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Remember the Milkman?

338. Remember the Milkman?

In 1972 Clarence was our milkman. I don’t remember any milkman before Clarence. Now that either means that in Nashville, or Chicago, or even in Indianapolis we didn’t have milk delivered, or it means that none of the other milkmen were as memorable as Clarence. I think that was probably it.

When we moved to New York, to the A-frame on Grey Beech Lane, the other neighbors just automatically sent him to our door and we started ordering milk from him. I don’t have a memory of the name of the company. I just have memories of Clarence.

Grey Beech Lane was a short little road with a cul-de-sac and only six houses. I believe that when Clarence came to our road, he took a major coffee and play break from the rest of his route. I can’t believe that he played all day long as much as he played on our street.

First he played with the kids. There were lots of them between the six houses and he would organize a quick race, have them all ready to win this time and beat Clarence and then he would run the other way and claim a victory because they went the wrong direction.

He never left the milk outside. He came inside the house and put it right into the refrigerator. He usually called out as he entered, shouting “Hi—It’s Clarence.” And I would shout back from wherever I was “Hi Clarence” and come to meet him for a quick conversation.

One time I was busy putting clothes in the washing machine. I heard his entry into the house and his shouted “Hi.”  And then the next thing I heard was “Ann, there’s something in the refrigerator that has green stuff growing on it. Can I take it out and put the milk in?” I shouted back with a laugh, “Sure Clarence–go right ahead.”

One of the neighbors said that sometimes she had cooked bacon laid out for her husband to grab before he went to work and that one day he called out to her “Where did you say the bacon was?” She called back “Right there on the kitchen counter.” He went to find her and said “Well it’s not there now.” She smiled and said, “I guess Clarence got to it first!”

One Christmas I ordered a wooden puzzle for Clarence—one of those kind that is so hard to put together. It didn’t arrive in time for Christmas but instead came in January. The next milk-delivery day I gave it to Clarence.

He put the milk in the refrigerator and then sat down at the dining room table with the package. He opened it up and started to try to solve it. I puttered around doing other things, passed him occasionally and would ask him how it was going. Finally a half hour had passed. I said, “Clarence, uh … what about the rest of your customers?” He looked up and then returned engrossed to the puzzle. “Yeah, in just a minute.”

I went upstairs to make the bed and got busy with other things and assumed he had gone. An hour later I returned to the main floor and found Clarence still working on the puzzle. “Clarence,” I called out, “Remember the milk route!” He reluctantly stood, puzzle in hand, and left for the rest of his route. We talked about the puzzle for many months after that as he struggled with it and passed it along to others to struggle with.

Once when the other children were in school and Dara was two, I was quite sick and was lying on the couch in the living room. Clarence came in and called out. He bounded up the steps to the main floor and found me on the couch. I said, “Oh Clarence would you find Dara. I think she went downstairs but I feel so badly, I can’t get up.” Down he went and scooped up Dara and brought her to me. He put the milk in the refrigerator and then stopped back in the living room. “Anything else I can get you?” he asked. “How about a blanket,” I said. I told him where and he went and got one and covered me up. He barricaded the steps so Dara would be contained on the main floor and went on his way.

Whenever milkmen are mentioned in this day and time, all of my children or I will inevitably say “Remember Clarence?” And we do! He loved to play. He loved the children. And on the side, he delivered milk.

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