I am two years old visiting Mommom and Poppop in Rumson. New Jersey. Mommom and Poppop are my mother’s parents and I adore them, especially Poppop. They have boats and a house on Highland Avenue that looks out over a canal that leads onto the Navesink River towards the Oceanic Bridge. Their home is a heaven to me.
I love Mommom and Poppop, especially Poppop. He reminds me of Jimmy Stewart. He speaks in a stumbling, soft-voiced cadence. His eyes always glow warmth and kindness. He also smokes a pipes. He keeps several of them in a lovely wooden pipe rack near his large wing chair. I love to put the pipes in my mouth and pretend I’m just like Poppop and my father. My father smokes pipes too. Both would prefer I play with the pipes only when they are around.
But I am an early riser.
Early one morning I crawl out of bed, make my way into the living room, climb up into Poppop’s large wing chair, remove one of his pipes from the rack, and pretend to puff away. Pieces of smoked tobacco fall from the pipe and speckle me in my white t-shirt and underwear. I don’t care. I’m having fun sitting in this big wing chair just like Poppop. I look out the window with the pipe stem firmly clamped in my teeth. I have to hold the pipe with my hand because it is heavy. I hear a sound, turn, and there is Poppop looking right at me, trying desperately to look annoyed at me for playing with his pipes when he wasn’t there.
I look down at the black speckles of tobacco all across my front and brush them away saying, “Damn ants!”
Peter & Poppop circa 1955