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Thanksgiving is now behind us and Christmas is just around the bend. I hope it is less traumatic than turkey day was. For a three day holiday it seemed more like a week long.
It started with a phone call on Wednesday telling me that my brother had died in Texas. He was ill, (a life long smoker who wouldn’t stop), and his death was not unexpected but a bit of a shock nonetheless. I knew my kids would be okay. They had never met him. The day he walked into my Express office and we reunited after some forty odd years was a brief reunion. We had time for lunch and nothing more and he never had the chance to meet any of his unknown nephews or niece.
I was okay because I had to be. If I became very upset it would ruin the holiday for everyone. Besides, I had been raised by parents who expected us to bite the bullet no matter what happened. So, I mourned briefly and privately before I told anyone else.
Except for the lunch in Maine, we hadn’t seen each other or had anything but one telephone conversation since I had left home so many years ago. Even though he had followed me to California ten years later, he had come to Hollywood for a successful career as screen and television writer, and our paths never crossed. Ours were two completely different life styles. I never even saw any of his work on either screen, so I doubt we would have had much in common if we had kept in touch.
Our years together growing up were wonderful. We were the tag ends of a large family of seven. There were eight years between the brother ahead of me and he was the brother four years after me. We were sort of like the PS and PPS to a long letter. The five ahead of us treated us like pets and we treated each other like buddies.
We always had lots of fun playing together and then, when I reached fourteen and he was ten we had even more fun going places, like the movies or great Sunday afternoon trips to New York City. By this time I was an old hand at getting around the city, making the trip by myself to Carnagie Hall to ballet lessons and he was perfectly willing to take my hand and follow wherever I led.
One of our favorite places was the Museum of Natural History which was familiar, having been taken there many times by my Mother and Father. We knew how to ride the ferry over to 42nd Street, then a trolley to Fifth Avenue where we always rode on the top of the bus up to the Museum. In those days there was no entrance fee but I always carried money for our lunches in the cafeteria.
We would visit the dinosaurs and the knights in armor, then go down to the basement where an Egyptian tomb was set up. We’d play Indiana Jones for a while then go up to the attic where a complete ancient Roman house was in place. This was my favorite display in the whole place. I used to dream that it was the house I would someday build for myself, including the inside bathing pool, the forerunner of today’s hot tub.
We had been told to leave at three, and we always did, enjoying the top of the bus, trolley, ferry and trolley rides home. We made this journey every three months, winter and summer for the next two years when we substituted the activity for trips to the City for movie and big band stage shows at the various movie palaces.
You used to be able to buy a ticket in the morning and stay all day since everything ran continuously, which we did one day in order to see Jimmy Dorsey’s Band and his two singers. I had a crush on the male singer and my brother adored the female singer.
We had a bit of money between us, enough to stave off starvation with nickel candy bars. About seven o’clock, an usher convinced us that we should go home because our parents might be worried. Of course, we hadn’t thought about calling home. When we got there, what a flap. My mother had half the New York City police and the whole home county force out looking for us. Poor thing, she was too scared to be mad.
Good memories are wonderful to have. I’m happy that we never had exchanged one word in anger in our time together. In the past two years we’ve been communicating by phone and the many, very long calls were great for both of us. It was probably a good thing that we shared the beginning and the end and skipped the middle.
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