last column

I think it might sound more ‘normal’ to say that I am not good at goodbyes, but who am I kidding? I’ve never been the most normal person in the world and in all honesty I am actually quite good at saying goodbye. I’ve said goodbye probably a million times in my life and have developed a talent for it. I’ve had lots of practice and practice makes perfect They say and yet I sit here trying to fill this empty page with a goodbye for Brandon and am having an unusually hard time.

I moved to Brandon four years ago today. I remember it well because it snowed the day after we moved into the yellow house up on the hill. I woke up, looked out my window and saw that Spring had been dusted with Winter’s ashes.

I had lived here for two years before Alex came into the picture. I held the position of world’s dorkiest clerk at Aubuchon’s and he came in to buy a snow shovel. It was February and he was getting ready to start at the police academy. He came to Brandon that weekend to get a feel for the town and it had snowed the night before. I don’t remember seeing him but he ‘set his cap’ on me right there, right then, in spite of all my dorkiness. It took six months and a hurricane to finally get us together. The town split down its middle, buildings were rearranged, streams burst their bounds and removed the ground beneath our feet and he and I stood there at the edge of the mess and exchanged looks and thoughts and even a few words. I remember seeing the kindness deep in his sparkling dark eyes as he told me how much he enjoyed talking with the towns people who had come out to view the damage. My skirt was dip-dyed by muddy sewage and I clomped along the broken side walk in oversized rubber boots, my crazy hair tied back in a bandana, and he decided he was going to ask me out on a date.

Four months later we got married under a full moon. It was deep in December and snowing again, the ground cracked and groaned under my feet as I walked out of the chapel as Mrs. Gaylor. The next day we came back to Brandon and I moved from the yellow house up on the hill to the white house in the heart of town. We returned to our jobs Monday morning, the cop and his waitress, and I bought coffee for the regulars at the diner, holding my own sort of wedding reception with any one who cared to be a part of it. It was perfect.

We brought our first baby home to Brandon in the middle of a blistering heat wave and received our parental ‘baptism by fire’ within the walls of our cozy apartment. Our little bear has learned to love this town as much as I have, enjoying leisurely strolls downtown on Sunday afternoons, wandering in and out of the shops where the people have come to know us by name. I’ve eaten more pastry than can be good for any human being and decorated our home with little things I’ve collected on our walks. I will miss Sunday afternoons. And the people. And the pastry.

I fell in love with a man who had fallen for the Sea long before he met me, and that’s where we are moving this weekend – to the ocean, the coast of Maine.  I am excited about this new chapter in our lives, but it hasn’t quite started yet and I am lingering on the last page of this part of the story. A part that you have been a prominent character in, dear reader! I’ve met some of the kindest, most original and wonderful people here in Brandon who have been so willing to reach into my own life and swirl the waters. I can only hope that I’ll be leaving a generous smudge or two here and there when I leave.

I’m generally pretty good at goodbyes, but this one is stumping me. Perhaps I’d better just say thank you and leave it at that. Thank you for coming in and teasing me at the hardware store, for tipping me generously when I was your waitress. Thank you for remembering my name and drinking coffee at my impromptu wedding reception. Thank you for waving at us when we walk down town and for stopping me and telling me that you enjoyed my last column. Brandon – you’ve been great and will not be forgotten. I am honored to be have been a part of your story even for a little while. Take care!

being the mother

When I was a little kid, I was terrified of werewolves. Terrified, I say.

I remember laying in my bed, straining to hear the click of clawed feet on our linoleum kitchen floor or heavy, wolf-like breathing in the hallway. I avoided looking out the window in my bedroom, sure that if I did I would be face to face with gleaming teeth and yellow eyes.

My one comfort and hope was my mother. My mom is  the kind of mother who put the fear of God into any monster our fertile imaginations could dream up. Because of this power, my middle of the night bathroom trips always ended with a stop in mom’s room where I would ask her to stay up for a bit and watch T.V. while I fell back asleep. She never complained, never denied and I never questioned or doubted her, I would simply trot back to my room and lay down in utter peace – mom was awake, I was safe. No werewolves could get me.

Now, being this young, I never once thought, “Gee – mom was up all day long taking care of us, she must be exhausted!” I always took it for granted that as she had the ability to defend us from evil, she would be willing to use it no matter what time it was. I had no guilt, I only remember this intense and overwhelming assurance of being protected. Trust. It’s one of my best and most comfortable memories.

Well, I’m a mama now and it makes me see my own mother in a breath-takingly new way. I am now the one who is counted upon to be there *all the time* day and night, to feed, warm, comfort, entertain, protect, defend, clean, and sit up and watch during the night to make sure all is well. My son doesn’t doubt or even think for a moment about whether or not I will feed him or love him or be there for him when he needs me, he doesn’t consider that it’s the umpteenth time he’s been up that night, or that it’s the fourth time he’s needed a new change of clothes in a two hour period and you know what, I hardly notice it myself. He is enveloped in a sweet, oblivious trust. I think about all the years my mom cared for me without me ever realizing exactly what all that entailed. I never realized that I don’t ever remember my mom being tired, or sick or hungry or needing to use the bathroom or needing anything throughout my entire childhood. In my memory she is this incredible person who could do anything and do it all with nothing to work from and four little beings trailing along behind.

This past week I contracted a chest cold and have been gimping around with a cough and slight fever for a couple of days. Strangely enough, my illness didn’t seem to affect my three-month-old at all! He still needs to eat every other hour, still needs to be changed almost as often and seems to fall asleep in my arms just as the tickle in my throat becomes unbearable.

When I am sick, food preparation is usually the first thing to suffer (which is why there is no recipe this week) and we all suffer with it! I don’t know what my mom had going on yesterday, I don’t think we asked. I just knew that if I needed her help, she’d be there – and she was. Like the work of a good fairy, delicious food appeared and my husband was fed before he went off to work.  Chicken noodle soup, eggplant parmesan, baked french toast – she cares and feeds and gives like it were as easy as breathing. I gulped down her homemade soup and knew that health and healing were right around the corner… I guess the same Super-Mom Power is as effective against illness as it is against werewolves!

 

 

corn child

I heard the other day that there is now fresh sweet corn available in the area- it must truly be summer.

I grew up in ‘Corn Country’ surrounded by hundreds of acres of corn that were at least ‘knee high by the Fourth of July’. Most of what the farmers sowed each year was left to dry on the stalk. I’m not sure if it was just a rumor, but I know some people said that it was bought by cereal companies to make corn flakes. I remember scorching days when the clay the corn was planted in would split into a mosaic of cracks and crevices while the corn plants themselves would roll their leaves up tight in an effort to keep in their remaining moisture. They’d stand in their neat lines in the blazing sun while the locusts sweated on the roadsides, breathlessly waiting for rain with the rest of us. After a good, soaking sort of storm the leaves would unroll once more and the fireflies took up to dancing in between the stalks after dark.

Even though field corn was a rather common, every day and over-abundant part of life for us, there was still a little thrill of excitement and romance attached to the sweet corn harvest. Unlike the patient field corn that waits for its day to come in October, the sweet corn is a short-lived crop, needing to be harvested at just the right time and preferably eaten within hours of being picked. I think of it as one of those summer luxury foods that comes on and needs to be fully enjoyed while it can be gotten as close to the source as possible like peaches, melons and berries.

By some miracle of engineering you can now buy sweet corn in the grocery store at all times of the year, but that will never come close to being able to acquire it in season from a local provider – they’re practically two different foods! I think there is something about the local harvest that adds a sweetness and depth to the food you eat like nothing else.

One summer my brothers and I volunteered to help one of our farmer friends work the local Farmer’s Market by going out with him at 3am to harvest sweet corn to sell later that morning. “This is the way you do it, fresh as possible. It’s the right thing to do.” He was not a man of many words and the ones he did use weren’t often very shiny or complicated, but he usually meant what he said and punctuated the statements that he felt the most strongly about with the phrase, “…it’s the right thing to do…”

This is how my family and I ended up in a pitch black sweet corn field out in the middle of nowhere’s nowhere – we were doing the right thing. I have to admit that I never felt so much like a raccoon as I did that morning, slipping between the corn stalks that towered over my head, enjoying the cool of the damp darkness and the occasion bite of raw sweet corn from an ear that I picked to keep my stomach happy while we worked. The kernels burst in my mouth, each one filled with sweet, milky goodness that couldn’t be found in corn that had been grown ‘away’ and was tired from traveling across county in a truck. Sweet corn is one of those foods that likes its home and gives itself most graciously to those who are willing to make the extra effort to keep it there. The farmers and gardeners who brave the weather and soil and before dawn harvests are able to offer the best there is to their families, customers, and community.

It’s sweet corn season in Vermont and you better believe I’m going to take advantage of it! I may not be in the field at 3am picking it, but I’m sure there are some local producers who will be doing their share of ‘the right thing’… be sure to enjoy it!

the first man whose heart I won and the cookies that did the job

Roger lived up the road from the tiny homestead we lived on when I was a teenager. “Up the road” is common enough to hear out there, even though all the roads are flat as can be. To this day, my brothers and I have to say the words in our best ‘German Midwest bachelor farmer’ accent, followed by a deep sigh and then, “Poor Bob….” It’s become a tradition, and you’ll have to ask me about it another time.

But – back to Roger. I believe he parked his old truck on our front lawn the first day of fair weather the year we moved there, introduced himself and told us in great detail about having died after a heart attack and how the miraculous physicians at the Toledo hospital had resurrected him. My brothers and I stood amazed and slightly terrified on the stone driveway, but we very quickly came to realize that Roger had a talent and deep passion for telling amazing and terrifying stories, and sometimes they were even true.

He was sixty-five and retired from a life of doing anything and everything that was dangerous and just barely decent. When he was young, brave and insanely good-looking he shipped himself off to the jungles of who-knows-where to fight some smokey war and when he came home he married a fiery Quaker girl and kept right on fighting. He was a widower now with not much adventure left in his hard-used heart, so he took up with our farming ventures and was always deeply interested in whatever it was we had going on. He would park his truck on the side of the road and lean against our fence and talk for hours if we’d let him. He never came in the fence, never stepped foot inside the house, he was just as happy as could be standing on the side of the road telling stories and doling out advice.

One day I baked him cookies and he ate them right there.

“Annie – I swear you’re gonna make some poor shmuck a good wife someday! Mark my words. Why, if I were a hundred years younger, your mama would have me to deal with!”

I blushed deeply and didn’t know what to say. I was fifteen and still reeling from the dizzying heights of my most awkward phase.  “You know, you remind me something of my Marty – she was quiet and all domestic and ornery as heck! ” I tucked his words inside and kept them there as protection against the spinsterhood I saw rapidly approaching (at fifteen!!)

He would spoil us with warm, juicy Indiana melons in the summer – a luxury we could never really afford, and we baked for him. One spring he presented me with the loveliest yellow rose bush that fragranced my entire garden. He watched us ‘grow out our pinfeathers’ as it were, and go from a bunch of ambitious kids to a handful of dreamy-eyed young adults bent on moving far from home and finding adventure of our own.

 

Roger’s Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup butter or shortening

1 cup each brown and white sugars

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon each baking soda and salt

3 cups old fashioned rolled oats

1 cup raisins

I admit, this recipe doesn’t seem to hit the mark health-wise but it certainly reminds me of good times and the sweet man who lived up the road and made a very awkward, frizzy-haired teenager feel pretty with his blatant praise. In my old recipe notebook I’ve scribbled out the proportions for tripling the recipe, which goes to show you how well-loved these cookies were, simple though they be!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together the fat and sugars then beat in the eggs until the mix is ‘fluffy’. Add the vanilla and stir again, then add your dry ingredients. Stir to combine well then drop the cookies with a cookie scoop onto a lightly greased baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes.

Share with a neighbor, served with icy milk on a warm Spring day.

 

so here’s the deal

I’m exhausted, and it’s not like, “Oh, I don’t think I’ll have the energy to run that extra three miles today…” it’s really to the level of, “Oh. My. Word. Do I really have to get dressed?”

I do dress, however, and manage to brush my teeth and keep enough food cooked to sustain life and I get through work, but other than that- all bets are off.

That means the ol’ blog-o has fallen off the to-do list, right along with vacuuming and taking out the trash. I’m just too tired to even think about writing, my brain freezes up and screams, “PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME!!”

I should say that I saved up scraps of energy all week and used them to get the vacuuming done yesterday. I’ve become an energy hoarder.

So that’s my excuse for not having written in forever. I’m sorry.

Feel free to speculate all you desire and draw your own conclusions, Lord knows I have my own hunches about the matter… we shall confer at a later date…

Yours exhaustedly,

Andi

a ten in the bucket

I hear a lot of people talking about their bucket-list.

Well, not being one to be willingly left out of a conversation, I want to talk about it too.

It was one of the things Alex and I first discussed when we started to court last year, “What’s your list?”

I guess you can learn a lot about a person by hearing what they want to do before they die, and I also suppose that he liked whatever it was I said because he answered, “Well, I’d like to do all those things too, with you.”

*awwwwww*

I also feel like I should mention that we have pretty tightly wrapped-up my bucket list, having done most of the things that were on it in the past year. True, I didn’t have anything really crazy like “skydive over the grand canyon”, but it’s still been a wild year of incredible happenings. Skinny dipping totally, absolutely and completely included.

I’ve had to write up a new list.

Here it is.

Babe – you getting this?

 

1) Go to the West. By plane, train or automobile, it doesn’t really matter. I just want to see West.

2) Have a baby. Yup. It’s on the list and now that I have a husband, we might actually be able to make that happen. Wowsers.

3) go to hear a symphony orchestra

4) learn to make pastry

5) whale watching

6) learn archery

7) learn to fly fish

8) write a book

9) try snowboarding

10) create a home-based business that actually works

Ok, so a little odd, slightly lame, I get it – but these are the things I want to do. I actually had a hard time coming up with this list because really, before I got married my secret bucket list was simply to find someone to share every day with, and now that I have that, my list remains just as simple; Live every day, sharing it with my best friend, perfect lover and husband. What better adventure could one ask for?

How about you? What’s on your List?

this is what rehab looks like

 

No, this is not a cup of coffee. It’s a cup of Hot Chocolate – the addiction which has replaced my coffee habit.

As some of you may remember, I gave up caffeine about three months ago (wow- it seems much longer than that…). I didn’t go through headaches or withdrawals, but I sure do miss the habit. I miss walking to work on chilly mornings with a warm cup in my hand. I miss having something hot to sip when I am thinking hard or feeling dreamy. I miss the taste, the scent, the hipness, the comfort it gave me in uncomfortable social situations because as we all know – there is nothing more acceptable nor mysterious as a slightly withdrawn sort of person drinking coffee in the corner of the room.

I loved coffee, and now it’s over.  Gone.

I walked about in life with a hole in my heart and empty hands. Chilled by every breeze, not able to concentrate when I needed to be creative and my politically correct mysterious attitude was replaced by blatant social awkwardness.

I don’t think rehab has done me much good because that gaping chasm in my life has been filled with torrents of steamy milk chocolate. I thought surely I was going to become a decent tea-sipping gal, but then I was introduced to Hot Chocolate.

It’s not that I never had it before, but I could easily *not* drink it. I’m not sure I would have even said I ‘liked’ it. But now, boy howdy, I like it.  I seek it out, I drink it, I scrutinize different brands and feel that a little of my mystique has been returned to me. I’ve always thought of coffee drinkers as being hard-core, where chocolate drinkers always seemed… fluffy. I feel like I’m bringing a little hard-core to the hot chocolate scene, in my own way, and try not to purr when I drink it. We’ve both benefited from the transfer in addictions.

**BUT** chocolate has caffeine in it!! Yes, good point, it does, but not enough to count. So there, I’m safe.

Anyway, in case you were wondering how the whole “No Coffee” thing was going… that’s how it goes!