(This is another special posting by Suzy. I hope you enjoy it.)
Have you ever laughed just for the sake of laughing? I mean laughed so hard that your eyes began to tear, your sides began to ache and your belly started to cramp. Then you try to stop, look across the room to the person sharing the moment and you both start all over again. This often happened somewhere around the dinner hour when I was growing up. It would always come out of nowhere and usually be completely inane. One such incident became a recurring affair and thus attained a life of its own.
My grandfather died the night my mother opened in her senior year high school play. My grandmother and her father insisted Mom play her part. Grandfather Ted had been ill for a long time so his demise was no surprise. Grandmom remained a widow for many years, by choice, as there were several gentlemen who were interested. Eventually, after WWII, Mom marrying Dad, and my advent, one of those ‘brother of a friend’ things happened. Grandmom had had a swain, Charlie, whom she dated before choosing Ted. After Ted’s death and Charlie’s wife’s death they began seeing each other. Adults then didn’t “date.” They “saw” each other, mostly in mixed company. Grandmom decided that Charlie was a nice friend, but she didn’t want it to go further. Charlie started seeing Clara and they were married soon after. Guilt or friendship, Clara decided Grandmom would like to “see” Clara’s brother, Richard. Richard had been married twice before and had an apartment on Hoop Street in Philadelphia. Grandmom and “Uncle” Richard decided that their lives would be better together so, on 14th of December 1951, in a snow storm, Dad and Mom drove Grandmom and Richard to their wedding and wedding dinner. That also comprised the entire wedding party. The snow kept everyone else away. Dad helped Richard move his things from the apartment on Hoop Street to Grandmom’s house on Barker Avenue in Sharon Hill, PA. Fortunately, “Granddad” Richard didn’t have a great many belongings, just personal stuff. But the snow kept coming, they had to put chains on Dad’s Buick. They did that more than once, since they had to travel on streets with trolley tracks which would seem to eat the chains. Being only 4 years old at the time, I wasn’t privy to all the details of this exciting escapade, nor was I especially interested. Richard was a nice man. I had just gotten another grandfather to dote on me. All was right in my world.
As time passed their anniversary got short shrift. They never had a great deal of money, and the anniversary was in the middle of preparing for Christmas celebrations. Sometimes, often on a visit to Ocean City, NJ, to visit Clara and Charlie, the grown-ups would recollect the excitement of the wedding day and chuckle. One summer evening, around the dinner table at Grandmom’s house, the grown-ups began to plan a trip to the shore. Clara’s daughter and grandchildren were to be there so Grandmom wanted to take my brother, Jim, and me. Speaking of Clara and Charlie, the adults began to reminisce about the wedding in the snow and retrieving Richard’s things from his apartment on Hoop Street. They chuckled. Someone added one more thing they remembered and everyone laughed out loud. Another memory was added to the list and the laughter grew. Another memory and the laughter got raucous. Mom and Grandmom had their napkins to their mouths but nothing was stifling the guffaws the came from so deep inside of them. Richard had tears streaming down his face as he was both laughing and snorting. Dad was almost roaring he was laughing so hard. Jim and I sat there completely baffled.
After that, all anyone had to do was say “Hoop Street” and that evening and its laughter would be remembered and begin again. Sometimes gently, but frequently, the folks who were there laughed so hard they couldn’t stand straight. By the time I was in high school, anytime someone at home thought one of us needed a laugh all they did was say, “Remember Hoop Street?” The giggling would begin. Hoop Street. More giggles. Hoop Street! Outright laughter. Hoop Street. Hoop Street. Hoop Street.
For those interested in fact: I’m not sure that Hoop is the correct spelling of the street name. The street may be renamed, or gone by now. Richard would have lived there some number of years ending in December 1951. I saw the apartment house once. I was under 6 years old when one summer evening, after one of these giggling sessions, we were driving through the city of Philadelphia and Dad told Mom he would show her the building where Richard had lived. We turned left onto the street where it teed into another. It was lined with 3 or 4 story classic, brownstone houses. Each had half dozen or so steps with heavy stone railings up to the front door. Many had bay windows. At that point, early 1950s, many were subdivided into apartments. It was a lovely neighborhood and not in and of itself the cause of the merriment.
The last word:
This is for Suzy’s baby sister, Karen, who wondered what all the hilarity was about.
Keep your sense of humor.