Aug 21, 2017

31 Days of Gratitude: Day 21

Day 21: Mrs. Schwartz

It was pretty common in the 1950s and early 60s for Catholic churches to raise funds through a summer carnival. Our church parking lot/school recess lot was too small to host one, but Blessed Sacrament Church, farther away from the city, held one and I really, really wanted to go. My brother had ridden his bike there the year before and spent most of the fall taunting me with stories of cotton candy, the ferris wheel, and zeppoles.

By the following summer, I was 7 and determined to go. The problem was that it was too far to ride my bike at night, my parents had no interest in going or giving me a ride, and had a complete and total lack of understanding of the importance of the carnival. They weren't mean; it was just that back then their lives did not revolve around their kids' happiness. My father didn't get home from work until almost 8 at night, 6 nights a week, and my mom pretty much kept to herself in those days. So when I asked if they could give me a ride to the carnival, they just said no and moved on.

The carnival was 4 nights in August and when school ended in June, I set my mind to figuring out how to get there. But there was no point getting a ride if I didn't have any money to spend at the carnival. So my friend Carol (not her real name) and I decided to sell magazines door to door. We gathered magazines by asking our moms and the other neighbor ladies if they had any that they didn't want. Bingo! We ended up with about 25 magazines and decided to sell them for .10 a piece. That way we would each earn $1.25 and that would go along way towards financing my night at the carnival.

Carol and I put the magazines in a wagon and pulled them from house to house. Most ladies were nice and just said no, but Mrs. Callotti (not her real name) accused of us of trying to sell stuff that we had just been given as gifts. We backed off fast and kept running, hiding behind the shrubs of a house a couple of doors away, exhausted and laughing.

We decided to skip the rest of the houses of the ladies that had given us the magazines and headed across the street, which was sort of foreign territory to us. We went first to Mrs. Schwartz's house. There's always a mystery house in the neighborhood; people who don't quite fit in. In our case, it was the Schwartz's because they were the only house without kids. Mrs. Schwartz didn't sit on her front porch after dinner watching her kids play ball in the street or stand in the driveway shouting for her kids to come home for dinner.

All we knew about them was that, in addition to having no kids, they had potato chips delivered once a week! The Charles Chips truck would pull up and the man in a uniform would carry two big tins to their front porch and take away two empty tins. When I asked my mom why we didn't have potato chips delivered, she told me that people with no kids had a lot of money for things like potato chips.

Carol and I headed up the walk to the Schwartz' door and rang the bell. Mrs. Schwartz came to the door and was wearing a dress and had her hair done, just like Donna Reed. So this is what ladies without kids looked like. We politely asked if she wanted to buy any magazines, gesturing to our collection -- only ten cents each! She asked us to wait. Carol and I looked at each other hoping to sell a few magazines, but Mrs. Schwartz came back with 5 one dollar bills and bought out our entire collection for twice our price. Bam! We each had enough money for the carnival.

We jumped up and down thanking Mrs. Schwartz and she asked us what we were going to do with our money. The carnival we shouted!

And then I said, "except first I have to get a ride."
"Well," said Mrs. Schwartz, "I hope you get to go."
"Oh I'll figure out something. Thank you Mrs. Schwartz!!"

And back home we went.

That night my mom came into my bedroom where I was reading before going to sleep. "Did you ask Mrs. Schwartz for a ride to the carnival?"

"No, honest. But we sold her magazines just like I told you."

"Well, she called and told me she has always wanted to go to the carnival at the church and asked me if she could take you. I said yes. So behave and don't let her pay for anything for you. You have enough money."

And so Mrs. Schwartz and I went to the carnival. She wore white pedal pushers with a blue and white polka dotted sleeveless blouse. Her hair was swept up off her neck and held with a barrette. She looked like a movie star to me. We each bought our tickets for the rides and I told her she had to get a zeppole. She had never heard of one! We ate zeppoles and cotton candy and ice cream and finally, at 10:00, we went home. By then it was dark and the lights on the ferris wheel and the other rides sparkled like it was Christmas, only it was warm outside. As we walked to her car, I could hear the noise of the carnival and I thought that there couldn't possibly be a better night.

I saw Mrs. Schwartz after that, just to wave hello. One day a moving van pulled up and I asked Mrs. Schwartz why they were moving. She asked me to come in, and in her little living room was a bassinet with a tiny baby wrapped in pink. She introduced me to Barbara and told me that they had adopted her and were moving to a bigger house. I asked her if the Charles Chips guy would keep delivering to her new house. "No," said Mrs. Schwartz, laughing.

Mrs. Schwarz wasn't a mystery to me anymore. She was a mom, and just like all the other ladies in the neighborhood, she had traded in home-delivered potato chips for a baby.

Thanks, Mrs. Schwartz. Thanks for buying our magazines and for the carnival. I'm grateful even now for that special night. Hope you and Barbara and Mr. Schwartz lived happily ever after.

19 comments:

  1. cannot tell you how much I look forward to your stories. this one with the home delivered chips and the carnival is maybe my favorite!!

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  2. *Love* - What a precious gift she gave you!!

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  3. what a lovely story - and a wonderful memory! i had entirely forgotten about Charles Chips - when Don was stationed at the Pentagon we had them delivered and i kept that tin for ages (it was like light yellow and brown).

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    1. really? I never heard of anyone getting these except for the schwartz's!!! it was yellow and brown for sure.

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  4. I too enjoy your 31 Days of Gratitude stories. Methinks there's a book in there....

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  5. And you've inspired me to write my own gratitude stories. Or at least think about them: What or who would I write about? Hmmmmmmmmmmm

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    1. the process of thinking about what I am grateful for has been life changing. and yes I will write about that! would love you read your stories.

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  6. This brings back such memories for me....we lived similar childhoods in many ways and I can relate to every bit of this, all the way down to the Charles Chips truck and the Catholic school fairs. Great writing -- thanks for sharing.

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    1. it still cracks me up to think folks had chips delivered, but now everything is delivered!

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    2. It was my older brother who had the chips (and the hard pretzels they sold) delivered to his first floor bedroom window! He had gotten a job at the golf course and decided to use his newfound wealth on snacks but was not so inclined to involve the rest of the family...thus, the private delivery arrangements. Seeing that guy knock on the window on the driveway was hilarious!

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  7. What a wonderful story and what a wonderful woman to take you to the carnival. When we were little my Grandmother had a carnival in the field behind her house. I loved to sleep with the window open and listen to it at night. I don't remember going; I will have to ask my sister if we did.

    We had neighbors growing up that used to buy from the "Awrey" truck. It was big and brown and they used to write the specials on it with white paint that could be washed off and repainted for the next day. We did get milk delivered for awhile; but then it got too expensive.

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    1. what a great memory. i think the sounds of a carnival at night are magical!! we had a milk man, a vegetable truck and a fish truck for awhile. then everyone got cars and the rest is history!

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  8. Oh Joan, there are so many gems in this story. I absolutely love your storytelling and these gratitude posts are the best. I'm grateful you made it to the carnival. XOXOX (P.S. I have fresh baked bread delivered to my condo each week... by bicycle.)

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    1. thanks Meg! ooh bread delivered by bicycle?? awesome

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  9. What a wonderful, delightful story! I've never heard of Charles Chips and can't imagine home delivery of anything other than dairy which we did get back in those days. We either lived on a farm and produced our own everything or lived in a small outlying town. We moved a lot, actually. Seemed like my dad was always running away from something or running to something he never reached.

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  10. Loving your series, as well. Charles Chips is a great memory - thought they were only in the midwest! I have childhood memories of sneaking into the can to eat chips - so good and salty! :)

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