When I was a kid, we spent a lot of time visiting family. Every weekend was spent with aunts, uncles, and cousins. Or someone’s aunts, uncles, and cousins. I remember visiting rural areas way out east on Long Island or the wilds of New Jersey. It was probably more suburban than what we were used to in the city, but in my little kid memory, it was farmland with grass and trees and swingsets. Very Waltons. When we eventually moved to the suburbs they weren’t quite so rural. I can remember sitting in this huge wicker chair with my baby brother. It’s probable that I’m remembering a photo, and of course being three or so everything was huge.
My father used to drive us both days of the weekend to Grandma’s house – Saturday to his mother in the Bronx, and Sunday to his mother-in-law in Queens. Both she and my mother worked on Saturdays. In the Bronx, when my grandfather was alive, he’d take me for walks down the city streets, sometimes in my stroller, sometimes holding my hand, stopping at the basketball courts where I can still hear the bouncing ball in my mind, and then turning around to go back to his building. They lived on Castle Hill Avenue, the same area that Jennifer Lopez grew up in decades later. My father and I got stuck in his elevator once. That’s probably one reason I do not like elevators very much.
My other grandmother had a house. it was attached to another house in a row of attached houses. She had a garage and a basement and a backyard that we could never use because it was so overgrown. I didn’t know the street names, but I could find it by the landmarks, turning right at the white fence and so on.
This was how everyone spent their weekends. One uncle, my mother’s brother would also bring his children even though he’d sit in the same chair and read the newspaper silently while his kids, my cousins visited their grandmother, my grandmother.
My great-uncle who was just called Uncle would visit my grandmother who was his sister and his mother, my great-grandmother who also lived there.
I grew up with his two youngest girls, twins, my best friends all through elementary school. We were one year apart. We went everywhere together. I was the third twin. We lived in the same garden apartment court and when they moved to Florida, my family moved soon after to Long Island.