Apple Cider Memories

One of my favorite drinks is Apple Cider. You would think living in apple country would afford me the opportunity to drinking it whenever my heart desires, but I don’t. Apple Juice can never be as extravagant as Apple Cider.

To my mind there’s an unwritten rule we only drink it in the Fall, at the beginning of harvest, draining our cups until the end of November. Ice cold with a molasses cookie on a brisk Saturday afternoon, or spicy hot as a mulled toddy on a cool autumn evening, my Apple Cider drink brings back memories of every color and stripe, thoughts of my youth, and the youth of my children.


When I was young, Halloween cookies frosted with orange icing and candy corn were the staples of my diet during that season, as was that of all my friends. There were no calories in those delectable treats that we worried over, no concerns as to sugar content and diabetic comas. I carried on the tradition with my children, who were only happy to oblige. While they were not indulged with sugary cereals or kool aid, this was the season where concern over healthy eating went out the window. It is the stuff our memories are made of; between carving pumpkins and finding scary music to play, the sweet gobs of sucrose would stick with us like they stuck to our teeth, reminding us to stop only when it hurt to eat any more. Faces red with the cold on some Halloween evenings, we warmed ourselves with hot cider, a slice or orange and a cinnamon stick. Bags stuffed with candies and treats, it was another chance of holding onto innocence and childhood, even those who were well into their teens and would have thought otherwise this time together was so uncool.

Trick or treating was not only the signal of the end of the sugar highs, but the turning of the page towards Thanksgiving. That holiday had treats all its own, with hot apple pies and mountains of vanilla ice cream or a giant block of cheddar cheese.

And a nice hot cup of Apple Cider. How very blessed we are to be part of the season of harvest and all that it brings us. May we never take it for granted or the farmers who share it with us.
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Another Harold, Another Time

 

20429772_10212964463322674_8573059864175598030_nOur yearly anniversary/vacation to the Thousand Islands region in Upstate (WAY Upstate) New York has come and gone.

It is the place where my husband proposed to me, and the continuation of a yearly practice of his childhood.   He’d been traveling with his family to the towns of Clayton and Alex Bay since he was 3 months old and never tired of it.  He transferred that love of  the water and the openness of the area to me.

An avid (read obsessed) boater, he claimed it is the perfect place to unwind, unplug, and just float the days away.  I agreed.

The week was filled with rain, sun and laughs, not particularly in that order.  It wasn’t until the last day of our vacation that things started to go awry.

Traveling down the roads of his youth, we sat in the old truck which towed the even older boat behind us, reminiscing about the weeks events.  As we headed towards home, we remembered the delicious dinners, cook outs, the celebration of our anniversary, tasting and walking through wineries,  and spending the time with friends and loved ones  all came to mind, laughing until our bellies hurt and realizing it was time to take a break.

Pulling into the service area, we both went about out business and looked forward to getting home.

Except the old truck had other ideas.

My husband turned the key to start it, and nothing.  Weird.  The radio and lights came on, but not the starter.

Getting under the hood, looking for clues, it looked like it might be the starter.  Or the regulator. Or the junction box.  Or maybe it was just tired.  It is an old truck, after all.

Just as he was getting ready to call for a tow, a man not too far from our ages, pulled up beside us in his equally battered pickup truck.

“Need a jump?” he asked matter of fact, white teeth large and shiny in the sunlight, a contrast to his dark beginnings of a beard framing the rest of his smallish face and slight build, pony tail peeking out behind his head.

“I don’t think its the battery, everything lights up….” my hubby started, but before he could finish our wiry new friend had jumped up and was peering into the engine.

“Have a screwdriver?” he asked.

“Sure.” He had been banging away with a hammer in one hand, and had the screwdriver in the other.

Before we could say anything, our friend bent down and positioned himself under the vehicle.  He started banging the hammer, so hard we shook in our seats like on a roller coaster ride.

“Turn the key when I tell you” he yelled and my husband obeyed.

The old truck roared to life.

Our little friend stood up, smiling big once again and handed back the tools.

“This ought to get you home; just don’t turn the truck off if you stop, ok?”

“Thank you, thank you!” we both shouted.  “Thank you so much!”  My husband fished around in his jeans pocket, looking for some cash to pay him.

“No charge!” he insisted, and shook both of  our hands wildly.

“What’s your name?” I asked, thinking I would donate a coffee or something in his name.

“Harold” he answered.

I immediately thought of the column I had written years ago entitled “Love From the Harolds” (read it here)  about an old next door neighbor father and son who enhanced my life just by knowing them.

It appeared yet another Harold was a guardian angel of sorts, sent from above.

We thanked Harold again, and he jumped back into his old truck, winking as he stepped on the gas.

 

As most newly married couples do, we had begun a custom of  saying “To First Dates” when we toast each other be it with wine, beer or water.  It was a way of acknowledging our beginning, and hoping we would always feel the way we did then.  We were anticipating an even longer time until our end.

From now on, we decided we would just toast and say “To the Harolds”

All of them.  It seemed only fitting.

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Blow Me Down

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When I was a kid, I was afflicted with annoying hay fever.   I would suffer from the first thaw of spring to the first frost of autumn.   My eyes would be itchy and red, and under my eyes would swell to almost double the size.   My throat would get hoarse and I wouldn’t be able to talk sometimes, and I was a heartbeat away from developing the asthma that kicks in when I am run down.
The only over the counter medication of the day was Allerest, and my mother bought it in 100 tab jars.   I can still see in my mind’s eye the tall jar of blue pills sitting in the medicine cabinet, next to the Alka Seltzer and Head & Shoulders shampoo.   alka seltzer

It usually lasted about 4 hours, evidence of its effectiveness wearing off shortly before the fourth hour. An alarm clock was set so that I would wake up at 5:30 a.m. to take the first pill, and I was given a baggie with 2 more to take to school with me.
Although the clock was set for 5:30 a.m., it really wasn’t needed. My father was already up, having awakened at 4:00 a.m. to get ready for work. He would get up and cook the two soft boiled eggs and toast, the same breakfast he ate every day until the day he died at 73 years old.   He put on his suit and always made sure he had a white handkerchief in his back pocket – and an extra one for me.   White and folded in fours, it was part of his outfit every day.
“Here kid, take this” he’d say and I grab it as I rushed to the bathroom to blow my nose.   Boxes of tissues were worthless and toilet paper was a waste of money; I went through them both way too fast.   A cloth hanky was what I needed.  He called it ‘sharing family germs.’white man hanky

I had always wished that I had dainty, girly type hankies, and certainly not a man’s handkerchief.


One of my chores when I was a preteen was to iron those damn handkerchiefs. Bingo Mary would supervise.

“You missed a spot” she’d point out, if I didn’t iron straight to the corner of the cloth.

That was me – always taking the shortest route.

“What’s the difference?” I’d argue, “I’m only going to sneeze into it! Then I’m going to stuff it like this”, and I’d pick one up and stuff it into my size A bra.

I didn’t develop womanly curves until I was much, much older.

I stood there with one mutant breast pushing out under my sweat shirt.

She’d just look at my mother choking on her Pepsi.

Bingo Mary would just shake her head and go over to the sink to fill up the teakettle with water.

“Heaven help her, Patsy”, she’s announce with a touch of a grin, Irish brogue intact.

“She’s a loony one, she is.”


I never did get those dainty girly type hankies. I carried those thick white cotton handkerchiefs everywhere with me. It never occurred to me to just go out and buy my own. By that time, they had become part of my outfit too, just like they had become my Dad’s.   When he died, I snuck one from his bureau draw. If I put my nose into it, I can still smell his aftershave.


Nowadays my husband and I both load up on Benadryl, and I always make sure there’s a stash of white cloth handkerchiefs in full supply folded in his dresser drawers.

No words are needed if one of us starts sneezing and we don’t have one close by.

Hey, we’re married.  Family germs.

Memorable Memorial

American-Flag-Wall-ArtOn this reverent of days in the United State of America, let us honor those who have died in wars on land, on sea and in the air.

But let us not forget those who fell on September 11, 2001. They too have served in a war, been part of a bloody battle for freedom and righteousness.

Let us remember the women and mothers who went to work that morning. Kissed their husbands and babies and boyfriends goodbye and never came home. The young men fresh from college or business school or working their way through the trenches, climbing to find the real war was in a building 101 stories up. That the only certain relief was to jump.

The seasoned gentlemen who thought they had seen it all.

The ones who perished in an instant because they went to work that day.

They were not on a battlefield, on a ship or in a barracks. They were not on a plane or a military instillation. But when called to duty, they fought.

They fought valiantly and without hesitation. They were warriors and soldiers in the war against our country and our way of life.

A war not of their choosing.

But they fought until the end.

They are heroes.

Let us always honor them.

Let us never forget them.

Now, more than ever.

Blessed Memorial Day to all our beloved dead.

THE FUN PART

This is the fun part.

The reward for missed dinners, laundry baskets around town full of smoke laden shirts, dirty rugs from boots caked with mud, sore backs, sore muscles and smoky, blood shot eyes.

Besides the obvious gift of coming home at all, its one of the few thank you gesture they receive. Even though they don’t do it for the recognition, it is appreciated when the community stands up and says thanks.

The first parade of the season is at the Apple Blossom Festival – and I was there again to get it all down.

Upgrading to a video camera this year, it was fun to sit and wait among the crowds. Record breaking attendance this year is the result of a boring and bleak winter season, everyone was just happy to get out of the house. Where is a better place than at a parade? Unseasonably cool for May, we were glad it wasn’t raining.

The Apple Blossom Festival is like every other festival in americana life. When I was a kid, it was known as the Fireman’s Fair – but the name is only that – just a name. The feelings it evokes are universal.

The carnival came to town as well, right on schedule. Sandwiched between the high school parking lot and a small plant further down the road, the area became the magical place of rides, the giant ferris wheel, and cotton candy. The aroma of funnel cakes (our personal favorite) filled the air, amidst the call of barkers and game keepers. The clickity clak of the betting wheel and pipe organ music in the background, was only the backdrop for the festivities at hand.

Picking the Apple Blossom Queen and her Court was done earlier in the week, as this festivals goes for seven days! They sit upright in their chauffeured convertible, waving and cheered by adoring parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends. Part of the parade of four fire companies, bag pipes and high school bands, they are pieces of the spectacle yet to come. So are the fife, drum and bugle corps, jazz companies and scouts. I smile as I watch them pass by, all heads held high, tandem in step by step.

They are there, young and old, beside me on the sidewalk, and I search the faces in the crowd to see a neighbor or someone from church. No one I recognize, for this is still a large community and I have yet to see an 1/8 of it all.

It doesn’t stop them from searching my face either, and its a nice surprise when someone introduces themselves.  You’re from…..? they start and I realize I’m standing next to the postman, and a cashier from the local IGA from down the road.

Popcorn and candy vendors line the streets, and I found my new friends the fudge makers. They smiled in recognition and waved hello. Other tents set up to house t-shirts and flags clogged the road, as well as pottery and jewelry, standard sale items at any festival.

When it came time for the Town Supervisor to stand at the podium, all was quiet as he thanked the men and women in our armed forces, those who could not be with us today, and those who would never be with us again. The applause was deafening when the parade of military crossed in front of us.

Handsome and crisp in their uniforms, they are part of the battalion that fights here at home, the firefighters who face harms way whether by land or on the water. 

Yes, this was the fun part, marching in a hometown parade.

I’m sure there were good luck lady bugs somewhere that day.

But I think most of them were at a parade.  

 

George & Bob Stories – Boys is Boys, Cats is Cats

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George and Bob were brothers.

One was older than the other.

But I forget which one.

One day Bob saw the neighbors cat Tuesday sitting outside on the window sill of his house.

I wonder how he got up there?  Bob thought to himself.

As if reading his mind, Tuesday picked his head up, jumped down off the ledge and ran around the side of the house.

I wonder if I can do that?  he thought again to himself. I bet George would know.

Bob ran through the back door and into the kitchen, where he saw Mommy doing the dishes. Mommy (whose name was Madeline) was always doing dishes and folding laundry. George was sitting at the kitchen table, eating Lucky Charms cereal for breakfast.

George saw Bob running into the kitchen.  “Look Bob, a four leaf clover!” he said showing Bob a spoonful.

“Never mind that, George” Bob said. “Do you think you might be able to jump up to a a window like Tuesday does without falling down?”

Mommys ears perked up while standing at the sink, but she didn’t say anything.  She had visions of her two boys throwing themselves against the window.

“Huh?” George said as he stuffed another spoonful of pink stars and yellow moons into his mouth.

“Do you think you could jump up on to the window ledge like Tuesday?”  Bob’s face was turning red.  It only happened when he was getting frustrated.

George gave a couple last chews before swallowing. He looked at his brother and thought about what he asked him. Finally he answered.

“Yeah. I could.  I guess. But why would I want to?”

Bob thought about his answer before he said anything. Mommy was curious to see what he would say.

“Well, just to see if you could, that’s all!”

Just then Francine, their little sister, walked into the room. She had been listening while sitting on the floor in the hall way, changing the diaper on her baby doll.

“Let boys be boys and cats be cats” she said in a calm voice.

Bob shook his head. Who asked her anyway? “You’re a dummy Francine, you know that?”

“That’s enough Bob” Mommy said, turning away from the sink. “Go outside and let your brother finish his breakfast and apologize to your sister.”

“I’m sorry you’re a dummy, Francine!” he said laughing as he ran out the back door.

Francine looked at mommy, shrugging her shoulders. Her brother was silly sometimes, but she loved him anyway.

“You know that Bob loves you very much, don’t you Francine?”    275413SDC[1]

Yes, she thought.   “Even though he doesn’t know how to say it sometimes.”

“Thats right, sweetie. Sometimes he’ll just say something stupid instead.”

Sometimes boys are boys and cats are cats.

And that’s the story of George and Bob who are brothers.

One is older than the other.

But I forget which one.

© 2003 Eileen Loveman

Bending With The Wind

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The pink and white tablecloth has been laundered and folded, put away on the shelf for the next Easter holiday gathering.

The green and yellow grass remnants from full chocolate filled baskets handled by little hands (and not so little hands) are securely wrapped around the dust of the day in the vacuum cleaner canister.

The yellow and pink blooms were still on the table, beginning to wilt a little, while the sturdy, hardier plants are waiting to be planted, once the rain stops and the ground warms up just a tad more.

The leftover ham on bone has been sliced, diced and boiled for future meals, in true ‘don’t waste a thing’ fashion, the scent of onions, garlic and veggies lingering in the air.  I am very mindful of those who didn’t have the same Easter as we did this year.

‘We’ being the gathering of people, older and younger, the addition of friends both long term and short, and the noise of joy surrounding the promise of warmer days to come, a true Easter miracle to have awoken to an 80 degree morning in upstate New York this early in April.

The morning was spent worshipping at the new-to-us church down the road from our house, so close we could walk on sunny summer mornings if we want to.  Perhaps the beginning of  yet another  new church family,  we spent the time singing and praying with them, and listening to another point of view regarding the resurrection and its effect on mankind.  The message not delivered in the same fashion as we are accustomed to, but a universal message nonetheless.

I think of my siblings, scattered across the country, and know they are having similar thoughts.  We know that we are lucky.  We have food, we have friends, and we have successful children who make us proud.

We spent the day with those we love and who love us, unconditionally.

We spent the time eating and drinking, laughing and dancing, not worried about what is on the horizon.  Waiting and receiving the phone calls from those who live far from us, it makes the family tree all that much stronger.  Our connections are complete.

The green buds of the maple, and the flowers of the apple & peach trees are starting to poke out from around the rough bark of the foundation of which they live.

I strive everyday to make sure our family foundation is strong, able to withstand the winds of change or dissention.  Branches bend and so must we.

“Our Lord has written the promise of resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in springtime.” (Martin Luther)

May the buds of springtime in your life continue to blossom, the promise of new  challenges continue to bless you, and the knowledge of our blessings continue to strengthen our faith.

We are called to be a Resurrection people.