I live in a fairly close-knit town. I can wander down Main Street or the aisles of the local supermarket at any given time and run into people I know. I like that. I grew up in a different Long Island suburb during the 50s and 60s, when suburbia was coming into its own all over. But this town, now, seems friendlier somehow.
The two towns met in my world one recent night. I was playing at this local wine bar every couple of weeks. It is a small place, but a nice easy venue to have a drink, chat with friends and listen to nice unplugged music. I walked in a few minutes before my gig time and saw a face from my distant past. "Patty Ryan!", I exclaimed, without thinking first. The woman, who was at a table with a man (her husband, I later found out) looked at me with surprise and concern. I could tell she had no clue who I was. "Lisa from Saint Edward's", I said, a little too earnestly. Her face changed and I saw a registering of recognition.
Patty Ryan and I had gone through kindergarten and elementary school together. Her mother, Sally Ryan, was MY mother's friend. They cleaned the church's altar together, the only women at the time who were ever allowed in past the communion rail. Even the nuns were not allowed back there. Patty became my faithful friend at Saint Edward the Confessor Elementary School because I shared my lunch dessert with her every day.
All of us brought lunch boxes in those days. They were metal and had glass thermoses inside that you could not put soda in because they would explode and soak everything else in there. I learned this the hard way during the dreaded Milk Strike of the early sixties.
We all had our favorite lunches and, except for Fridays, when we Catholics could not eat meat, our lunches were the same every day. Nancy had a plaid lunch box and raisins. Mary Ellen always got a little wet wipe in her box which she washed her hands and face with. Terry had carrots (ew!). I had a Gene Autry Lunch box. I didn't even know who Gene Autry was, but it was the only lunchbox the hardware store carried when I needed one in a hurry. I had salami on Taystee bread every day except I had peanut butter and apple on Fridays. The Taystee bread was white and soft and spongy and could be flattened nicely and bitten into a disc which we pretended was Holy Communion. The best part of my lunch (and Patty's by association) was dessert. I got an entire package of Drake's Yankee Doodles. That's three, count 'em, THREE cupcakes. I could only eat two, so, every single day, I gave the last one to Patty.
Sitting at the wine bar, we reminisced about our school days, our moms, and our lunches. Time stood still for a moment and we were back in the cafeteria in our green plaid wool uniforms, eating cupcakes and drinking milk out of little wax cartons. Funny what you remember.
Patricia Ryan Lampl is a local professional who recently wrote a book entitled, "Love for Grown Ups: The Garter Bride's Guide to Marrying for Life When you've Already Got a Life." She will be speaking about her book at the Port Washington Library next Tuesday, January 10 at 7:30 p.m. It looks to be an interesting and informative program, as all our library's programs are, and one from which those of the boomer generation can surely learn. I plan on going in order to see my old friend Patty. Are cupcakes being served?