without telling us. That was an early sign of something wrong in her head, which later years would prove.

Next we took a train to Burlington Vermont, where Norma’s grandmother lived, and who’d not seen her since she was a teenager. She had a large old house and was in good health. She was delighted with our visit, her great-grandchildren first met. She prepared us a fine dinner for our overnight stay, the dining room table spread with an embroidered tablecloth, the silverware, porcelain plates and lit candles to match. The centerpiece of our fare that night was a large roast beef.

Now Norma was a strict vegetarian and had been since moving to California in her hippy dress and backpack many years before. She’d brought up her children in this same strict diet, though I’m sure Amaris, at her age, had snuck out many times with her friends for a hamburger. But Daniel, at six, was still pure. Norma, not wishing to upset her grandmother, the occasion being so special, made no mention of her ways and we were all dished up on fine china large slices of the rosy beef along with dollops of mashed potatoes covered with gravy.

I knew the situation, nudged Sanita and we turned our eyes to Daniel. He stared at the plate in front of him with the widest eyes, looked at us in wonder then following our cue took his knife and fork, cut a piece of the meat and put it in his mouth. He chewed it for a second and then burst out loudly to the whole table: “Mom, this is the best food I’ve ever tasted, the best food ever”. He was in visible rapture. His Grandmother took this as a nice compliment. Sanita and I snickered. I don’t know what convoluted thoughts went through Norma’s head. I’m sure it was complicated but she kept quiet. Daniel devoured the rest of his meal, so did Amaris. So much for vegetarianism. I doubt he stayed one.

The next day we went by train to Niagara Falls for three days to visit my relatives.

My sister Janet and her husband Bob and their three boys had visited us at Norma’s a month before, as I mentioned my tattered books sent back with them, untouched, unwanted, by thieves. Now they could return them the favor of a place to stay while Sanita and I moved in with my mother in her guest bedroom. It was all restaurants and sights and large meals, Norma now giving up any pretense to controlling Daniel’s diet and he in meat heaven.

Next, we booked an overnight train with two sleeping compartments to Atlanta, a twenty-hour trip, where one of Norma’s sisters picked us up and drove us to Birdsville, Tennessee and her parents southern style home on the lake. They had a large, happy family, the brothers and sisters all grown up and living in the nearest cities for work, except Norma, not seen by any of them in over a decade, the prodigal daughter returned.

The house had many spare rooms and the reunion was one continuous celebration. Her parents were cultured southerners, extremely polite and thanking us over and over again, Sanita and I, for bringing home their wayward daughter and grandchildren for a long visit. They knew she had no money and assumed I must be rich. But I told them Norma and I had been dear friends for over eight years and that I lived with them briefly when Amaris was five. We spent hours talking, telling stories, I tried water skiing for the first and only time with her brothers and did tolerably well. We flew back to S.F. after a week but left Norma and her children there another week as they had so much catching up to do. It was an excellent vacation for all.

September, back at Norma’s was a month of tidying up affairs, packing things, and not a few parties in the East Bay saying goodbyes. I can still see the sad face of Amaris standing in the driveway as we got in the car, crying her eyes out as Martin was about to whisk us to the airport. I left much at Norma’s but took a collection of rare books to my mother’s, dropped off on our way to Toronto to fly to Paris. We took one suitcase each and ten thousand dollars in cash. We had no plans except to enjoy France, with a ticket back to Canada a few days before Christmas.

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B.A. in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkley. Writer, Blogger and retired Electrician.

Robert O'Reilly
Robert O'Reilly

I am educated in the Western Classical Tradition, B.A. from U.C. Berkeley in Latin and Greek, English major, one year at U. of Toronto, studied under Alain Renoir and Northrop Frye, read most classics full time for many years after university in French, English, Latin and Greek to the modern day. I am interested in the near future of technology, what changes it imposes upon our heritage and character as humans. Short stories and Essays are my medium.

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