Aunt Marian and Uncle Tony may have been our “other parents,” but Uncle Rich and Aunt Lorraine were the ones who could always be counted on to make us laugh. While Aunt Marian and Uncle Tony were the Ward and June Cleaver of our family (old television reference I know you won’t understand), Aunt Lorraine and Uncle Rich were more the Howard and Marion Cunningham couple—great parents but also quite loveable in their ability to make everyone smile.
The first clue as to Uncle Rich’s mischievous personality is in the photo of him and Grandma which everyone has seen. Uncle Rich is in his cute little collared outfit with his hair neatly combed to the side. Grandma’s hair is in ringlets, and she is holding her right arm. They both look so angelic, but we all know the truth. Before the photo was snapped, Uncle Rich pinched Grandma. He was the angel-devil brother that you just couldn’t help but love.
He and Aunt Lorraine both graduated from Boonton High. She was the bubbly, effervescent cheerleader from Parsippany with a smile always on her face and he was the lanky boy from Boonton. They married in September 1948 and moved into my grandparents Birch Street house. Aunt Lorraine told me that my grandfather was always very nice to her.
Uncle Rich had his own business for fifteen years. It was a dry-cleaning business called Suburban Cleaners. His van would arrive at his customer’s house where he would pick up and deliver their clothes. I vividly remember him coming into our house and announcing in his deep familiar voice, “Cleaners.”
All of you had little or no contact with nuns as children, and today, you rarely see any in their “nunly” uniforms, which are known as habits. There’s a story about Uncle Rich, which I am uncertain if it is fact or fiction. Allegedly, when he would go to the convent to pick up their dry cleaning, he would ask the nuns, “Do you have any dirty habits?”
As you know from my story, You Still Remember That?, they lived in Chicago at one time. When they returned, they moved into a multi-family house in Boonton near the high school. One year, after the kids went trick-or-treating, Aunt Lorraine decided she needed a plan to slow down the volume of candy consumed by her children. She decided the old adage, “out of sight, out of mind” might be the solution, so she dumped the candy into an old pillowcase and hid it in the washer. Having six children causes brain damage, so the next time she did a load of laundry, she forgot about the candy. You can just imagine the mess!
Aunt Lorraine was a craft wizard. She taught us how to make Christmas angels from Reader’s Digest magazines by carefully folding the pages until it resembled the body of an angel. I remember making “pomander balls” which involved carefully piercing an orange with cloves. That was not what she called them, but in researching her craft, I stumbled upon the name. You could place them in a drawer, hang them on the Christmas tree or in any other place in need of a room freshener. The clove-infused oranges did the job and kept us all busy. I have Christmas ornaments which I still have that she made, and every year when I hang them on my tree, I think of Sweet Aunt Lorraine.
They each had such a wonderful sense of humor which has been passed on to their children. For example, whenever their oldest son, Timmy, calls Grandma or me, he always identifies himself by saying, “This is Tim Carey—Rich and Lorraine’s son.” Now that Texas A&M has become South Carolina’s fake rival, Timmy revels in teasing me. He has purchased an A&M blanket for Grandma along with an A&M glass. I know when he is visiting Grandma because he always sends me a photo of her room with all the Texas paraphernalia he has purchased for her. I am surprised Grandma puts up with it since she hated living in Texas.
But Timmy is a “good boy”, and now that both his parents are gone, he frequently visits Grandma, as do many of my other cousins. Grandma and Uncle Bob are the only two siblings left, and Aunt Tess, Aunt Barbara and Aunt Peggy are the remaining wives.
Oh, the memories of this family I have!