In Mexico, in the fifties and sixties, there were no Tootsie Rolls or Bazooka Bubble Gum.
My father’s parents, Al and Daisy Schneiderman, would come and visit from New York, once or twice a year. The aroma of the Tootsie Rolls and the Bazooka Bubble Gum they brought us, escaped their luggage through some magical form of osmosis, and pierced through me then, and through my memory even now.
My mom and dad, my brothers, and I, would excitedly get into the car to go pick up grandma and grandpa at the small Mexico City airport. We’d park the car, and walk into the airport, with its two or three runways. We’d walk in the front door, and then out the back glass door. Then, we’d go through a low orange gate, and join the rest of those who were also there to greet friends or loved ones.
We’d walk right onto the tarmac, and watch the plane approaching from high in the sky, its noise growing louder as it came lower and closer to us. Once that giant flying machine came to a stop, a set of stairs would be rolled out to the plane, and little by little the passengers would disembark.
We’d watch carefully, seeing who’d be the first to spot our grandparents. “There they are! There they are!” we’d scream, and argue about who’d seen them first. My big, heavy-set Grandpa Al’s cologne, smelled so heavenly, so exotic, so American. There were no smells like that in Mexico. He’d bend his enormous body, and pick me up, and I would smell him, and stare at the sparkly ring he wore on his fat pinky. Grandma Daisy was also fat, but pretty, and nice and cute…all four foot ten of her. She always wore a hat with a net that went down to her forehead, and kept her hair in place.
Back at our house we’d stand like three little soldiers at attention, anxiously watching as they opened up their suitcases. About to burst out, “Hurry up!” We’d valiantly hold it in, and patiently wait for our Tootsie Rolls and Bazooka Bubble Gum. What an extravagance that was for our small beings.
Once settled in, grandma and grandpa would call us around the piano. Grandpa would sit and play, his big fingers dashing up and down the black and white keys, shiny ring on pinky flying along, while grandma sang in her squeaky soprano voice, “If you knew Susie like I know Susie, Oh! Oh! Oh! What a girl…” beautiful innocent days they were.