In my childhood house, the computer room (where I discovered the secrecy and likely peril of chat rooms when the internet came to our place in 1995) was a repository of suburban esoterica- the laundry chute, parents' teen journals, hundreds of records, my mother's nameplate from her years as a secretary at Dime Bank- "Elissa Shivek"- etched proof of life before the other three of us. The storyboard department at Home Goods would be enthralled, them or the anthropology department, provided either such departments exist.
There was a wicker frog filled with matchbooks from Long Island restaurants. Wicker was an 80's thing, marketing via smoking paraphernalia too, and obviously frog never goes out of style. They sold the house in 1998, when I moved to New York, and I finally took the frog with me at some point. To 3rd Ave? Eastern Parkway? Dean Street? Did it just arrive here?
Better than the frog , though, is its empty wicker guts filled with the mathbooks. Elegant rectangular boxes and cheap bendable cardboard flaps. I love shoving my hand in and grabbing one, digging it out like a claw machine.
The matchbooks are miniature museums of suburbia, printed with addresses of restaurants, most (I'm sure) closed. Sometimes we pull out a book and read the name: Bedell's at West Wind, Fine Waterside Dining and Catering. La Cisterna, the map to 109 Mineola Blvd. printed minutely and helpfully on the back; it does look a little confusing around the street. Sometimes we consider picking a matchbook, going to the address and dining at whatever is there now as tribute, even if it's an auto body shop and all there is to eat are Snickers.
We have lighters here but I always light my bowls with one of the matchbooks, even if the sides are Goldilocks-caliber inadequate. Sides too dry, too wet, too ancient. The sticks too brittle. I still drag the matches across, until I see that triumphant little orange, sometimes wasting entire books. I will never run out.
I'm smoking a bowl right now with a pack from-hold on- Bobby Rubino's. Their ribs were fantastic, and this isn't even nostalgic editing. Just really good, vinegary bbq. It was my favorite place to go with Bret and my parents, where we could eat dirty and with our hands.
My dad always made great decisions, both heroic (the sacrifices, gentleness and compassion he showed my mom as she deteriorated)and everyday (those exciting nights out, or a day trip to the pond or the museum,grounding us and following through). The strange decision of keeping matchbooks in a frog, one that has turned utterly sentimental and practical for me. He is such a hero to me, always was.
When I dig my hands into that frog and pull out some tiny jewel of wood and paper- a deli in Merrick, a Chinese buffet in Wantagh- it isn't wicker, or sentiment or passe late 20th century decoration. It's a little, ugly treasure chest.
I can't wait to see you tomorrow, dad.