notquiteold

Nancy Roman

The First Time

No, not that first time.

There are lots of things that you do for the first time, that really take some practice to either do it right or even enjoy it – or find out whether you even do enjoy it.  (including that.)

So for those things, First Times don’t count.

Ah, bur other things… what a pleasure it is to try something for the first time and discover…Holy Shit, it’s GREAT!!!!

Here are a few of my first time experiences that made me just gasp with pleasure:

1. The first time I wore something that made me feel BEAUTIFUL. I was seven years old. For my birthday, my mother gave me a slip. That’s right. A slip. It was actually called a half-slip, if you are old enough to remember that. Just the skirt part.. no top. A slip for your birthday may not seem like much. But let me set you straight. This was no ordinary slip. It was a CRINOLINE slip.In case you are unfamiliar with crinoline – that’s a slip made out of netting that it very full, so keeps your skirt puffed up. My slip was three layers.. pink, blue, and yellow. I called it my “stiff slip.” I wore it to church on Sunday under every dress I had, and I would have worn it very day if I could have put it under my parochial school navy blue uniform. It was the first time I discovered that what you wear could make you feel good.

crinoline

2. The first CONCERT I ever attended, and heard a famous recording artist sing live. I was nine, I think, which would have made it about 1960. My family went to Atlantic City for a few days of vacation. This was not today’s Atlantic City with casinos and night life. This was a more-than-slightly seedy past-its-prime poor city – with a nice beach and boardwalk and amusement parks. One day we went to the Steel Pier. I saw the famous diving horse that decades later was memorialized in a sweet Disney movie. And then we went to the concert hall, and headlining that day was – BOBBY RYDELL!  We had his records. He was on TV! And he was – he was a real actual PERSON!  He sang Volare! He sand to me! I will love Bobby Rydell forever.

bobbyrydell2

3.  The first time I rode a FERRIS WHEEL was at the St. Anthony’s carnival when I was about ten. St. Anthony’s was the rival parish to my own St. Anne’s. In my opinion, St. Anne’s was better in every single way. I had great disdain for St.Anthony’s – their school, their basketball team, their ugly uniforms (which were almost identical to ours… but I saw the difference). But one thing St. Anthony’s had that St. Anne’s did not was a Spring carnival. I was big on cotton candy. Not big on carnival rides. I tended to be either terribly frightened or even more terribly nauseated. But that carnival… for some reason I decided to be brave. I bought a ticket (and I had only one dollar for the whole day) for the ferris wheel. And when the wheel got to the top, and we stopped and the basket swung back and forth, and I looked down upon the people and out to the surrounding rooftops – it was complete exhilaration! Brave is good!

ferris

4. The first time I had a REUBEN SANDWICH. I was 12, and my mother took me shopping at Lord & Taylor – just the two of us. They had a restaurant right in the store called The Birdcage, I think, but I have no idea why. My mother bought me a jewelry box that day for no reason, which I wrote about a while back, since it was such an amazing, rare treat. But back to the Reuben. Oh my God, corned beef and sauerkraut and cheese and gooey dressing on toast grilled with so much butter it ran down to my wrists when I picked up the sandwich! And with french fries and a cup of coffee. When I was 12, and now when I am 65, I take a bite of a reuben sandwich and it’s heaven in my mouth.

reuben.jpg

5. The first time I realized that the WRITTEN WORD could move you. I think I was about fifteen when I read a poem that made me cry. I always liked to read. I always liked stories. The public library was my sanctuary. But to cry? To feel real emotion? From a poem of all things? The poem was by Robert Frost, a poet I never especially liked (even now). It is called “Home Burial” and it’s no lyrical, pretty piece. It is mostly dialogue – in the most mundane language –  with little discernible meter to me. The dialogue is between husband and wife. They’re grieving for a lost child in very different ways, and they cannot forgive each other for not sharing the same expression of grief. At the point where the husband says to his wife “I do think, though, that you overdo it a little”-  that was when I cried.

And it was not long afterwards that the idea occurred to me that I would like to do that – bring real emotion to someone by something I would write. I lost track of that desire for many years – from age 25 to age 50 to be exact.

And then I remembered.

And started again to write.

And I remember it today, 50 years after that little bit of poetry made me cry,  because I have just finished the draft for my second novel, and crazy as it seems, and unseemly as it may be for saying it, at the end of the novel, I made myself cry. I am hoping somehow it’s real. That I’m not just sentimental and infatuated with my own words (although I’ll admit that I am both). I hope I have expressed in this new story an emotion that touches someone else.

I have a long way to go before finishing this novel, but for now, I am feeling that FIRST TIME feeling – the first time my own words moved me to weep.

And although it’s sad to cry – the feeling it has given me is extraordinary.

Almost like a reuben sandwich.

26 Comments

  1. The first time you watch your own children open presents on Christmas morning is amazing and the first Christmas morning you no longer have young children can feel strange well for me it felt strange and so unlike Christmas

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  2. Your descripton of a Reuben sandwich has inspired me to get out of my pajamas (at 5:20 p.m.) and go get one. My mouth is watering. You should write ads for food, as well as novels. Your first novel was terrific.

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  3. Oh I loved this. You’re right, there are so many first times that make us feel good, and really, that make us who we are.

    One that made a lasting impression on me happened when my whole family was driving along I-95 in CT. My mother pointed to one of those concrete covers over a drain just after we passed a “Deer Crossing” sign. “I wonder why they build those,” she said. “That’s where the deer stand to look both ways before crossing,” I said. My whole family laughed. I was about 6. It was magic.

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    • Nothing quite as good a feeling as making someone laugh! I love that! (But in my next book, I do hope they will cry.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I loved your first/last book. So I’m betting you can do either or both!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Susan

    I remember my first Ferris wheel ride too. We were all down in New London for a wedding. We kids weren’t invited to the dinner – just the reception. So your Dad and mine took all of us, dressed like little angels, out to the Ocean Beach boardwalk. You guys somehow got me to agree to the Ferris wheel, and I remember I rode it with Claudia. Didn’t like the rides any better after – might have had something to do with having big brothers that liked to scare the daylights out me, but I do remember that ride, not much else or what else we did, but I remember clearly the ride with Claudia.

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    • Claudia would be a good person to go on a ride with. She was funny and always made me feel that life was fun.

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  5. Great memories of “first times!” Congratulations on finishing your second novel. One must absolutely care about your characters! Good writing in 2017! Cheers!

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    • I’ve finished (first draft anyway) and I am still worrying about the characters… I hope they are ok.

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  6. Reblogged this on ugiridharaprasad.

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  7. Thank you for sharing your precious memories: I thoroughly enjoyed sharing in them. Here’s to a great start to 2017 and more writing which moves us all to tears!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Christine

    I remember the trip to Atlantic City and Bobby Rydell. I thought it was very exciting, probably because it was so different from being at home. But I didn’t like crinoline half slips. When you were built straight up and down, as we were then, they tended to slide down and show. And they were very prickly when you were sitting. When I complained about things like that, Mom always said, “well, you have to suffer to be beautiful.”

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    • I remember Mom saying that. She also said it when I slept on rollers and they hurt. But I didn’t mind that the crinoline was stratchy – it was so PRETTY!

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  9. Nothing like a good reuben sandwich!
    Oh, those petticoats – it was a thing in school girls wore 3-4 of them stacked too many and the skirt ended up around your ears when you sat down. ( tough to jump rope in with them slidding down …back when under garments were not supposed to be seen in public.) Those darn things scratched…but no doubt Shirely Temple never complained – many moms probably used that line on fidgeting girls HA HA
    Great post – hope the new year has great things planned for you!

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    • Oh yes, those slips were itchy, but I didn’t care – the prettiness was overwhelming! Best wishes for the new year to you too!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Can’t wait for the book! I loved your first one. And you do endings well.

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    • Thank you! I hope you like #2 as well… it is very different,…. an arranged marriage set between 1913 – 1920.

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  11. I remember crinolines. I don’t remember having one but I can picture my little sister wearing one. My husband always has fond memories Reuben Sandwiches and shares them frequently…the memories, not the sandwiches…he never shares the sandwiches.

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  12. Ray G

    Ask your sis – whenever we are at a “new” (unknown) resto for lunch, I order the Rueben, because one must be retarded to ruin one, they are SO good.
    If you would like to reawaken your memories, the Terrific Bobby will be doing a book signing in NJ in the middle of Jan. 2017. Loved almost all his stuff, and I’m a guy. Maybe even your hubby would like to see him.

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  13. Sometimes I wonder if we are sisters once-fifty-times removed. Ha. My grade school uniforms were blue, too. Until junior high..when they were green plaid. Your magic store with a restaurant was Lord & Taylor — mine was Marshall Fields. Yours was a reuben — mine was a tuna melt. And the writing — just wait. You will write your stories and your novels, and years from now you will go back and reread them and be amazed that you wrote them. And THAT is a first thrill, over and over again.

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    • Thanks. My greatest pleasure is my writing. I love the blog… it has been a consistent source of satisfaction. And my first novel was the realization of a dream. My second is very different – especially for a humor writer like me – but I have a strong belief that it will be good.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. What a lovely idea for a blog post. We are from the same year you and I and when I started blogging in 2014 writing about the crinoline was urgent for me as it was one of my big wishes as a child but a thing I never got. This and a composition doll. I had parents who loved me but they didn’t know my deepest wishes. At high school I feel in love with Danish poets who died young( from 1700s)

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    • Thanks…. glad you liked my post. Those childhood wishes – even the unfulfilled ones – make us who we are, and mostly they are very sweet memories.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Sally Habib

    I really enjoyed this … I’ve always thought I should
    write a book … Never have probably never will
    I am glad you’re back to writing … I love
    books … Written ones on paper that you can
    collect and hold in your hand and put in
    your library … Cheers to you for living your
    dream and crying !

    Like

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