Monday, February 11, 2019

Gingerbread Boys Surrounded By Hearts

Back on December 19th I wrote a post about a Christmas tradition I started when my children were little. That simple tradition was making lopsided Gingerbread Boys following the recipe on page 94 of Betty Crocker's New Boys and Girls Cook Book. I can't tell you when the cook book was published because some of the pages are missing and pages, like page 94, are worn down and have blotches of  stains from required ingredients. But I can still read it. I pull it out every year and make my gingerbread boys. And this year was no different except in one way.

My tradition of baking my lopsided gingerbread boys and leaving them without faces; without any decorating of any kind and when cooled, placing them in old tin cans and setting them around the house and once January had come and gone, sending them off to gingerbread boy heaven followed along without a hitch this year. That is, until January was coming to a close. That's when I realized I wasn't quite ready to say goodbye to my faceless little friends. I know this sounds strange. After all, they are only gingerbread boys. There is no value to them. People associate gingerbread boys with Christmas and Christmas had come and gone. But still, something was gnawing at me. A few times I carried the tins to the kitchen with plans to empty the contents into the trash but each time I couldn't do it. I'd put the tins back and tell myself "maybe tomorrow."

Well, tomorrow for my lopsided gingerbread boys' demise still hasn't come and I think I've figured out why. In all of their simplicity, they give me comfort. They always have. I guess the gingerbread boys are like that feeling you get when you crawl out of bed and turn the coffee pot on. The thought of a cup of coffee is comforting as a new day begins. If you don't drink coffee, maybe the comfort those gingerbread boys bring to me is like that feeling you get when curling up in a favorite blanket or getting into a good book or listening to a train off in the distance.

Whatever it is, this year I am rewarding the little fellows. I am keeping them in their old tin cans through February surrounded by Valentine hearts. They certainly have earned each one of those shiny, beautiful dollar store hearts.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

My Grandfather's Other Side

My grandfather was a hard-working farmer. He and my grandmother provided a good life for their six daughters. They did it all. Each had their list of duties from ice harvesting on the St. Lawrence in the depth of winter to haying in the hot sticky days of June; along with planting gardens which led to weeding, picking, slicing, cooking, canning produce and filling the root cellar. Then there was the sewing, knitting, cleaning, tending to children, tending to barn animals and machinery and the list goes on. Point is, my grandparents worked hard every day with no days off.

Memories of my grandfather are precious. I can see him splitting wood in the woodshed just outside a door of the kitchen in the farmhouse. I can hear the ax hit the wood; remember the splinters of the wood go flying through the air.

I can see him coming in from the backfield with a load of hay driving his small red Ford tractor over the plank bridge spanning Sucker Creek, then over flat rock and on to the barn.

I can recall Saturday nights when my brother and I were lucky enough to go to the local Strand Theater with our grandparents. They’d both be dressed up. I loved seeing them in their good clothes. They were a handsome couple. When the movies were over, they’d take us next door to Phillip’s Diner for a hamburger and a coke in one of those real coke glasses filled with ice chips.

I remember moments playing around him with my cousins as he sat in a room in the farmhouse where the sun would come through a window in late afternoon. Depending on the time of year, my grandmother would keep her geraniums in that window. They’d bloom all winter long. On one wall there was a bookcase. It took up the entire wall. I didn’t realize it then but the shelves might have been filled with some of my grandfather’s favorite books.

You see, my grandfather had another side to him once he came in from the barn. He loved reading; loved his books. I’m sure when we were playing around him he never noticed us. That’s what happens when you’re engrossed in a book. You disappear. His favorite author was Zane Grey. But he also had a favorite magazine-The Saturday Evening Post. He read each one cover to cover. He saved every edition. There were always stacks of the magazine in that room with the geraniums

Over the years I’d hear my grandfather coughing. Sometimes his asthma kept him in bed. I remember seeing his Beech Nut Chewing Tobacco in his back pocket; remember seeing him pull the pouch out of the pocket, dig in with his fingers and put some of the stuff in his mouth and start chewing. My grandfather passed away in 1957.

The attached photo of my grandfather sitting and reading his magazine in that room in the farmhouse is one of my favorites. I zoomed in to get a closer look of the cover of the magazine he appears to be engrossed in, even with his barn boots still on. Then I researched the magazine’s archives to find out the date of when the magazine was published.

It turned out it was published in March, 1952. The artist was Amos Sewell; a banker during the day who took art classes at night for fun and ending up being remembered as one of Saturday Evening Post’s best artist/illustrator. The name of the cover art is “School Orchestra.”

I find that trivia interesting; a part of my grandfather’s other side.