Another little tale from my recent cross-country train trip home.
Well—this sort of thing doesn't happen every day. . .
When I was a child, my mother and I would go every Saturday to a newsstand in a neighborhood close to ours. Some of you may not know or remember the phenomenon that was a true newsstand. That's where you went for local and national newspapers, all your magazines, tobacco, the candy counter, little toys and games and, my only cares as it related to that time period, weekly comics and Topps baseball/football/hockey trading cards.
So, every week we would get in the car and go and I would comb the comic racks for the newest Richie Rich or Archie comics. Then at the counter, whatever sports season it was, I got a couple of packs of the trading cards. In later years I branched out into a few superhero comics and the assorted horror comics too.
Those Saturday morning runs, followed by the endless hours reading and flipping cards with friends over the weekend, they remain such bright spots in my memories.
The second day I was home on my recent trip, my mother said "You know that newsstand we used to go to? It's still there."
Wait, what? A newsstand still running in this day and age?
And she told me it was still owned by the same man who we'd see there each week almost 40 years ago.
"OK, sooooo why are we still sitting here talking?"
Within minutes we were on our way.
Now, the entire area looks so different. So much so that I hardly remembered it at all. We drove down the street slowly and exchanged comments like:
"Oh that's where the old deli used to be"
"Remember the little theater that was there?"
"I think that used to be Rupp's Hockey store."
"Remember the old lady with the librarian glasses and too much perfume that hugged you every time I took you in that clothing store?"
Oh do I. . .I smelled like that gardenia perfume all day Saturday back then.
The old store facades are gone, re-plastered to make them more "modern" — but that must have been in the 90's because they look rather dated now. lol
We found a place to park out front and walked in.
(Enter the sound of the Dr Who tardis here)
Inside, it is the same place. I immediately recognized the man behind the counter and he, in turn, recognized my mother and then, me as well. I was distracted. Something was pulling at me, asking to be noticed but, before I could focus on what it might be, the man spoke
"You were this tall last time I saw you!" he said, holding his hand halfway up his chest.
We laughed and I said we'd come to revel a bit in those old days. Did he have any comics? Or baseball cards?
"Sure sure" right where they always were. Do you remember?"
Of course I did.
I found my way thru the mass of toys hanging from the ceiling and past the assorted t-shirts and racks of cards and books. There! Just as he said. I walked up to the comic racks and I immediately knew what it was that was pulling at me. just a few minutes earlier.
Everything in the store. Save for the daily local paper and the Times, was old — sorry, vintage.
The comics were from the same era of my childhood. Not some of them. ALL of them. Maybe a few Buffy's from the 90's or Transformers form the early oughts. I felt a little dizzy. Could this be? I took my time and went thru them thoroughly, selected a few and then I walked back up to the counter where the Topps sports cards had always been. There were packs of cards, Baseball, football and hockey, just as always, but they too were vintage! Unopened and intact. 25 to 30 year old pink bubblegum slabs still inside them. I quickly dated them by the notices on the pack like, Win a Trip to see your team at Spring Training 1987. Complete details inside.
Everything was the same. The shoppe is a jumble of toys, games, little gifts, sports memorabilia and the assorted magazines comics and miscellaneous. My mother said even the regular magazines were from years past.
Now, I am assuming the candy and snacks were not so old but. . . .
I grabbed a handful of comics and cards and went to the counter. I think I was still trying to process it.
"I can't believe you have these." I said, pushing the stack of cards across the counter.
"Takes you back huh?"
"I'll say. I am so glad we came up here today."
"Me too. Always good to see folks from the old neighborhood. Not many of us left these days"
We spoke of the changes and laughed about small details lost to time. He told us that he'd just signed another one year lease so he'll be there if I go home again next year.
We drove home and I opened some of the cards and saved some for my old childhood friend who still lives near my mother. That night I leafed thru the comics and tried to imagine what the odds were that any store would have such items after so many years.
I also wondered if anyone else appreciated the absolute magic of that shoppe. The portal it presents to another time and place. I half expected to walk out the door and be back in the 80's!
I couldn't have dreamed up a more fitting experience to have on this trip. Much of the time spent home is invested in nostalgia and requires memories and imagination. THIS was like an immersive experience and one I am sure that I will carry for some time to come.