When I was in fourth grade (maybe 1987?) I received this tape cassette for Christmas:
O-M-G. Possibly the BEST album ever (well, that was my 4th grade opinion). And my poor family had to endure a 3 hour car ride to Grandma & Grandpa's house on Christmas day with the song, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" on continuous play. Since I was a normal elementary aged child, I wasn't particularly concerned with the wants or needs of my fellow family members and I was probably pretty adamant on the musical selection being Whitney. (Well honestly, someone had to be--or Sister would have probably picked "Raffi" and the parental unit would have tried to kill us with the super new technological sounds of "Mannheim Steamroller". Whitney was the clear choice, right?)
And even though my three travel companions weren't exactly thrilled with my new Christmas gift, I knew that my grandpa Arv would be delighted to hear my new tape. I remember him telling me that he loved Whitney Houston-- and just as I had hoped, he popped that tape into the double tape deck downstairs about two minutes after we waltzed through the doors. And, the poor man even agreed to attend a dance concert (I use those words very loosely here) in his basement later that night. --I'm sure we probably charged some coins to attend this awesomeness-- though he might have wooed us with sugar cubes instead-- he was always sneaking those home from his office and letting us munch on them when we came to visit. (And for the record, I'll kill my dad if he lets Charlie eat sugar cubes at their house.)
Anyway, although I don't remember too many specifics, I remember laughing hysterically as Sister and I jumped around "dancing" to Whitney's new album. The music was cranked, we were "dancing", and Grandpa was singing along as he watched the "show" from his burnt-orange swivel rocker chair. (I'm pretty sure that was the chair.) The fun and high I experienced that day was so memorable to me as a kid-- I know I'll never forget it. Yet I wonder if my parents even have any recollection of this "event" that I cherish. There was just something....magical about it to a child. The Christmas season-- specifically Christmas Day, being with my grandparents, great music, and lots of laughing--things that occupy a special place in a kid's memory bank.
I've only mentioned my paternal grandpa, Arv, a few times in this blog. While I vividly remember my grandfather, my memories are tinted with "kid lenses" because I never knew him as an adult. I think of him as the very tall man with the very big shoes who let us clunk around in them whenever we came to visit. He was the guy who let us eat sugar cubes and let us endlessly "ride" the elevator at his office. He was the man who drew fantastic doodles of horses, the man who let me order only sausage patties (no pancakes) at McDonald's breakfast. He was the man who drank lots of coffee, did lots of crossword puzzles, and had an alarm clock that went off really early in the morning. He unexpectedly passed away when I was only fourteen, so in many ways, I feel that I didn't know him as well as I would have liked. Slowly, however, family members have shared stories and tidbits about my grandpa with me as I've grown up, and in some ways, I feel like I've gotten to know a man that I didn't really know.
And while I'm not a believer in "looking down on us", I have to admit that I do love the idea of a Heaven and often times find myself kind of 'believing' in that possibility. But honestly, that kind of belief is similar to the way that I still believe in Santa Claus-- meaning, I don't really believe it to be true, but the idea itself leaves me with a nice, warm, happy feeling which, most definitely, is true. My true belief is that eternal life involves living on through the legacy you leave behind and the memories you create with loved ones. Reflecting on this as an adult, I realize that a person may leave several different legacies behind-- for they are probably different types of people to many loved ones in their lives. My grandpa probably did not leave my parents and aunts/uncles with the same memories as he left his grandchildren-- which is such a gift for all of us.
So last night, as I was driving home from a friend's house at the beginning of this Christmas season and heard Whitney Houston's song on the radio, I was instantly taken back to my grandparents house on West 9th St. And that magical Christmas morning feeling bubbled up inside my 35 year old self-- and momentarily made me feel like I was ten again. The drive home was only about four blocks-- but I think I smiled the entire way. And as I did so, I thought of Christmas. I thought of basement dance parties, and surprising to some, I thought of my grandpa Arv.