|THE DYNAMIC DUO, MAY 1998, IN MY MOTHER'S KITCHEN, (IN CANARSIE).|
This past Monday, Andrew returned to The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), for his junior year. The ordeal of getting his belongings ready heavily fell on mom, (my wife Sue). Loading my mini-van to the brim with his
Andrew did not drive into Brooklyn. To avoid thirty dollars in tolls and the hassle of navigating the city, he left his car in a commuter lot in Central Jersey. He took the train to the Port Authority Building on 42nd Street in Manhattan before connecting with the subway.
To help coordinate Andrew's arrival time at TCNJ with ours, the cell-phone proved its value. Ten minutes into our journey from home, we got an unexpected extra call informing us that Andrew was indeed back in Jersey...however, he left his car keys in Brooklyn. So with his sophomoric sophomore year barely in the proverbial rearview mirror, he still needed his mother to nag him about making sure he had every little item.
At first, we were disappointed in him. But deep down, we knew that forgetting keys can happen to a genius like Albert Einstein or an entertainer like renown memory expert, "The Amazing Kreskin."
|KRESKIN, (GEORGE JOSEPH KRESGE 1935-PRESENT) IS A MENTALIST KNOWN FOR TELEPATHY, CLAIRVOYANCE AND PRECOGNITION. WHEN THIS NEW JERSEY NATIVE COMES INTO THE CASINO WHERE I WORK, HE ALWAYS SHRUGS AT ME, "I FORGOT WHERE I PARKED."|
The inconvenience of me making a U-Turn, to return home and get Andrew's spare key was no big deal. The drama only effected Andrew and Amanda, (she also attends TCNJ and was already moved in). Without the keys, they continued to her house. She drove Andrew to school. The bigger down-side occured after the stress of moving in because he and Amanda had to kill three hours making the round-trip to retrieve his car and return separately.
I’ve made some incredible screw-ups in my day, especially one involving the strong potential of being separated from my car. Except in my case, instead of the cell-phone safety net, I had my mother and her vast supply of common sense.
Atlantic City used to host an end-of-winter extravaganza called the Kids Fair. In the first week of March, the Convention Center offered a football field-sized event for young children, (2-10). Hundreds of local vendors supported this low-cost event which included, food, game booths, demonstrations, entertainment and other activities. In addition to the merchants, museums, the fire department, the police, TV stations and professional sports teams were among the organizations represented.
I took Andrew by myself when he was three. We had a blast. The only real expense was parking. The next year, my mother was visiting so I included her in the Kids Fair fun. It was suggested to me that by taking the New Jersey Transit train one stop from Absecon to Atlantic City, (the Convention Center is in the same building as the train station), I can save a few bucks on parking while thrilling Andrew with his first train ride.
|THE NJ TRANSIT TRAIN LINKS THE ATLANTIC CITY PENINSULA WITH THE NEW JERSEY MAINLAND.|
You really can’t do any better for your child (or yourself) than the Kids Fair, (we attended four times until Andrew outgrew it at nine-years old).
My mom and I had a great time watching Andrew handle lizards and other exotic creatures, make a Home Depot project, dance the Macareña, pose with actors wearing cartoon character costumes, participate in contests, see a knock-off of a Nickelodeon Network sponsored game show and so much more, (Andrew did refuse a ride in the power company’s bucket truck to the lofty ceiling).
|ANDREW WITH ICKUS FROM THE TV SHOW, "AHHHHH! REAL MONSTERS."|
At the Nickelodeon show, I encouraged my boy to volunteer to be a contestant.
|I WAS WILLING TO PARTICIPATE TOO. EVEN THOUGH I KNEW FAT, BALD DADS MAKE THE BEST TARGETS FOR THE GREENISH, GROSS, OPAQUE SLUDGE THEY LIKE TO POUR ON UNSUSPECTING HEADS.|
One demonstration booth featured former fourteen-year NBA veteran and all-star, World B. Free. We was (and still is) The Philadelphia 76er's community ambassador as well as their director of player development. I went to high school with him when he was still called Lloyd Free.
The line to World B. Free's basketball clinic was too long and Andrew was too young anyway. But I name dropped Canarsie and World came by long enough so I could introuce him to my son and mom. He didn't remember me, even after I told him he used to call me by my football number, "#72." Incidentally, my friend SLW, (currently out in the San Francisco Bay Area), boasted that he once hit a jump shot over Free in gym class.
|IRONICALLY, ANDREW POSED WITH ALL THE CHARACTERS EXCEPT ONE. WHEN HE SAW CAP'N CRUNCH, MY TOUGH-GUY RAN THE OTHER WAY. SIXTEEN YEARS LATER, IT'S STILL FUN TO TEASE HIM OVER THAT.|
In three hours, we snacked on enough free samples and filled several plastic bags with Andrew’s works of art, free school supplies, photos and other giveaways. We looked like three pack mules as we entered the main concourse, on the way back to the train.
Along the way, we met another family. On the train, before our ten-minute ride, Andrew ran around the crowded car with their kids and tons of others. Once the little ones settled down, my mom and I chatted with the other parents. The kiddies looked at the passing scenery out the window. They were fascinated by the remnants of tiny, white capped icebergs that had formed in the marshy back bays as well as the parallel tracks that lead into Atlantic City.
During our adult chitchat, mom and I had no idea that Andrew had taken his winter coat off. At the Absecon station, we said our hasty good-byes and set about gathering all the chintzy chotkes we had accumulated. A conductor directed us out the back of the car. It felt like an eternity slithering trough the mass of people. The next car was even more crowded with Kids Fair attendees. Finally at the threshold to the station’s platform my mother said, “It’s bitter cold outside. Where’s his coat?”
In a knee jerk reaction, I stupidly bolted back the way I came. I blindly plowed through the throng. It was crazy how I shuffled between people until I nearly knocked down an old man. I pushed open the door to the car where we started and was greeted by the father of the kids that Andrew was hanging out with. He jammed my boy’s coat into my arms and yelled, “Better run or they’ll leave with you on the train.”
I pictured my mom and Andrew without a coat on the frigid platform. Everything was automated so there were no employees at the station to help in an emergency. There wasn’t even a waiting room. Far worse, back in 1998, few people had cell phones and my mom and I definitely weren’t among the chosen few. So if I got stuck on the train, there would be no way to communicate with her.
I aggressively pushed through the people as I realized that my mom might not have any money and might not know my home address off the top of her head. Plus it might take an hour before I got off at the next stop (Egg Harbor City) and got a train back.
I was still wading through people (mainly children) when I imagined the train lurching forward and assuring the separation of family. I forged ahead until I saw another conductor at the far exit. I guess he was worried about keeping up his schedule because he wasn’t smiling as he peered down at his watch. Then as I approached, I could see the determined and defiant look on my mother’s face as she and Andrew blocked the doorway to the outside.
Mom saved the day! Her common sense proved to be a far more important weapon against my carelessness than a cell-phone...ANY day.
Our future visits to the Kids Fair were flawless and always included the train.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM! You're the greatest! I just hope dad "remembered" to take you to a big band concert...with a dance floor.