Excuse me, are you listening? 20-21

Rina Risper, President & Publisher of The New Citizens Press (Pandemic photo 2020)

Dear Readers,

When I was a child, I loved visiting my grandfather in Queens, New York.

One time I had a stomach ache after eating too many sweets. Going to his house and playing with my cousins always gave us an opportunity to eat the “forbidden foods with too much sugar.”

The pack of cookies was on the table and I grabbed as many chocolate chip cookies as my little hands could hold and ran to my spot under the hydrangea bush to eat them slowly. I recall wanting to savor the taste by “minching .”

Minching is a word that my siblings made up. It is the process of taking tiny little bites to see who could take the longest to eat. For example, imagine four children with three vanilla wafers a piece competing to see who can take the smallest bites. The winner was the child with the most cookies left.

I had chocolate chip cookies! We did not get anything with a chip at my house!

I remember the chocolate chips melting in my hands. Since I was playing before I took the cookies my hands were dirty. My mother was sort of a “go wash your hands before you eat” mama. But surely I would have been discovered with my treasure of chocolate chip cookies. I could hear my name being called and I had a decision to make.

There would be no minching as I gobbled the cookies and licked the chocolate off my hands. I ran out from the hydrangea feeling a little woosey. I had eaten too many cookies and it showed as I fell on the grass with my cousins around me. There were about 30 children including the neighbor kids from next door. The Felders next door were from down South. There were 9 or 10 children in their family.

The noise and raucous caused my grandpa to yell from the upstairs window, and in his thick Trinidadian accent, he asked, “What’s wrong wid choo chill-ren?? I tryin’ to listen to da radio!”

The other children were screaming. I said that I had a stomachache. The other children yelled, “She has a stomach ache!”

I think I was doubly sick because I knew if my mother found out, I would get the belt. Secondarily, I thought that licking my dirty hands would cause me to die anyway! Maybe my mother would be lenient if I just lay there. Lol. But they were so good and I didn’t have to share! Thank God, my grandfather ran down the steps and swooped me up.

As I looked back, I could see the other children with a surprised look on their faces like, “Is she dead?!” Clutching my stomach, I walked up the steps behind him like a wounded animal.

He put me in the bed and said, “Let me turn da game back on.” The old radio’s static loudly interfered with the quietness in the room. It was the Mets game. They were down by one. At this time, I was staring at my grandpa trying not to feel sick. I had never seen him yell at anyone but that radio. It was life for him and he was the most animated I had ever seen him.

When the other team was going up to bat, my grandpa quickly went to the bathroom and got Dixie cup of water and added a half of Alka Seltzer that he had pounded into a fine powder and mixed it into the water. Not sure why the room had double beds but he sat on the side and held my head and said with a smile,”Drink dis, ya know I smell dat chocolate. Ya motha would not be pleased with dis. But I won tell ha notin’.”

He went back to the Mets game and I watched him interact with announcers, crowd and players while peeping from underneath a sheet he had covered me with. I fell asleep with my dirty hands and chocolatey smell while having my grandpa all to myself and seeing a different side of him while listening to the Mets.

When I woke up, it was quiet. The light brown wheat stalks danced on the yellowing wallpaper as the streetlights cast shadows of the trees on the wall. The shadows began to dance back and forth. I remember trying to close my eyes but still seeing the dark dancing shadows in my head.

Surely, nothing could be worse than this, and I vowed I would never steal (tief dem) cookies again. I did not eat chocolate chip cookies for a seriously long time after that but I fell in love with baseball and the New York Mets.

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor (who I recently found out is from New York) made a recent comment to John Edmond about his Yankee shirt. Mets fans and Yankee fans don’t mix unless you move away and your memories take you back to New York. Andy’s comment triggered this memory. I could see how he lit up while talking about the Mets.

Miss you grandpa and thank you for teaching me about love and the New York Mets! Love people, Rina Risper P.S. Have a wonderful week and make sure that you tell someone that you love them. It is so important that we let people know exactly how we feel about them.

Love people,

Rina Risper