“Two Gifts”

A Memoir by Chucky Bologna

Paul gave me a good old-fashioned radio for Christmas this year. My request. I love the idea of turning on the radio and having NPR or a local station for my audio backdrop as I putter about.

I could never get used to the idea of using the computer for this task. It was daunting, and I was made to feel stupid when I couldn’t figure it out. Anyway, I am sitting at an old desk that once belonged to my mother and now rests in the corner of my bedroom. I am listening to the Saturday morning comedy shows on NPR and gazing out the window onto the small deck that is on the north side of the house and is, in fact, a private deck that extends beyond the French door of my room. I think I’m making it sound more grand than it actually is. It is littered with dead leaves, and an icy rain is glancing off the metal rungs of the cafe chairs that I should probably cover for protection against the elements.

Yet, as I gaze out the window, with Paula Poundstone being impossibly witty in the background, I am imagining the scarlet geraniums and ivy that I will plant in the long wooden boxes, and I imagine also the vintage linen cloth that will cover the table. I will sit out there with a friend, perhaps you, and drink wine and light the candles, as we lose the light and continue talking.

I am not wishing time away, just looking forward to a warm day on my little deck, wearing a cotton dress, deadheading my geraniums with the sun on my arms. It’s good to have something to look forward to. The radio will be out there with me while I take sun or read. I love my new radio. Growing up, we always had a radio, usually on the kitchen table. On snowy mornings we would sit around the kitchen table and stare at the radio and wait for Paul Sydney to tell us whether or not school was closed. I hugged that same radio close to my chest when I heard Paul McCartney singing “Yesterday.”

I remember when I was quite young, still living in Queens, and my mother was singing in the Hallelujah Chorus at Queens College. For whatever reason no one in the family went to the college for the performance. Instead, we all stood around Nana’s kitchen staring at the radio as someone tuned into the station that was airing it live. I remember leaning in very close to the radio and exclaiming that I could hear my mother’s voice. All the grown-ups were quite amused as I kept insisting I could hear her voice amid all the others. But you know what? I know what I heard: I heard my mother’s singing.

Susan gave me a new address book. Yet another thumbing of the nose at technology on my part. Don’t I know that I can just enter all this info into my phone or computer? Of course I know that, but I’m just not comfortable with it. My computer could crash, I could drop my phone in the toilet, I could lose either or both. I know where to find my address book. The new one features paintings of the Hudson River School. Serene, serious paintings of the Catskills, Niagara, and woodland interiors.

I sat at the same old desk of the previous paragraph and started the task of transferring names. I was not as prepared for this task as I imagined. I’ve had the old address book for about 20 years, and in that time quite a few of my family and friends have died. I could never expunge their names from the book. I would glance at their names as I flipped through the pages looking for another name, and a face or a memory would flash before me. It was nice. I liked that.

It was one thing to let them rest safely on the thumb-worn pages of the old book but to transfer them, downright morbid. I leave behind in alphabetical order: Barbara Bologna, Joe Bologna, John Bologna, Mike Bologna, Bob and Norma Cain, Dan Christensen, Ali Cole, Frank and Angela Denaro, Dick and Dixie Dornhofer, Chico and Helen Hamilton, Beth Harris, Jack Kehoe, Bill Jones, Joe Landi, Mary Long, Robert Long, and Lilla Moss.

I have not thrown out the old book yet. It’s in the basket filled with cooking magazines that sits next to the wastebasket. It’s one short step from the trash. I expect I will have the new book for about 20 years as well. I will be an 82-year-old woman sitting at her desk, writing Christmas cards and glancing over yet more names that will offer a fleeting memory and a twitch of a smile. Or perhaps my son will be holding this book in one hand and his phone in the other, calling my surviving friends and telling them of my demise. And it will be my name to be expunged or left behind.

Chucky Bologna is a writer living in East Hampton. Her work has been previously published by The Star.