Mountain Magic

The year was 1998 – just a year after my dad died and something unexpected happened.  My first-ever Rocky Mountain adventure.  Looking back, I’m not sure how I navigated the high hurdles with my mixed-up mom so that I could go. Selective amnesia can be a good thing…some memories belong at the curb, not in the heart.  When the opportunity came to escape…just a little…for a work trip to Denver, I was ecstatic and so were my conference-presenting partners.  On a whim, we’d written a proposal to present at a research-oriented annual convening and truth-be-told, no one was more surprised than moi when we received our acceptance notification. Okay, then…off to Denver we went!

When you’re a mom of a toddler and you’ve got extraneous, dangling family duties of other sorts (crazy mother, disabled sister, and a plate too full of professional aspirations) the notion of flying the coop into a four-day adult experience is both thrilling and fearsome. Added into the milieu was the timing…flying to Denver in November, in a year when Mother Nature chose to bring substantial snow – early snow — to the Rockies.  Dare devils, we were.  Dare devils…of the fluff ball variety. Not a single one amongst us was any sort of risk-taker.

But we went and it was fun, fun, fun.  So much fun that we decided a little escapism was in order.  Only one in our crew had ever been to Estes Park and the allure of the Stanley Hotel was powerful.  Honestly, the appeal of visiting the venue associated with “The Shining” gave us shivers, just thinking about.  Unrelated to the weather. 

The prospect of daring to ditch the conference (only after we’d presented, of course) made us giddy like a bunch of teenagers. We rented a car and made a road trip of it and silly me…I was more excited about stepping foot in The Stanley than the beautiful drive from Denver and the picturesque qualities of Estes Park itself.  You see…that year, I was a mountain novice.  Other than a trip once or twice to the Smokey Mountains…driving thru to get elsewhere, mountain magic eluded me.

Spoiler about “The Stanley”.  Ho hum, ho hum.  Smaller than expected and no weird willy moments.  Nada.  Except for the stellar group pic from the front porch (snipped in above), visiting the supposed inspiration for Stephen King’s super spooktacular “The Shining” was boring.  So, we decided to split up, do some exploring elsewhere in Estes Park.  Trinket stores and fudge shops were everywhere and the opportunity for do-it-yourselfer walking tours sounded great.  Fresh air…and time for a few of us to reboot our introverted souls with a bit of solitude.

Me?  I ambled down some side streets and realized one was a dead end…delivering pedestrians to a park and a hiking gateway.  I’m no hiker, and as you can see from the pic, my version of ‘adventure wear’ was an Icelandic-looking reindeer sweater.  A favorite from Eddie Bauer that I wore to shreds…so comfy…but still, not hiking gear. 

I had time before the meet-up with my friends, so I followed the path, and without another soul in sight, I happened upon a hollowed-out tree, turned into a bench and a resting spot.  The weather up until then had been overcast, but stunning glimpses of the elevations around Estes Park were slightly visible but obscured by clouds.  As I sat on the bench, I enjoyed the solitude and unexpectedly, the clouds shifted, providing me with a stunning peek of a peak.

I’d forgotten about the high altitude in Estes Park, given the cloud cover, and after my short baby-hike, I unknowingly ventured higher than I imagined.  (Thank goodness for gradual grades on a path, right?  So gradual I didn’t know I was ascending.)  As I sat and took in the view, my breath escaped from my body – one big outflow in a way that I cannot describe. Not just a ‘take your breath away’ moment but a full body shiver and shake.  Like I was in the presence of something…requiring my full attention.  The something?  That blessed peak in front of me.

I didn’t know how far away I was from it, in reality, but to my eye, if I extended my arms, my fingertips would’ve touched the snow cap.  So close.  When the sun added a glimmer, enough to make me squint, I realized I was crying.  My dad’s nickname was “Sonny” because his mother always referred to him as her ‘little sunshine’ and in that moment, my papa who’d passed – about 18 months before – was right there with me.  I felt overwhelmed and the only thought in my head was “mountain magic” and then his voice saying, “Remember there’s magic in the mountains”. 

I’m still not sure what to make of that experience but it’s a keeper.  When I rejoined my friends my bestie Linda could tell I was ‘off’.  She and our other pals stocked up on treats for the ride back to Denver – tons of fudge and some mixed nuts – and as we walked back to the car she just asked, “Are you okay?” and then “Where’d you go?  My answer was pretty cloaked because I wasn’t sure what to say.  What I recall thinking…but I don’t know if it came out of my mouth…was this: “I think I found magic in the mountains.”

Thanks so much for reading.  It’s Thanksgiving today in the U.S. and this memory…of my moment in the mountains…was the first thing I thought of when I woke up this morning.  I figured it was my dad’s way of saying hello.  So, from him…and from me…sending hugs and reminders to look for magic…it might be right in front of you.

Vicki 😊

Aunt Bea’s Wit and Wisdom

black and white drawing of a farm

I’m a pondering parent this morning.  I know I’m not the first, last, or wisest person to conjure the notion that parenting is akin to farming but it’s on my mind just the same.

The most maddening thing for me, the woman who likes results and task completion, was the delayed and slow simmer of parenting payoffs.  Like tending crops?  Maybe.  Planting those seeds, hoping for a good yield, and praying for a hearty root system to sustain the burgeoning growth, especially in harsh and unpredictable conditions.  Pushing myself to believe in growth that I couldn’t yet see, much less celebrate?  A challenge. One that required all the scaffolding of trust and faith I could muster, often in the form of commiseration with equally stressed-out parenting friends, tending to their own ‘fields’, day in and day out.

My gratitude moment this morning took me to this reflective place because I remember.  I remember feeling the shaky sense of parenting doom. I’ve done it wrong…I’ve messed her up…followed by fear. Fear that my missteps, oversights, overreactions, or indifference – all of the things that parents-as-humans struggle with daily – would render dear daughter as less than in some way.   

I still have an occasional stress dream about a slice of parenting life where I wish I’d done better.  Those persistent what-ifs. (Maybe I should surrender and submit now – to some convoluted research study about women with errant, overrun, obsessive minds? 😉)

Seeking slumber, last night I received a ricochet recollection instead. About farming.  It came in hazy-like at first, appearing in the form of a slideshow…scenes from a trip to reclusive Aunt Bea’s farm when I was a kid.

Aunt Bea was a hellion for rebellion, one of the outcasts in the family.  I suspect she was ostracized because she was one of the few elders in mom’s life who put up with zero bullshit.  No guff from this rough-around-the-edges tough gal, Aunt Bea. 

I remember being mesmerized by her plain-spoken shutdowns, pointedly directed at Sue – my mom.  The recall episode last night was a moment – just a moment – when Aunt Bea pulled mom aside in a bean field.  I think Aunt Bea knew we were coming, but it didn’t deter her from sticking to her routine as she moved with purpose, tending to farming chores before breaking for ‘supper’ (lunch).  Mom was haughty and bossy toward Aunt Bea, frustrated that she wasn’t ready to receive us, lamenting that ‘poor Lisa’ (my disabled sister) needed to eat, stick to her schedule.

Wiping her brow with a dirty rag, Aunt Bea said something along the lines of, “Sue, you better toughen up and knock off the attitude.  Parenting is hard, it’s like tilling crops and pulling weeds – it’s not for the drama queens and the faint-hearted.  Right now, you’re both.  If you think Lisa is hungry, go make her a snack or shut up and get to work, right here” as she motioned toward a garden bed, overrun with weeds.

This time traveling stuff when I should be sleeping stinks, but the memory of Aunt Bea shutting down Sue? It was a memory with a message, and it prompted delight.  A highlight reel that woke me up, but I didn’t mind.

Aunt Bea’s been dead for years and I hadn’t thought about her…forever…but the memory of her showdown with mom was a good one.  And her message, “parenting is hard, it’s not for drama queens” wasn’t exactly the comfort I sought, but I took it anyhow, with a grin and gratitude.  Thank you, Aunt Bea.

Despite misgivings about my performance as a parent, I’m amazed by the talented human our dear daughter has become. She is fundamentally kind but more than that – I see her as someone who either innately, or through learned experience, knows to receive people as they are.  An openness about differences which I see her utilizing in every aspect of her life. She is, as my dad would say, ‘good people’.  Right-o.  Very little else matters, including my obsessive rewinds about my parenting performance and guest appearances from crochety, but wise, old Aunt Bea.

And so…parenting = farming?  Maybe so. The growing season is long and while the cloudy days may preoccupy my mind, it’s good to remember they’re mixed with sunny days of delight and love.  Today is one of those days.

-Vicki ❤

She Was a Pretty House…

I don’t know if my love of Queen Anne architecture is a nod to nostalgia or something else.  Like many things in my life, design-wise, I don’t question it.  It just IS.

Back a few generations, this stately home was built by my husband’s family, right around the turn of the century…I mean the last century…1900:

queen anne style home

My mother-in-law grew up there and on occasion, she would share sweet stories about secret rooms, hidden stairwells.  Not in a spooky way, more of an old houses have history and reflect their owners/builders way.

She’s still standing, this queenly residence, and is often featured, especially this time of year, in seasonal newspaper and magazine stories about autumn.  She was a pretty house. 

Yet I never knew she was technically a ‘tower’ Queen Anne style.  Interesting.  Learning about that helps to bring the memory of my mom-in-law close.  Little nuggets do that for me. 😊

Now?   She’s been subdivided into apartments.  We’re not sure what that’s like but we’re not altogether angry about it.  The house fell out of family hands in the 60’s so it hasn’t been “ours” for a very long time.  Still, we wonder if the developer kept as much of the interior as possible and wonder, if the secret staircases and tucked-away attic rooms, upon discovery, were kept or swept away.  I imagine the latter, for practicality’s sake.

Could we knock on the door and say, Oh hey there…may we come in…this place was special once, to the family who built it and we’re what’s left’.  Sure.  But we haven’t…and probably won’t.  Hubby and I both agree that monkeying with good memories might be a mistake. 

So, we’ll admire her from afar…once in a great while driving by but not lingering.  The family pics and memorabilia hold the sweet stuff now – including old photos like this one of the family that lived there first – mom-in-law, her siblings and parents, circa 1926:

black and white vintage family photo, 1920's
Mom-in-law Maxine is the littlest one…peeking out from behind her big sis…posing in front of their house.

All of this reminds me of an anonymous quote that I adore:

“Be the things you loved most about the people who are gone.”

Yes, and yes. Generational love for a house…a way of staying connected.

Cheers to you — and thanks for reading.

xo,

Vicki ❤

Hello, Yellow…

pyrex bowls
Meatball Memories

Do you have a favorite childhood food memory?  A smell so potent that you can blink and travel back in time?

I’ve got one of those and it involves an old Pyrex yellow bowl.  It was the biggest of four in a set passed down through a couple of generations, starting in the 40’s with my grandma.  The only thing I ever saw grandma use old yellow for was her weird “salad” that was truly a sugary diabetic bomb containing canned fruit cocktail, marshmallows, grapes and cottage cheese.  Well, I guess the cottage cheese wasn’t so bad, but the rest of it was bizarre – at least to the picky eater I was then (and now).

When mom inherited the set of bowls, including old yellow, she never used it for the aforementioned ‘salad’.  Instead, she christened the big Pyrex vessel with meatballs – and plenty of them.  Learning how to perfect the secret recipe from my dad’s family, mom created new uses for the entire set of bowls.  Old yellow was for rigatoni and meatballs.  Other pasta variations?  No!  Always rigatoni. 

Little blue was used exclusively for sliced radishes.  No, not to accompany the meatballs.  It didn’t get to play on Sundays.  Little blue appeared when dad wanted a spicy snack and for him, sliced radishes were his thing – especially if they floated in a salty ice-water bath.  Head scratcher, I say.

Red was a Sunday staple.  Red’s role was important because she held just the sauce (or gravy if you prefer).  The bounty in old yellow – glistening meatballs and pasta – often required an extra ladle or two of saucy goodness, once plated. Especially true for those of us who dove into the crusty bread.  That was red’s role.

Green?  You guessed itEXTRA meatballs.  Overflow central and for reasons I never understood, green’s meatballs were typically doused with a serious snowstorm of parmesan. Like a lot.  It melted and added a salty and savory punch unlike the meatballs mixed with the rigatoni.  Almost like another dish entirely. 

Sundays were the best with meatballs on the stove.  One of my earliest (and happy) memories is about meatballs.  Kneeling on a stepstool and learning how to smack and roll the raw meat, mixed with heavenly spices, egg and toasted breadcrumbs. I know I’m not alone.

The mostly-vegetarian in me goes off track to make this meal today. No recipe required – it’s all about eye-balling the ingredients and remembering to smack those little suckers hard – between both palms to scare any air pockets out of them.  Big baseball fans, always, I remember imagining my hands were two big catcher’s mitts, tossing the meaty mixture with authority, like playing catch.

When mom passed away, the bowls became mine and although I’ve wanted to use them – especially old yellow – to ladle it full of rigatoni and meatballs – I haven’t been able to do it.  Not yet.  But I think I’m building up to it.  The combination of the olfactory memories…the scents of my favorite meal served in that bowl combined with flashbacks of family drama? Mixed memories, but I’m almost ready.

Why the hesitation?  Hmmm. While I associate old yellow with happy stuff, mixed in, there were just as many maddening moments of another sort.  The kind that were punctuated by Sunday scream fests and bad behavior. 

Old yellow saw it all and has a teensy chip on the bottom to prove it…collateral damage during one of mom’s meltdowns.  The meatballs weren’t the culprit.  But I suspect the bottomless wineglass was.  Still, I’ve put it into perspective. Every Sunday wasn’t that way, and the meaningful meatball memories remain, as does old yellow.

Do you have a favorite childhood food memory? (Hopefully one that’s less messy than my meatball story?) Let me know – and thanks so much for reading. I think meatballs will be on the menu this Sunday. Yes – in old yellow.

-Vicki 😉

Shake, Rattle & Roll

antique china cabinet
The ‘chatty’ cabinet

I’ve tried to put this out of my mind for the past two weeks, and I’m struggling.  See the cabinet?  I don’t know how to explain this, but the dumb piece of furniture is talking back. 

Have I lost you already?  Sorry.  See? This is why I’ve been trying to shoo this story away.  Well, there are really two reasons:

  1. I don’t want to scare you.
  2. I’d rather you not think of me as entirely crazy (a little crazy is good, I think).

If we rewind to seven years ago, right about now, we were tending to my mom, Sue’s passing.  It was rough in every way, especially for lovely Lisa, my disabled sister, but she was comforted when we brought mom’s urn home – to nestle it next to dad’s.

Our pops died many years prior, and Lisa became accustomed to seeing his urn in our house – sometimes chatting and shooting the breeze with him.  Not creepy – sweet and endearing.

Eventually our parents want their urns buried together in a plot already picked out in their hometown, but for now, Lisa enjoys her periodic visits and communing with them.  All good because it gives her peace. 

When mom died, we brought her urn home and placed it next to dad’s and that’s when the shaky stuff started.  The two cabinets in that room hold old china, glassware, and crystal and twice after Sue “came home” we had early morning issues with unexplained broken glass on the floor – with the cabinet doors flung open.

I’m a pretty meticulous person about order and neatness (more so than spotlessly clean – don’t come over and expect to eat off the floors) and I know I didn’t leave the doors open, nor did I place crystal or crockery in tipsy positions.  No ma’am

Okay, you might be thinking, it was an oversized truck rumbling down the street – you know, creating vibrations resulting in the shaky, shaky.  No – we live on a dead-end street.  No one goes by unless they’re stopping for supper, which is always nice.  I make too much food anyhow. 

Fine – not a chubby truck.  Okay – it was a tremor – you know, those tectonic plates are a-shifting.  Earthquakes happen everywhere – even in the Midwest.  No.  No seismic shift.  I checked.  Scratch that off the list. 

How about a prankster?  No.  Unless hubby is the most colossal liar on the planet, with ninja-like magician skills.  He can’t be in two places at once, no matter how cool he is. 

This nonsense continued until I separated the urns.  Mom went in one room, dad in another and the shaky stuff stopped.  Just stopped.  Since then, we have the occasional odd door slamming episodes (which we attribute to breezes…um…even when the windows are closed) but it’s been quiet in the crockery department for several years.  Until Labor Day.

The cabinet in the picture is the culprit – the one that wanted to chat a couple of weeks ago.  We had friends and family over for a BBQ and at the end of the evening, I washed and dried the serving pieces – cheese trays, platters – that were used for our feast and had the two middle doors open, returning items to their spots. Awesome.  Task completion. 

EXCEPT this:  As I turned to walk away, the loudest possible rumble of broken glass and smashing crockery blew out of the cabinet.  LOUDLY.  I’d stepped back – maybe a foot – and when I turned, I expected to see everything in the cabinet in a heap on the floor. But what did I find?  Nothing.  None of the vases on the left (all sitting on glass shelves) or the serving pieces on the right and in the middle had moved one inch. Not a single thing was broken.

Sister Lisa was nearby and hustled over to help me and we just stood there – looking at each other, then the cabinet, sharing “I heard it too” while looking again and again to see what was broken.  Hubby was upstairs and came flying in thinking the whole cabinet had toppled over.  Now three of us stood in front of it with our mouths hanging open. 

For Lisa’s benefit, I finally saidoh, it must’ve been something outside, or something that fell upstairs but I knew better.  I just did.  Why?  Right before the crash Lisa was around the corner – saying goodbye, one last time – to mom’s urn before we drove Lisa home.  Which leads me to conclude mom “replied” shake, rattle and roll style.  If it was a nudge to remember her, I think we got the message.  Loud and clear. 

But still, I’m pondering; seeking other explanations.  Nothing’s come yet – and maybe that’s okay.

Xo,

Vicki ❤

Verbal Guard Rail: Thanks, Dad!

black and white photo of young man
My dad – silly and wise

My dad was no philosopher.  His exterior and public persona were die-hard business dude.  Crisp, tidy and in control defined his personality (oh – and an obsessive fondness for white shirts – learn about that here). 

Appearances aside, he had a very squishy marshmallow cream center and from that warm and caring core, he offered endless witticisms.  Some were altogether goofy and clearly made up – in the moment – by this man who was rarely at a loss for words.  I’m sure he “borrowed” from other great thinkers – never knowing exactly who he was quoting or the context.  Didn’t slow him down, not even a beat. 

The common denominator?  He was wired to help and encourage and on occasion, his advice came in the form of a verbal guard rail – a gentle warning that I might want to steer clear, move along – lest I’ll suffer the impact, the outcome, the collision.   His years of married life with mom surely helped him craft this gift.  Battle scars and strategy can do that.

None of these meaningful morsels are written down – anywhere.  If asked to recall and catalogue them – I just can’t.  They appear, oddly when I need them the most, and that too is a reminder to my often-wayward spiritual self to RECEIVE without overthinking.

Here’s an example.  As a kid, whenever I found myself noodling on issues outside my sphere of influence (daily dramas and annoyances – the things that are oh-so easy to crab about) he’d see the look on my face or hear the venomous tone and offer a low, monotone message, in a wonky, put-on Southern drawl:

Mm hmm…best to keep your eyes on your own paper, missy” and that was it.

Just like that!  He conveyed that he heard me (win #1) and offered advice to move on – quit the twisting and fussing (win #2). 

Eyes on my own paper, indeed.  Advice that still works, years later. If I embroidered, I’d consider putting that on a pillow.

xo,

Vicki ❤

Power of Play

four pairs of sneakers for adults and kids
Lace up and go!

I’m thinking about the power of play today.  The importance of connecting with the child that’s still tucked within us.  

Tucked – where, exactly, you ask?  I know what you’re thinking!  I’m an overburdened, card-carrying ADULT with all the, um, rights and privileges….and mountain of never-ending duties to prove it.  Time to play?  Stop, please.

Yeah, yeah.  Heard.  But still.  Take a minute, will you?  Close your eyes and trust me.  I know there’s a memory, a family memento or a long-forgotten photo that’s so powerful, it’s capable of triggering a rush of I remember; guiding you back to a moment when you felt lighter, invincible, capable, GOLDEN.

Childlike wonder can be reclaimed, but you might need to coax it into the light. Wonder is everywhere.  If not in our comforting memories, perhaps right in front of you – at this very moment.  Be encouraged to look for it as Madeleine L’Engle suggests.  Be open:

“I am still in the process of growing up, but I will make no progress if I lose any of myself along the way.”

women and children, games and play
Advice from Madeleine and Maxine

My mom-in-law Maxine understood that play was a priority. The photo of her with two of her granddaughters on a sunny summer day conveys that. She relished time with ‘her girls’ and would cancel everything on her busy-lady agenda just to spend open ended days with her granddaughters.  No one knew she would be gone just a few years after.  No one ever knows.

What to do, what to do?  She’d ask in her sing-song, joyful refrain. Pool?  Sure!  Baking? Absolutely!  But most of all, the girls loved fetching the musty old box of board games.  Relics from other generations – hidden like treasure – disguised in a faded brown file box.  Simply marked “GAMES” in Maxine’s signature block printing.

Where’s the box now?  In our basement – unopened for a decade, at least. I haven’t had the courage to peek into it since Maxine’s passing but I might one day soon.  Wonder sits within.  I know it.

-Vicki ❤

Well Worn and Loved

women's brown vintage sandals
Vicki’s vintage sandals

These shoes.  Oh…these shoes.  They saved me one summer when I was ‘studying’ abroad in France (and I should probably confess that the “studying” part is open to interpretation).

Packing light – backpack only – I foolishly wore my favorite Frye boots and took no other footwear.  None at all.  Now – know this.  I come from a long line of boot-wearing, Texas-loving, cowboy-wannabee lineage.  Boots are (and were) the shoe of choice in my family.  Especially the first pair gifted to me from my dad – right before my first trip to France. 

I don’t think actual cowboys believe Frye boots count as ‘western wear’ but I wore those babies proudly for two months.  Were they hot when my travels sent me to the coast – to Nice and Marseilles that summer?  Indeed. 

Which is where this pretty pair of ultra-soft leather sandals surfaced.  I needed relief. I spent my last bit of fun money on these wedges which meant I ate baguettes and not much else as my travels winded down.  At first touch I loved these shoes; handmade AND they truly DID feel like ‘buttah’.  As much as I adored my boots, I switched over and marveled at how happy my feet were.  Is this what custom footwear feels like, I wondered?

That trip was decades ago, so I figure I can share that my well worn and loved ‘south of France’ sandals are a treasured keepsake.  Yep – I’m old enough to have my very own ‘vintage’ and antique apparel!

In my closet, shoes come and go but these will forever hold a place of privilege because of the memories they hold – no matter how bedraggled they look. 

The boots?  They were resoled several times but my sweet papa kept buying new ‘shit kickers’ for me anytime I asked.  I wish I’d never let that first pair go.  They were discarded in a frenzied closet clean-up. Silly girl.  Why did I do that? Consolation?  Yep.  These shoes.  😊

-Vicki

Maxine’s Gingersnaps

black and white photo of a cookie recipe
Maxine’s Gingersnaps

My mom-in-law, Maxine, passed away in 2009 but her trademark gingersnap cookies live on – satisfying rumbling tummies of all types. 

The recipe is modest – see above – jotted down in her trusty notebook in her schoolteacher’s tidy cursive.  Not too many ingredients and the steps are straightforward. 

Were Maxine’s gingersnaps delicious?  Yes, indeed!  But it’s taken my husband and I years of tweaking to figure out why our efforts were never as good as hers – despite our diligence in following the instructions exactly.  Maybe too much so…

It’s great to have this connection to her.  The heavenly smell in the house brings her close every time – the comforting mix of cloves and cinnamon summon her.   BUT — we were flummoxed and frustrated by our creations:  stiff little bricks masquerading as gingersnaps.  No fluffy, spicey treats.

Accusations flew…we must’ve left out a key ingredient.  Oven temp too high?  Too low?  Didn’t ‘cream’ the shortening and sugar enough? We drove ourselves batty.  So much so that we almost gave up. 

Until…I realized Maxine methodically planted herself on her yellow kitchen stool to watch the cookies.  Every time.  She didn’t multi-task by doing a few dishes or throwing a load of laundry into the washer.  Nope.  She watched those little buggers and knew they needed to depart the oven – speedy quick – just at the point of puffiness.  Was that 9 or 10 minutes?  I suspect it was often at the 8-minute mark which explains our gingersnaps-disguised-as-hockey-puck efforts. 

The good news?  A little edit – striking out “9 or 10 minutes” and noting “check at 8 minutes” made all the difference.  I imagine Maxine chuckling in the great beyond.  “Yes of course.  Don’t you remember?  I told you they’re still baking a bit after they’re pulled from the oven!” 

Here’s the recipe. Perhaps easier on the eyes than Maxine’s handwriting from the photo:

3/4 cup shortening (softened)

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup light molasses

1 beaten egg

2 cups flour

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tsps. soda (baking)

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. cloves

1 tsp ginger

Cream shortening and sugar. Add molasses and egg; beat well. Add sifted dry ingredients; mix well. Roll small ball, dip balls into sugar, place 2″ apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake in modest oven (375 degrees) about 9 or 10 minutes. Makes 4 dozen.

If you’re a fan of gingersnaps, bake a batch!

Big smiles,

-Vicki

Memories Matter

portraits of boy and girl

What do you do when an unexpected loss rocks your world? The urge to retreat is palpable. I think it’s a survival instinct for some of us. We all handle grief differently. Some are soothed by community and connection immediately, softening the hard edges of loss. Others of us? We need solitude and time to listen to the quieter voices – often within us – to help guide our heads and hearts – gingerly and softly, through the pain and permanence of a loved one’s passing.  It’s not a long-term shutdown. Just an interlude. 

These sketches of Paul and Patty surfaced during such an interlude. The two depicted are siblings. My husband, Paul, sketched at 12 years old, sitting side-by-side with his big sister, Patty, the summer before she headed off to college. With a substantial gap of eight years between them, they were independent spirits growing up – often remarking that each felt more like an ‘only’ than part of a sibling pair because of their age gap. And yet – they were terrific friends who became good adults. Marrying and establishing their own families but still attentive and loving to their parents and each other.

Their mother, Maxine, commissioned the drawings from a close family friend who was an artist. Immediately these 18 x 20 portraits became Maxine’s prized possessions – always displayed in her home. She often remarked that Paul and Patty could be separated by years and great distances, but she could summon both close to her as she relaxed in her living room, admiring their sketched images over a cup of tea or her evening martini (two olives, please). 

When Maxine passed away thirteen years ago, Paul and Patty’s portraits were a conundrum. Each asked the other – “Do you want mine?” “Do we keep them together?”  Unable to decide, the portraits sat for over a decade in our basement. Not forgotten, exactly. The sketches were chock-full of melancholy reminders of their mother and how much she loved both of her children. Easy to leave the portraits parked for a while.

Until a few weeks ago. Unexpectedly, Patty passed away. It was shocking and sad and oh-so swift. Processing pain? There’s no formula. No timeline. Friends and family are a blessing but in the quiet, uninterrupted interludes, clarity waits. This time it came in the form of a memory. The sweet recollection of the “Paul and Patty” portraits. Dusting them off in the basement and hanging them – this time in our living room – helped Paul and I both with our grief.

Paul and Patty – together again.  Keeping loved ones close through memories and family mementos means everything. 

Wishing you peace and comfort,

-Vicki