While you know already that Peter got his inspiration for fall leaves from his mother Nettie's artwork and home decor, he also said that it was the time he spent working on Brooklyn Promenade while he was in the Park's Dept early on. While he cleaned up and maintained the city's park, he would often come home to his mother with a tale about a certain leaf color that when it glinted in the light, gave off a multitude of color variations. It was common to hear her ask him specific questions about whether the red was a "true red" or a "china red" with an orange tint, and if the golden yellow was more green yellow or was it more pale. It was a great pleasure to sit there on these late Summer days listening to Peter and his mother talk about the delicate differences between colors and how amazingly beautiful the beginnings of Autumn were.
This was also about the time of the Summer when we'd hear Peter and his friends making plans to go to Prospect Park for a picnic, a nature walk or a day of exploration. The Park was about 15 minutes away by car and 30 minutes by train. I remember I'd sit on the stoop with my cousins and we'd try to look bored and upset, hoping that he'd pay attention to our sour faces while we waited for an invitation to go with them.
Sometimes he'd make us do something for him, like lug his gym bag to the car or carry the jug of iced tea while hopping on one foot. Or, he'd already made plans with his mother to take us, but didn't tell us till he was just closing the back door. I do remember one time he borrowed his sister's car and he told us if we wanted to come we had to ride in the trunk -- which to 10 year olds -- is thrilling. But mostly we would usually pile into a bunch of station wagons (Peter's dad had the one with the paneling) with his friends, their girlfriends.
Pete and the oldest niece Nancy would make this concoction called Kick A Poo juice, which as it turns out tastes great with Vodka, but at the time, I was only handed the "virgin" version. Part grape drink, part lemonade, Pete and Nan would make a batch of it the night before, freeze it and bring it in a large jug. I remember sitting on one of the 20 blankets lining the grass around "lake" tasting everyone's glass to see why some of them tasted sweet and some had a very strong kick to it. Four different radios blared with each tuned to the same station as we'd sing out the classic rock songs of The Who, Led Zepplin, Deep Purple and Moody Blues.
It's these days that I look back and remember how special those times were. How great a guy Peter was and how he would have made an amazing father had he ever gotten the chance.
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