Sunday, February 1, 2009

Big Ray

Today would have been my grandfather’s 100th birthday. My grandfather, Raymond Boust, also know as Big Ray, died in 1974 when I was nine, but my memories of him are vivid. I guess this is because he was larger than life.

He was, in fact, a tall man, well over 6’3”, with steel grey eyes, a pencil thin mustache, and a deep guttural laugh. In his prime, he was known as the “Dark Gable” of South Philly. Yes, he was fine!

He and my grandmother slept in separate bedrooms in their home on St. Albans, and whenever I spent the night, I’d sleep with my grandmother, but my grandfather would put me to bed and stand in the doorway watching over me until I fell asleep. I’d always find him in the same place, watching over me, when I’d awaken. It didn’t matter how early I got up, he’d always be standing there looking at me. In my little girl’s mind, he’d been standing there all night making sure I was o.k. Once I was awake, he’d wordlessly motion for me to follow him downstairs, where he’d perch me in a chair at the dining room table. He’d then go into the kitchen and fix me the best hot cocoa (w/milk, not water) and a cup of black coffee for himself. To this day I cannot drink hot cocoa made with water and I've passed this high brow preference onto my children.

I remember one time when he actually woke me up and took me downstairs before the sun came up. He seemed excited, not his usual cool self and I was confused and disoriented. It was still dark out and I didn’t understand why he’d taken me out of bed. He placed me on the floor in the living room in front of the b & w TV. Big Ray’s voice boomed as he told me we were about to see the first man walk on the moon.

About 20 years after my grandfather died, I unknowingly rented an apartment in a house his family once owned in South Philly. After learning my familial connection to this particular piece of real estate, I became friendly with some of the older residents of the block who knew my grandfather well and remembered him fondly. Without a doubt, I know that my journey to that street, the 1900 block of Pemberton, did not happen by happenstance, but was Big Ray’s keeping a watchful eye on me once again.


Lisa S said...

I nearly spewed my water on the keyboard when I read "Dark Gable".

Mango Mama said...

Girl, You are so crazy!