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Nick Grew: Family traditions endure at market

“Why do people bother going to the Broadway Market?” my friend asked as we walked through one of the local supermarkets. The store was bustling with shoppers buying butter lambs, crumbly placek, cheese and sauerkraut pierogi, and smoked and fresh kielbasa. In the front of the store, white lilies were deposited in carts and hauled away to new homes, leaving only trails of sweet perfume behind. I left that store pondering the question.

As I rode the escalator down to the market floor of the Broadway Market this year, I remembered visiting as a child. In my mind’s eye, I saw twirling red and blue lights spinning on a plastic yo-yo. Ripe, red strawberries were being dipped into sweet, milk chocolate. A giant, pink bunny waved to me. Chocolate treats, bigger than some of my friends, stood like soldiers behind tall glass. A smile crossed my young face as I looked up toward the two permed poofs of blond hair leading me through the crowd.

“Syl,” said Grandma, as she muttered something to my mother.

“Stop swearing, Grandma,” I said as my eyes narrowed and my cheeks turned red.

“We’re not swearing, honey. Grandma and I are talking in Polish,” said my mother as they both started to laugh.

“Did you get the polar sausage?” Grandma asked.

“Of course, Ma. Did you get the braided bread and the seedless rye?” my mother asked.

“Yes,” said Grandma, who added something that meant “loved one” in Polish.

This year, the faint smell of horseradish mixed with the nutty scent of butter slowly warming fresh pierogies filled the air.

“Nick, did you see if they have braided bread?” asked my father. We both looked over and saw boxes of fresh, dark brown breads that looked double the size of their traditional brethren. His hand brushed through his thin, silver-brown hair as he picked up one of the loaves. A smile crossed his face and, for a moment, we were both young again.

“Look for painted eggs,” said my brother as his eyes glimmered. A man hurried by with two flats of painted Easter eggs and was never seen again. My father’s hand slid to my left shoulder as my brother darted into the massive crowd like a 5-year-old in search of a dollar in that elusive, plastic egg.

Two hours later, bags loaded with three loaves of braided bread; eight painted eggs; four goblets with “Polska” emblazoned on them; a circular Polish serving platter; two jars of powerful white horseradish; and one jar of weak red horseradish were toted up the escalator to the parking lot by three men as tired as little children on their first visit to the market. Three men with memories to add to the bank of ones from the past.

Years have given way to passing, and time has given way to age. My grandmother has been replaced by my father. My father has been replaced by my brother, and I have become the uncle. And my exuberant nephew and modest niece will, in the next few years, replace my brother and me. My father and mother will become the “Grandpa” and “Grandma” who will lead my nephew and niece into their own memories.

Why do we return to the Broadway Market? We return because we want to remember. We return because we love the memories of the people and the times that were and are now. We remember Buffalo.

Nick D. Grew, a teacher at St. Francis High School, lives in Hamburg and enjoys visiting the Broadway Market at Easter time.