Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's at Nanny's

It was a long way down and I was not afraid of falling.

I’ll tell you the truth. I contemplated jumping.

Warm sticky air blew my dark mane around in a swirl. I stood, barefoot, on the concrete, sporting black shorts, a red rhine-stoned t-shirt, and a devilish grin. I leaned far over the balcony railing, staring straight down a dozen stories. I gave it a good, long thought.

I glanced over at my sister. Her feathered dirty blond hair whipped around in the wind. Her sparkling blue eyes speckled with golden dots said what they always said. “Ga head, do it, I dare you.” She was my muse, and I, her monkey.

“Stacy, do it, do it!”

“Don’t you dare!” Nanny hollered through the sliding glass door. Our great-grandmother marched across the living room towards us in her white open-toed sandals, exposing her sheer stockings and two month old chipped pink pedicure. Her baby blue polyester pants hugged her thighs as she swished in our direction. Dozens of elephant figurines watched from their perch on the mantel. (They faced the front door for “good luck,” according to Nanny, a superstition savant).

“Do it, do it!” my sister encouraged.

I released a couple of colored paper streamers from my clenched fist and watched as they floated down, down, dowwwwwwwn. We squealed, “Whooooooooooa!”

Nanny’s Aqua-netted blond hair would have stood on end if it could have moved a millimeter.

“Stacy, that’s against the law!” she shrieked.

“No, it’s not,” my sister whispered to me, concealing her grin.

“You girls get in here right now!” Nanny tapped her long acrylic crimson nails on the glass.

Alissa handed me a noisemaker to see what I would do next. I wound up and released it off the balcony as if I was throwing out the first pitch at the Phillies’ home-opener.

“That’s it, I’m calling the police!” Nanny shouted from the other side of the door. She was too afraid to come out on the balcony. Always was.

“The police? Nanny, it’s New Year’s Eve!” my sister attempted. “They’re only streamers!” Streamers that Nanny had bought for us, assuming we’d have a tame celebration inside her modest one bedroom apartment, with Al Jolson singing, “You Made Me Love You,” softly on the record player.

“I don’t care. I’m calling the police! And you know what they’re going to do?"

Nanny’s made up face flashed scarlet and contorted into that of an angry clown. She shook a crooked finger at us through the smudged glass and hollered, “They’re going to come arrest you!”

I was six years old and my sister was nine.

“They don’t arrest kids,” my sister reassured me, with her signature eye roll.

Nanny stomped into the kitchen and lifted the yellow phone receiver, smudged like a spin-art painting, with coral lipstick and beige foundation. She pretended to dial, watching us, watching her.

She couldn’t fool us. She slammed the phone down, abruptly.

“Come back in here right now, we’ll play “Miss America,”” Nanny begged.

“Miss America” was a game we played every time we visited Nanny and Pop-pop, in their high-rise Hallandale, Florida, apartment. "Miss America" consisted of us dressing up in Nanny’s blond bob wigs, gawdy costume jewelry, and false eyelashes. We caked on her outdated smelly lipstick and clunked around in size 8 platforms from the ‘60s. Nanny loved to pick up a hairbrush (her microphone) and introduce us, even if it was only to the elephants and Pop-pop, who acted as the judges.

“And now I would like to introduce to you contestant number 4. This blond bombshell hails from Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and enjoys tennis and rollerskating. Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome, Alissa . . .”

“We don’t want to play “Miss America!” I yelled back, shaking my head at her through the glass. My long hair swirled up in the night air wildly.

Nanny would not give up. “I know, we’ll watch Marcus Welby.” Alissa imitated barfing off the balcony as Nanny paced back and forth on the linoleum kitchen floor.

My sister glanced down at the two fistfuls of silver and black streamers that she clutched in her hands. “It’s New Year’s Eve, Nanny! This is what people do!”

“Girls, I’ll make you some ice cream!” Nanny was desperate. “I have delicious vanilla ice cream in the ice box. I’ll make you a bowl.” Ice cream was Nanny’s best dish by a mile.

“Okay, Nanny, we’re coming in!”


I let both fists of streamers go, much to my sister’s delight.

“Girls!” Nanny yelled in a panic. Alissa launched her streamers into the humid air.


I felt a rush through my toes on the concrete. It sizzled up my legs to my outstretched arms, right off the balcony, and through the humid wind, over the palm trees toward the ocean in the distance and across the universe.





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