I now abide in a very small, yet adequate domicile. During my up bring living at Woodmere, New York our family had a large red brick home that even though it housed a number of mischievous and at times rowdy boys Mom had set a number of rules and standards in place that kept order in our home. The house was always kept in perfect order, and impeccable condition. She had assigned a room and place for everything to occur, and rules that went along with that room. There were areas for horse play and relaxation where it was OK to lay back and place your feet up on a piece of furniture, and there were areas that you behaved in a much more formal manner. So it was not like we had to tip toe around our home. The Woodmere home was always full of noise and laughter, and if you followed the rules of the house living there was good and easy.
Mom was a collector of Victorian era china as well as furniture. The living room was where most of this collection was kept. The chairs and love seats within our living room were not made for young over 200 pound men to sit on. When we were allowed to enter this room which was only occasionally we had to take much care as we lowered our bodies into the framework of these treasured antiques.
There was one large and sturdy piece of furniture that set off the style of the room, and that was a well polished baby grand piano. The peculiar thing was that no one of the Presslaff family could play a piano. At a young age the folks had tried to teach me to play it, however, that idea soon came to an abrupt end. I was able to play one song and that was Cruising Down the River On a Sunday Afternoon. It took me months to learn to do this, and it sounded as if I was playing the song on a drum using my toes instead of my fingers. To save the family a great deal of embarrassment that was the end of my piano playing. Mom liked the look of the baby grand so it remained in our living room. It became the most expensive picture stand on the East Coast. In a very formal manner Mom placed on it, framed portraits of the family. As we married the top of the baby grand became more crowded.
The living room was not cluttered at all. Every piece of furniture was set upon a thick bright wool carpet. Large windows were centered on two of the outside walls. The common wall that stood between our sun parlor and our living room had a fireplace in it that stood in the center of two built in book cases. Above the fireplace was a mantel that held small, colorful china plates as well as small framed pictures. The book cases held more china. What I remember most was the mustache cups. These were small, delicate tea and coffee cups that were made with areas shaped like a mustache that were located to hold a man’s mustache so that it would not fall into the tea or coffee. I have not since ever seen cups of this nature. Then again, I have never seen or used a piece of silverware that was shaped like a garden hoe since I moved from my Woodmere home. When the table was set in our formal dinning room this odd piece of silverware was placed on the very white linen table cloth that held the sterling silverware that was used on Sunday and holidays. The hoe shaped silverware was for the purpose of pushing peas and the like onto your fork. As kids we called this piece of silverware a pusher. On the shelves of these book cases were more china that you could be sure were always without a grain of dust on any of the pieces.
There was a small landing almost at the top of the staircase that led to our second floor. This landing was about five feet square. You came upon this landing after taking three stairs down where the staircase turned and continued to the first floor. Us boys seldom walked down these three stairs. Most times we would come down the upper hallway and jump to the landing. When we hit the floor of the landing you could hear every bit of the china in Mom’s living room shake and rattle. It sounded like little bells ringing. Soon after the jingle and clinking of Mom’s china would come a much louder sound which was the voices of either Mom or Mart warning us that there would be hell to pay if any of Mom’s prized plates or cups hit the floor and broke. I never can recall where a single item ever became broken.
This leads me to another story that now makes me smile yet at a much earlier time in my life did far from that. I was very young because my oldest brother Morty had been just a teen at the time. Mom and Dad had gone out some place for the evening. This was before Ronny was born and before we had moved into our home on Woodmere Blvd. Morty, Frank and I were horse playing. Someone threw a ball and it hit a picture of the three of us that hung on a wall. The picture fell, breaking its glass covering. Morty and Frank first tried to think of a way to blame me for the picture breaking. They could not come up with a usable story so they took the picture and hid it. When the folks came home they did not take note of the missing picture. One evening a full five years latter Mom out of the blue sky looked up at the wall and saw that the picture was not on the wall. We were all in big trouble. Many years latter when Mom was pushing 90 and living in Florida I would tease her about this. She would blush and deny the event. I would not allow Mom off the hook.
As I had just written our formal dinning room was only used each Sunday after church for lunch, and for other special occasions and holidays. When we sat at this table it was always for an hour or two, and included a wonderful many coarse meal cooked as only Mart could prepare it. That was the time that Mom’s huge sterling silver coffee pot would be brought out and placed on the table during desert. I cannot recall when it was that besides for our growing family that there was not an invited guest or two. After this wonderful meal and time together the men would go into the sun parlor and the women and young ladies would seat themselves in the living room. The women would make women talk while the men and boys would watch a football game, read the newspaper, perhaps play cards or just talk. The sun parlor was furnished in a manner where you could “plots” yourself down hard on a chair or couch, and even let your feet rest on another piece of furniture.
There was a table in the sun parlor placed next to the windows that looked out the back of our house. Being a sun parlor windows made up the two outside walls of the room. This being so the room was very bright and pleasant to be in. On this table I spent many enjoyable hours playing casino and gin rummy with Dad. Today you can’t get me to sit still and play cards, and even then I was never much of a card player. Playing cards with Dad had a life of its own. It was just being with him. I never wanted Dad to be alone if he desired my company. As I got older before I married, and even after I had spent a couple of years in the Army I would many times pass up going out with my buddies or even a date with a young lady to be with Dad. Our Woodmere home formal or relaxed was a happy house.