Grandparents, on my mother’s side, were Scandinavian. One from Denmark, the other Norway.
Careful observers can see all of this in me. The blond hair, blue eyes, Nordic complexion. Not.
I can’t recall who was which, and it probably doesn’t matter. As a kid, all I knew was that each spoke “funny” and said “Ja” a lot. Which was close enough to “Yeah,” so I understood.
My Grandfather was a sturdy, stocky guy. Traits I also failed to inherit. He had a tremendous mop of hair, though, and which I did inherit. (Thank you.) And kept every last one of them until the day he died. White. But complete.
After his arrival in the U.S., he settled in the ordinary-named Plainfield, NJ – well before it became a kind of bedroom community to Manhattan – a 45-minute Jersey Central ride away. Plus the time on the Elizabeth Port ferry.
And he took up residence at a grand estate. Big, three-story house, plus full basement and attic. Three or four terraced backyards, grape arbor, ferns. Everything.
Of course, he did not live in the three-story house. He was a stable hand. So he lived in the stable. With the horses.
Years later, the stable was converted to a garage. So big, it accommodated three huge cars (and there was no such thing as a “compact” back then), plus an enormous motorboat on a trailer.
The stable was as big as most people’s family homes. Full second floor, hip roof with dormers on each side.
Pop-Pop – who makes up these names? – later progressed from stable hand to trolly man, eventually becoming the streetcar’s engineer. It was the American dream; and it was real. He finished his career as a mechanic at the Mack Truck factory.
Mack’s bulldog mascot and he seemed somehow similar, I always thought.
I remember him as a pretty good guy, though I don’t think I knew him for more than eight years. And, for most of us, those first eight are kind of a haze.
Named (middle name) after him, I suspect he was honored by his only daughter’s choice.
Pop-Pop and Nana were immigrants and Depression people. Which means they skimped and saved and sacrificed. Thanks to them, I graduated from college with no debt.
But I did have to work while in college. The AV squad, showing 16mm films in classes to bored students and out-of-words teachers. ID-checker/bouncer at the campus pub. DJ at a local saloon. And, on weekends, home to work with the neighbor doing my first profession: roofing. Lots of roofing. I had a great tan, and way earlier than anyone else. Though only on my back.
One of the last roofs I put on was the one above the stable where he had lived. Seemed right.
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