Sunday, September 27, 2015

In Search of Pumpkins


Since being blessed with two beautiful grandchildren a tradition has taken hold and continues every year about this time. We pick a Saturday or Sunday to go out back and harvest the pumpkins. The only problem this year is the lack of pumpkins. I've only found seven and that just won't work. So this week my son and I went on a search for pumpkins. With roadside stands-commercial businesses and Amish farms, pumpkins are not hard to find. We chose to ride down a back road and find an Amish farm. And we found the perfect Amish farm. So perfect that I went back a few more times. They know me now. They wave Hi as I pull up in front of their sprawling mass of beautiful pumpkins. Of course having little Amish children running around barefoot adds to the backdrop.

Soon we will be going out back to "pick" pumpkins. Little will those grandchildren know that most of those pumpkins are imports. All they will see will be a mass of orange ready to be touched and patted and brought home in wait of Halloween. I think as parents or grandparents we've all had to "help" things along or do something to make a moment easier while never confessing to anyone.

I remember back when one of my daughter's had a baby rabbit. She was quite young. She loved that rabbit. Played with that little rabbit all the time. She'd carry it around like a kitten. She'd talk to it-even read the rabbit stories. One day I found the rabbit in its cage. It had died over night. While I realized it could have been one of those 'teaching' moments, it was one I was not ready to teach-not then anyway. So I ran to the farm where we bought the rabbit. Luckily, they had one that looked just like the little one we'd lost-same size, same coloring. I brought it home and put it in the cage-praying the little rabbit had the same disposition as the other little rabbit. It turned out that rabbit had it all. My daughter never realized the difference and they were best of friends for years. Since then, my daughter has had more than a few of those teaching moments I avoided when the little rabbit passed away. Those moments are part of living. We all have them.

I'm also reminded of the time when I was trying to make a homemade gingerbread house with all the trimmings one evening close to Christmas. The kids were little and they were "helping." For some reason nothing was working. The walls kept caving in. I think it was because the icing I made didn't have the right consistency. Or maybe it was because they'd cry and moan uncontrollaby whenever a wall fell in, sending sprinkles and hard candy all over the place. I decided to get them to bed. I told them I would work on it. And I did. Once they were asleep I got in the car and went to the grocery. I bought a kit with a 'prefab' gingerbread house. I brought it home. I put those beautiful prefabricated walls up-glued them with icing included in the kit and adhered some of their candy in place. The kids were thrilled in the morning. That evening we finished our project. Not one scream or moan. Just lots of laughs and happy memories!
So very soon pumpkins will be discovered with delight. Then we will come inside for some of my 'Witch's Brew'-a homemade soup that has become part of this tradition. It will be the same tradition even though most of the pumpkins about to be 'planted' outback are immigrants from a farm not too far away. That won't matter. They'll never know. Years from now when they too are adults-maybe with their own children-I may tell them. And maybe by then they will have had to help along a gingerbread house or go in search of pumpkins. That's when they will understand.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Old Grinder In The Cupboard


Funny how something simple can trigger memories-like the old steel manual grinder my mother would bring out from a kitchen cupboard during the Holidays. Taking all the parts out of the cardboard box, she'd give them a good washing before she attached it to a leaf of the table and put it all together. Then she'd place her big yellow bowl on the floor underneath it to catch the juices from whatever she'd be grinding. For Thanksgiving that meant cabbage and carrots-maybe an onion; for Christmas that meant cranberries, oranges, and apples. We all loved doing the grinding-especially the cranberries because they popped when going through the grinder and the juice would squirt all over the place. When my mother wasn't in the kitchen, I'd load it with cranberries and grind them as fast as I could. It sounded like fireworks-blending right in with whatever Christmas album my mother had playing in the other room.
Among the vegetables my son brought home the other day from Steps 2 Grow Garden, was a cabbage. Not your ordinary super market cabbage-but one heck of a huge cabbage.It was an armful. And he carried it in the house smiling all the way. I knew I had to do somehing with it sooner than later and today-with the rain falling-I thought of that old grinder. You see, I have that grinder. It sits in my cupboard in the same carboard box as when my mother was its keeper. I am not one to use fancy blenders with endless options and zillions of buttons or coffee pots and toasters with brains. I don't even have an iPhone. That old grinder is my speed. I treasure it-and so today as the rain kept falling, I pulled it out-washed it off and set it up alongside a kitchen counter. I brought out carrots and cleaned them as well as an onion. I put a bowl on the floor to catch the juices and called my son to come and help.
I explained how the grinder worked as I cleaned that magnificent cabbage and sliced it into wedges. Then I asked him if he wanted to keep filling the top with the vegetables or do the grinding. He said he'd try grinding.
We started with cabbage because there was so much of it. Once we got going, he'd mix it up with a carrot-a slice of onion. Soon he was going full speed-telling me when to add what and to make sure the bowl on the floor was catching all the juice. And while we worked, we talked about that old grinder. I told him about Holidays of long ago when I was a little girl out in the country. I told him about the times I'd get in trouble over the cranberries popping out onto the kitchen floor and the time my mother got laughing so hard when she was the cranberry grinder and one jumped out and hit her in the face. He told me he might not be able to eat the salad we were making because he might choke. You see he has a fear of choking after choking on a candy bar one day years ago when we were in the car. Since then, he stands to eat-thinking that will help him if he chokes. Introducing new foods is sometimes tricky.
But not today! I gave him a small poriton just to see what happened-that led to two more helpings! He loved it. He asked if we could bring the rest of the cabbage/carrot salad to Steps 2 Grow on Monday to share.That's what it takes-one Step at a Time and each Step is one more Step out of the Darkness.
That old grinder proved its worth yet again. And now he wants to grind cranberries when Christmas gets here!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Family Trees and Trees

FAMILY TREES AND TREES:
Still to this day the rustling of leaves on poplar trees takes me back to my grandparents' farmhouse where stately poplars lined the cinder driveway. When Halloween came around, those trees and their skinny branches way up high became witches and black cats-goblins or monsters especially when an orange moon lit up the night, casting spooky shadows over the fields.
With four houses of relatives all in a row, it became a summer tradition of joining suppers in a particular backyard full of scotch pines. The shade was welcomed as was the scent of those trees as salads and hotdogs-hamburgers and all the trimmings were enjoyed. Later, while adults sat around enjoying a cup of coffee, the kids would play baseball-running from one tree to another.

From a big old tree sitting on the banks of sucker creek, holding our rope swing in its grasp so we could run real fast, take a leap, grab hold of the rope with our hands and situate our feet on the knot at the bottom as over the creek we'd soar and maybe land on our feet on the other side-avoiding quite possibly the biggest rock ever-to trees we'd climb and dangle from branches-to trees we'd decorate or spread a blanket underneath and play and pretend-so many trees are wrapped within our family trees.

And as famiies grow, so do the memories involving new trees in our family trees-like the maple tree out our back door. No matter the season that tree stands tall-offering shade and comfort; astonishing colored leaves to a breathtaking backdrop when the leaves are gone and it stands proud with its branches bare. That maple tree is the center of activity-with swings hanging and a sandbox nearby and chairs to sit in and talk as the summer breeze whispers by.
My son and I have had many a conversation under that tree-some are serious-others a hodgepodge of topics. Sometimes we count how many bass boats go by. Other times we guess the colors of cars before we see them. Today it was a serious conversation. I couldn't get him out of his funk-until I noticed the moon way up high. It reminded me of another conversation I had with a certain 5-year old on her last sleepover. We were out on the pull-out sofa on the back porch discussing the moon.

"I love the moon," I told her.
"Sometimes you can see the moon when the sun is out, Gra-Gra!"
"You can? I am going to look tomorrow."
"I said sometimes, Gra-Gra. You can't see it every day."
"Whenever I do see the moon when the sun is out I will think of you."
"Make a funny face Gra-Gra! Like this!"
And that's when I got my son out of his funk. I imitated a funny face that really was funny that night out on the back porch. He laughed-and we started counting bass boats as we sat underneath that maple tree.