One of the things about old friendships is shared history. No matter where you may land in life history is something you can’t change.
During the latest trip to my hometown, I drove past an old friend’s house. Despite a few cosmetic changes by current owners the two-story brick home looked much the same—especially the large front porch. Instantly, I was transported back to those warm Michigan summers of my youth when Boca II and I sat out on her pillared front porch starring into the dark sky searching for UFOs. We never did experience any close encounters—well, at least none of the extraterrestrial sort.
Ours was a neighborhood teeming with more than its share of eccentrics, a by-product of the large Italian community we lived in, and Boca II’s big ol’ front porch gave us a front row view to a lot of the quirky neighborhood goings-on. Aside from the red wagon pulled by the Pekinese Lady (so called because of her penchant for Pekinese dogs—not to mention the various wigs she wore like hats) there was also the old Italian gentleman who, when not burning anything that wasn’t nailed down had an unquenchable desire to serenade the street (as well as the campers at the lake, beach goers and the people picnicking in the lake pavilions) at all hours with his concertina. Although, it wouldn’t have been half bad if he knew more than two friggin’ songs.
One of the more entertaining aspects of Boca II’s street was the rampages of Mr. K., who lived across the street and stuck out for two reasons. He wasn’t Italian and he drove a big rig kept parked in front of his house. To our youthful delight, if not the rest of the neighborhood, he’d spend his Saturday morning getting drunked-up. In the evening he’d stumble out the front door climb up into the rig (in his tighty-whitey’s no less) and roar up and down the street. Oftentimes he’d pop up on the curb across from where we perched and we'd wait for him to roll down the window and scream obscenities. By that time, Boca II’s mom would usher us back inside the house to keep us out of the line of fire, cuz no one was calling the cops. Dear me, how lawless! Imagine, riding bikes without helmets, boating without life-preservers and tearing around in a car loaded to capacity with your friends AND no one wearing seat belts. It was the late 70’s and we were living on the edge...
Of course, having to go inside didn’t put a damper on our fun only redirected our interests. Once we were back in Boca II’s pepto-bismol pink bedroom it was time for some Barry Manilow. Yes, Manilow, and before you judge look up the man’s stats, he was a HUGE popstar at the time. After a few sing-alongs, writing fan letters and practicing our signatures as Mrs. K. Cassidy and Mrs. L. Garrett it was bedtime. The next morning, we’d awaken to the aroma of the one thing guaranteed to lure us out of our comfy beds... Pancakes. Eager to dig in, we’d plop down at the table and ooh and ahh over the super-cool bunny-shaped pancakes slathered in blueberry pie filling. To this day when I spy a can of Wilderness Blueberry Pie Filling, I’m transported back to Mrs. B’s kitchen and to a time in my life where the only thing to worry over was keeping my summer tan until school began.
I have made a few more wonderful friends since Boca II and I met at Lake Antoine—although, she will tell you her first memory of our meeting was in Kindergarten. Still, Boca II remains one of the few, who knows what it means growing up Nort’ side.
*Origins of Our Nicknames:
Kris and I don’t get to see one another much anymore, but on the rare occasions we do, the wine flows like water. And the number of glasses we drink is a direct correlation to the escalating decibel level of our conversation. Such was the case years ago on a sunny Vegas afternoon. The menfolk decided to hit the links, while us gals grabbed the wine glasses, opened a lovely Italian red each and ensconced ourselves in opposite corners of the sofa eager to catch up. As the day turned into evening, wine glasses were tossed aside and we imbibed straight from the bottle as we laughed and reminisced for hours. Unbeknownst to us, the husbands arrived home and informed us we could be heard "talking" from the driveway. This wouldn't have been a notable observation except that we were lounging at the back of the house in the family room. After that, my husband bestowed the monikers Boca I and Boca II on us and of course, it stuck. Now, if you don’t understand Italian, ‘Boca’ means mouth.
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Until I made friends beyond my Italian neighborhood, I had no idea Crème de Cocoa liqueur wasn’t actually a topping for ice cream—Gnocchi never made it on the menu at the first Thanksgiving dinner—or that the end of a loaf of bread is only known as the 'Culo' in an Italian household. Intrigued? Then kick back with a glass of vino and take a glimpse into my life growing up Nort’ side.