Just Revel in it All
I saw a post on face/book yesterday, that showed a scene from Buffalo, New York, with snow inundating the image, and the caption implying that this was a setting straight out of paradise. My knee-jerk instinct was to supply a curmudgeon-like response, something to the effect that snow is the guest who continuously overstays her welcome, but then I stopped.
As I studied the serenity of the picture, a wave of nostalgia washed over me and I allowed myself the luxury of fixating on the beauty and the stillness of the scene. I remembered a time in my life when the thought of such a venue still cast a magical spell over me, and the world slowed down to half-speed, at best.
Before computers were available to provide seven-day forecasts with uncanny precision, we relied on the radio, which would occasionally forecast hazardous storms advancing ominously down from the Gulf of Alaska. My heart would beat just a little bit faster, in anticipation of one of those three-dayers, in which we would get just about a foot of the white goodness a day, for three days.
When it would become evident, that we were indeed entrenched in one of these, Annie and I would gather together the boys and whatever we had in the way of contributions to the cause, bundle everyone up, and make our way overland to the Big House, so named because it is forty by twenty-eight feet, and like a Swiss chalet, A-framed, rustic and expansive, which meant there was plenty of room in which to get comfortable.
There we would set up headquarters, with the understanding that we were there for the duration. I was still fleet of foot, being in my thirties, so I-and undoubtedly Casey-would troop back and forth from the Big House to our place, to obtain that, which could not be done without.
For once in the universe, the hands of time slowed their inexorable march around the face of the clock above the entrance to the Big House, allowing us to forget about responsibilities other than cooking, wood-box logistics, and an insatiable need to just revel in it all. So we did.
Pauline was as enthusiastic about the invasion, as we were to come in from the cold. These were the times when she radiated warmth and hospitality. Anyone who ever knew Mama for a second, knew she had a hard time slowing down, and just letting things go, there always being some sort of project or puzzle in her life.
But when the snow came, and we couldn’t get out to Bell Springs Road anyway, she recognized a good thing when she saw it, and was as excited about company as we were to be there. She played bridge, worked jig-saw puzzles with us, and kept the big cast iron tea kettle on the wood stove always primed with water. And she made sure we knew where the “good stuff” was beneath the counter, even if the good stuff was actually a 750ML bottle of Gilby’s. Hey, any port in a storm.
We spent time outdoors, tobogganing, making igloos, and throwing snowballs, and then came back in to hot chocolate with marshmallows, hanging wet clothes on a rack that was conveniently placed in the vicinity of the barrel-on-its-side-shaped wood stove, so that the next time they went out, everything would have dried.
When the boys were younger, the Legos were brought out, the VHS machine activated with “Flash Point” on the marquee, the bridge cards dealt, the tea brewed, and the good times became the implied reality of the picture to which I was referring, when I mentioned the storm in New York.
Robert loved cooking for the boys, because they paid him the compliment of eating every morsel he put in front of them. They came stock with that component, being normal country lads, who needed fuel to keep on trucking, but we allowed Robert to continue believing that it was solely the exquisite quality of the fixin’s that created such ravenous appetites.
And for dessert? Mama had her specialty, much to Annie’s dismay. Well, let’s maintain the suspense for a moment, if you don’t mind, while I prattle on a moment about what makes a successful union of any more than one component. Like two people in a marriage.
Annie and I have obviously figured out how it all works, so that when it comes to those politically hazardous times, when the waters are white and treacherous, the rafting continues as smoothly as that toboggan gliding down the ice-packed slope.
There is one particular dessert that my Annie has always believed was better left behind, simply because it has no redeeming value, and that is Jello. Even including the fruit cocktail, was a thinly veiled attempt to make lemonade out of lemons, sort of like forgetting to put in the sugar, in a reverse kind of analogy, especially when you include the “smog” on the top of it all: Cool Whip slathered with rare abandon.
But she bit her poor bruised and battered lip, smiling on top of all that abuse to her poor lip, and encouraged the boys to enjoy their dessert, while trying not to look askance at the sight of me, also filling my dessert plate with Jello.
See, unlike Annie, I as willing to throw caution to the wind much more readily, and so the smile on my face was genuine.
Especially when it was Cherry-flavored Jello, with fruit cocktail, and no limit as to the amount of smog..