Grandpa and Nanny had a hardware store on Bangs Avenue in Asbury Park, New Jersey. When I was not busy being mad at my mother for smoking cigarettes or for bossing me around (“set the table or take out the garbage”), we used to ride over to see grandpa making keys in the store. Nanny was perched behind the cash register and smiled whenever we walked in. 'Hello mamela," she always said to me. Was that Yiddish or a word she made up? I often brought chalk and a jump rope so cousin Stacy and I could play hopscotch and use the rope to jump in front of the store where my mother could see us. When we needed a break, we would take a walk to get soft ice cream on the boardwalk or get fudge at the candy store that faced the ocean. The salt air mixed with the smell of dust and burning metal from the keys always made me sleepy. And on the ride back to Lakewood, most times I was asleep before we passed the first diner where my mother would run in to get a cup of coffee and a slice of pound cake for my father.
I mixed salt and oatmeal to make my face shiny after a day in the hardware store or after hours spent baking in the sun. Stacy and I played skee ball at the boardwalk and ran under the sprinkler on nanny and grandpa's lawn, while cousin Lisa and I compared finger nail polish and shopped for halter tops and shoes in Steinbach's department store in Asbury Park. I stood on my head with my mother to see who could stand upside the longest. I taught my dog to sit, stay and beg for biscuits. And I went to college to erase memories that bubble up now as my own kids are beyond hopscotch and the wonder of chocolate fudge and soft ice cream. Nanny and grandpa are not here, but they still make keys at home depot.