I have my Grandmother’s (Eva Palmer) music sewing box that plays “Let Me Call You Sweetheart.” The music box that my Dad brought home after my Grandmother’s funeral. The same music box passed down to me after my Dad died. Where it will go when I’m gone is known only to God since I never married nor had children.
My grandparents were married in 1919 until my grandfather William Palmer died around 1962 or 1963. My grandmother passed away around 1964 or 1965. I was very young so I don’t remember much about her but I Love her musical sewing box and wind up it every so often just to hear that lovely melody. In my mind’s eye I can still see the brownstone in Harlem where they lived. If I think very quietly and carefully I can envision all the rooms and marveling at my perception of largeness and space. Then it fades away to St. Albans, Queens and the house on 115th Road where I grew up. A house that shrank after my parents deaths. Too many memories crowding in on each other so I sold it in 2000.
My parents Edward & Mable Palmer were married for 40 years from 1955 to 1995 when my Dad passed away. My Mom went to join him in 1998.
Marriage was very serious to both my grandparents and parents. It was not a trial run or something to be thrown away or cast aside like we see now. Eva Gordon was my Grandfather’s second wife as his first wife had passed away. There was a big age gap between them as my Grandfather William Palmer was in or near his 40s and I would guess my Grandmother to be maybe 20 or 21 at the time of their marriage.
All of my grandmothers boy children died from polio except my Dad Edward Gordon Palmer. I can’t even begin to imagine giving birth yet not knowing whether or how long your children would live. I guess that’s why people had so many kids in the 1910s, 1920s & 1930s. There were so many diseases and no vaccines that it was a miracle if a child lived beyond toddlerhood.
Fast forward to December 1955 when my parents Edward and Mable Palmer married. I was born first then my brother Stephen came along in May 1961. By 1963 Stephen was age two and had not spoken a word. Doctors back then labeled Stephen “emotionally disturbed” and advised my parents to put him away in an institution. My parents Did Not take the doctors advice but took their son back home, loved him, raised him and taught him as much as they could. For those of you who remember the horrors of Willowbrook you know why my parents could never do that to Stephen. Today Stephen works and has an active social life.
I say all this about my family history to point out that marriage is no Garden Party. You take the good and the bad the better and the worse and yes in sickness and in health. Love is not all the sappy romances we read about in books or see on TV or in the movies. Love is the real world. Real Life. Where there are no guarantees but many unseen rewards.
When I hear this melody as sung by The Mills Brothers I envision them all dancing in Heaven.