There's a recurring thought that goes through my head, an image, as clear as any could be and it's from a very long time ago. For some reason, I reflect back to a childhood memory and see my grandmother. She's alone. She's sitting in the dark. She's swept away, into a world that is so beyond her front door and it's not the first time. She practices a ritual, one that I have come to find out was not all that unique for her time and place. Her eyes are wide as large images are projected in front of her, allowing her imagination to soar and her heart to be filled with love, perhaps even pure lust at times. Once in a while, she invites me to join her, to accompany her on the short journey, and we board the elevated train together, filled with anticipation as we head toward her afternoon delight, and together, we enter her world of darkness and silence as we wait for the screen to light up and the "coming attractions" which will usher in the new matinee. In Winter, I nestle my head on the sleeve or her muskrat coat. In Summer, we sit up straight, both sleeveless in cotton. We're at "the show" and for as long as I shall live, I will remember those times.
It wasn't always clear to me, why Grandma went to the show, all by herself, or why she never referred to her forays as "going to the movies". Nor did I always understand the plots and scenes but I will tell you, that watching Lawrence of Arabia with her was a most amazing experience. I loved every minute and I'm sure she ate it with a spoon. Wow. Talk about a gorgeous man with an exciting life and the scenery, the desert, the longing......for water of course. I could not have been more than twelve years old and she was a happily married house wife after all. Worlds apart from the projections on the screen, miles from her home which, coincidentally, was located on Hollywood Avenue in the Bronx.
I often think of my grandparents and the world in which they lived as young people. I know they came from lives of poverty, from towns in Italy that offered them very little hope for their futures, sending them across the sea after parting with their loved ones, in search of the better life that they eventually did find. My grandmother made that trip when she was a beautiful fourteen-year-old. Her fate was sealed when she met my grandfather and married as a very young woman. For the rest of her seventy three years, she lived her life in accordance with his wishes and they took good care of each other. They never relocated from Hollywood Avenue, the home in which they raised their children. They returned to their birthplaces in Italy only once during that life time and kissed the ground when they returned to the states.
My grandmother's world was a small one, her education incomplete. Her wisdom, amazing, making me only imagine what kind of a life she might have had were she able to attend school beyond the day she left her home for America, fully developed as a woman. Self-satisfied and fulfilled.
And, as I grow older, I think more and more about those who went before me, about their lives and wonder what they might have thought about today's world, about technology and the many things we take for granted. And I wonder if my grandmother was alive today, would she need the weekly escape to "the show" or would she have found a life of her own. Would she have saddled up her camel and ridden off into the desert or would she have returned home, washing Grandpa's socks in the sink, just as she did every morning? I wish I could sit in the dark with her just one more time, to press my head against her fur sleeve and spend two precious hours with my wonderfully wise grandmother, together, at the show.