Published Friday, August 24, 2012
We had lots of friends while growing up in College Park. Most were friends who were like family but were of no blood kin whatsoever.
Mom and dad seemed to adopt folks like most people buy shoes. Just about every season some new person would come into our lives, stay a few days, weeks or months and then ride off into the sunset. There was cousin this and aunt that - whomever they were they were always nice people who dropped in for a variety of reasons or no more reason than just to say hello.
There were those who mom and dad met as acquaintances and popped in with little if any, notice at all. Of course, this was back in the day when you could call ahead if you were traveling and could find a pay phone and had enough coins to pay for the call. Then you would hope to not get a busy signal, but if you did, an unannounced drop in was completely appropriate.
This was the method of Mrs. Norconk. I remember pondering her name, still do. It was very unusual to me and I’m taking great liberties with the spelling. Mrs. Norconk was very peculiar among the women in my adolescent life and the exact opposite of anyone I had ever known.
First of all she lived in a motor home. It was the coolest thing ever and even though mom and dad protested, I once begged to go inside. She gave me a tour and I was amazed at her dollhouse on wheels. I was also amazed at how brave and adventurous she was to just climb in that behemoth of a monster and travel from place to place, all by herself.
The other thing about Mrs. Norconk was the manner in which she arrived. I remember once waking up and seeing her motorhome parked at the curb in front of our house. I couldn’t wait to alert everyone in the house and did so at the top of my lungs. “Mrs. Norconk is here!” I had to run up and down the upstairs hallway, then down into the basement apartment and up and down that hallway to properly inform the entire family.
My enthusiasm was met with scowls when everyone gathered in the kitchen only to discover it was just after daybreak on a Saturday morning. Mrs. Norconk wouldn’t stir for at least three more hours.
When she finally emerged, she visited for a little while and was off again as mysteriously as when she arrived.
Another character was Grandpaugh. Grandpaugh confused the heck out of me. He told me his name was Grandpaugh and he was careful to spell it p-a-u-g-h. He was Italian, which confused me even more, but I figured I could have an Italian grandpa since I had a Jewish Aunt Adele.
I would figure out in my late teens that these were friends of my parents and not relatives at all. It was more than a little disappointing; the thickly accented Grandpaugh was the most colorful a character I’d ever met and I would have loved to go to Italy with him to see all the places he described.
As for Aunt Adele, she was just adorable even though she could tweak the cheek right off of a kid. Her thick New York accent and cloud of perfume made her exotic and wonderful.
As I get older I realize I’m a lot like my parents. I love for my friends to feel at home in my house. I cherish their visits and love to stay up late sharing stories. And if it’s been a few weeks with no visitors at all, I feel like that little kid at the window, watching for that huge motorhome to rumble up to the curb.
Mom and dad planted some sweet seeds in our family that continue to grow. I realize now that I’m a grandmom I have not only my “real” family but also a family from Savannah, neighbors who have since moved away but we stay in touch.
I figure one day Ninja Man and I will pull up to the curb in front of their house in the wee hours of the night, and upon waking will visit for a few hours then amble on our way. Maybe we’ll be Aunt Kathy and Uncle John. Maybe we’ll be Momma Bo and Poppa Bo. I don’t know what the little ones will call us but it won’t matter; we’re family.