A favorite blogger writes: "What has happened to all the women who are done with child-rearing? Young voices permeate the blogosphere." What do sixty-something women do with their lives, especially if they do not have full-time jobs? We're here to find that out.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
A wedding and a discovery
Did I mention that there had been a wedding at the Adirondack house? Only the second in the history of the house, the first being daughter G's, in 1993. The bride this time is not a family member, but the daughter of the man who has helped maintain the property (plumbing, lawn, general repairs and upkeep) for years. Jim knows more about the house than all the rest of us put together. He knew, of course, that we still had the wooden arbor from G's wedding in the garage. (It's been borrowed for at least one local high school prom, as well. )
Some of us mingled with the invited guests; others (e.g. grandson L and I) decided to stay inside and view the proceedings from this unusual perspective:
A slightly different view from the library window. If we step back a few feet we would be able to see those old magazines, and the newspaper. But what 's that on the windowsill? In the tray. A little set of leatherbound nature and wildlife guides. They've been there pretty much forever, I imagine, but I've never noticed them before.
I pick one up:
And look inside. This was my mother's book! The inscription, in my grandmother's familiar handwriting, reads: "Catharine Justine Sinclaire. Oct 2, 1920. Gloversville, with her own money (received for taking castor oil.)" Notice that the book cost $1.00. I guess that was the going rate for castor-oil-taking in 1920. Seems like a lot!
Mom would have been almost seven then. And the family would be occupying the house for the very first season. Just two days later, baby Clothilde, the youngest daughter, would be born. In the house, of course. The only birth to ever take place on the premises, even now.
I did bring the little book home with me, after double-checking with a few sixty-something cousins. Kind of an unwritten rule, but we don't just TAKE stuff - even now. Maybe especially now. But I'm having second thoughts. Maybe I ought to take it back. What if somebody needs to look up a wildflower?
As you might have guessed, I've been back for a while. Hiding. But you must know by now how long it takes me to shift gears, and get back into "home" mode. This seems to be particularly true when I visit the Adirondack house, which is not only a physical sort of trip (even though not that far) but - more importantly - a form of TIME travel.
And so much for idle promises. I took almost no photos, and the pastels stayed in their boxes. Worse yet, I didn't revisit the old letters except to ascertain that they were still there, and notice that there were quite a few more similar-looking boxes. One, that I just peeked into, appeared to contain all of my great-grandfather's bank statements and cancelled checks from 1938 and probably before. Things like $2.50 for auto repair.
Sorry, but I just couldn't get into it. I was really more interested, this time, in being around the children, living in the present. And it's not easy to do both. So I just brought down a couple of magazines (randomly chosen from stacks and stacks). A 1927 Vogue. A 1948 House and Garden. I put them casually on the desk in the library, thinking they'd make a nice complement to the 1952 NY Herald Tribune that's been there for years now, though not since 1952. Leafing through them there, I imagined that my grandmother (and others) must have read them when they were new in that very setting.
Except for the cast of characters, which is always shifting, from one set of third cousins to another, the activities and backgrounds stay the same. Children digging in the sand at the beach. Roasting corn off the kitchen porch. Picking blackberries. Playing games in the library (OK, this time it was watching the Olympics). I could post photos that were several years old and nobody would be the wiser. So, in fact, that's what I'll do:
Not all of these photos are related to the Adirondack House. The common theme is my sister, whose last visit was just three years ago, and who died suddenly and unexpectedly barely three months later. The photo in the top right shows the house as it must have appeared in the 1960's, and was taken by her. Until the advent of digital cameras (which never interested her), she was the family photographer, well-known for documenting pretty much everything. There she is with Supermom and the gang in the top middle photo, and in the middle right (in the Adirondack house kitchen. The bottom row photos are all from 2005 (I think), and the middle row (center and left) show her as a teenager and as a brand new college graduate.
Can you see why I might think that she really never aged or changed?
The reason I'm dwellling on all this is that while I was in the Adirondacks, there was an estate sale being held at her home in Wisconsin. Supermom and Quantum Void had taken what they wanted of the "good" things, but there was still a heck of a lot left over. Like EIGHTY shetland and Norwegian-type sweaters. Eighty!? Who knew that my sister was the Imelda Marcos of sweaters?
But then I started to think: most likely some, if not most of those sweaters dated from her high school and college years - maybe even earlier. Not one to follow fashion trends, she had, early on, found a look that suited her and stuck with it. And, since her size never really changed, what reason would she have had to get rid of any of those sweaters? And could you blame her for wanting to add a new one once in a while?
Letters from 1943? Bank statements from 1938? Eighty sweaters doesn't seem so unreasonable. It must be a family thing.
Taking a blogging break for a while. It's unlikely I'll be able to post from the Adirondack house, though there's always the local library, should there be something urgently blogworthy. I'll be connecting with family there - daugher, grandchildren, cousins - including two of the very youngest of the new generation, one of whom I haven't yet met. We are so lucky to have this beautiful and unchanging family refuge.
I'm anxious, of course, to get back to that stash of letters in the attic. There won't be any gardening chores, which will seem a little weird in a cold-turkeyish sort of way, especially since I'll be fretting nonstop about what's happening at home. Gardeners really can't just LEAVE! But I'm taking the pastels. And the camera, of course. Oh, and a little spade. You never know what you might want to dig up a little of. Last year it was the variegated bishop's weed. We'll see how it goes.
This is the yummy jam I made out of the free peaches, along with a handful of supermarket raspberries. I'll have to keep it in the fridge and use it up fairly quickly, since I didn't have any official canning jars on hand. Somehow, I don't think that will be a problem, though there is quite a lot of it. One thing to note: I didn't bother to peel the peaches, and it didn't seem to be an issue. Nothing at all unpleasant about the texture or the taste. The skins just sort of dissolved, I guess, in the cooking. Another thing: most of the peaches were a bit underripe, but apparently that is a GOOD thing when it comes to jam-making qualities.
What do I know of blogging, really? I kind of stumbled on it. Some of the first blogs I noticed were food blogs. After a while I began to see a pattern: blog often, blog well, and, with luck you'll end up with a book deal.
One of my new favorite bloggers has turned the tables. Margaret Roach, of A Way to Garden, had, after a long career in garden journalism, including the writing of numerous books, reached the pinnacle of success as the director of all editorial content for Martha Stewart Omnimedia. Nowhere further to go. So, what does she decide to do, but chuck it all - ditch the corporate life, and retire to her gorgeous upstate New York garden and BLOG! What she really really likes to do is garden and write about gardening. So that's what she's doing. Lucky for the rest of us, she is really, really good at it.
I should have taken a picture. I'm driving home through Bloomfield, on one of those little side streets off Broad St and suddenly, on the curb, I see an enormous pile of black plastic trash bags and a hand-written sign: Free Mulch.
So of course I pull over to investigate. (I had scored a super-huge bag of fresh grass clippings just the other day, so my yard waste radar is working full-time.) The bags are all neatly closed with little knots. I open one. Inside, there's one of those brown paper yard waste bags, tighly sealed with plastic packing tape. I peel off the tape. Inside I see what appears to be dark, finely ground up wood. Perfect for the lawn reduction project!
So I cram what I can inside the car (trunk and back seat). Roughly half. I'll have to make a return trip. I zoom home, unload the bounty, and head back for more. While I'm loading up for the second time, a lady emerges from the house and greets me enthusiastically. I tell her how thrilled I am to be getting exactly what I need. A tree was taken down, she explains. She, having gone to all the work of bagging it all up, is equally thrilled that it is going to be put to good use.
She wants to help me load up the car. Then she wants to show me where the tree had been. (I am basically getting an entire ground up maple tree, neatly bagged.) It's one of those great old-fashioned back yards that makes you think it's 1952. Right in the middle is a peach tree, heavy with ripe peaches.
Wow! I say. Look at all those peaches! Want some? she asks. Of course! Aren't you going to use them? No - there might be bugs..... She has lived there for 45 years. Peaches aren't a novelty. Just a nuisance.
Sometimes I think I just live right. Don't ask about the swing, however.
My tendency, at the market, is to buy what looks good, then figure out what to do with it later on. So it was that I found myself with a counterful of fresh apricots, eggplant (4 different colors), and beets. The apricot tart recipe came from Orangette, and it's based on a Zuni Cafe recipe.
I made it exactly as described. Easy and wonderful. If only fresh apricots were more often available. The eggplant went into this poorly photographed but delicious concoction from Simon Hopkinson's "Roast Chicken and Other Stories", blogged about (and much more temptingly photographed) here by Adam Roberts, The Amateur Gourmet. It's one of those sweet/spicy things: currants, tomatoes, onions, cumin, coriander, mint.... I wouldn't call it a quick summer dish to be thrown together in a flash. Au contraire - I was standing over a hot cast-iron skillet for quite some time. But the end result is very much worth the effort.
And here are the beets. Can you believe I have never in my life made a salad of raw grated beets? It is about to be my new favorite thing. A simple recipe from the Everyday Food cookbook, it's just raw beets and carrots shredded in the Cuisinart in a dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, honey, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, salt, cayenne, parsley.
Thankfully I am well fed, as the progress on the swing assembly is stalled for the moment. H and D came over and put together the A-frame end pieces. But they got stuck trying to attach the big top crosspiece to the ends. Perhaps those 6 inch bolts will grow an inch or so in the night, and I'll be able to properly attach the washer and nut on the other end in the morning.
Another assembly job in the works. I got the seat part together with relative ease, but am having a little trouble with the A-frame. It will replace the plastic chair in the far northeast corner of the garden. Years and years ago the children had a swing there, hanging from a tree. Both the swing and the tree are long gone. Now it's my turn to swing.