From the Hat: New England Cuisine

I’m at a bit of a loss for a topic tonight. No new news on the prediabetes front, no completed books,* no movies. Things are busy at work, but I don’t blog about work.**

And I’ve drawn about a dozen topics out of the box o’ prompts, but they’ve all been completely uninspiring. (Not sure whether to blame that on the prompts themselves or my current frame of mind.) It’s a touch embarrassing to admit that, however unimpressed I was by this bunch of prompts, I still put them right back into the “hatbox” to haunt me another day.***

But I finally pulled one that—even though I’m not going to answer it in a straightforward manner—at least got me reminiscing about a funny story I wouldn’t mind telling.

Do you remember any of your four grandparents? Any greats? What were their names? Any memories that you have?

Well, the grandparents and great-grandparents on Dad’s side of the family had all passed on before I came along, so I never met any of them. Mom’s parents, though—Gramie and Grampie—were very much a presence in our life and our childhoods. And although I don’t remember the “greats” on Grampie’s side of the family, I do have memories of Gramie’s parents, Gramie and Grampie Stocker.****

Every summer, we’d spend a few weeks at the NH lake house with Gramie & Grampie, road-tripping several hours to get there from wherever our current midwestern home base happened to be. Listening to the 8-track in the back of a wood-paneled station wagon: you can’t get any more 70’s than that.

Every summer, as part of our New England sojourn, we’d take a day trip or two to visit Gramie & Grampie Stocker. (Aw, how sweet.)

And one of the other things we did every summer was stocking up on a couple key New England delicacies to take back with us to the midwest. Specifically: Canadian Club for Dad (so much cheaper at the NH liquor stores) and Marshmallow Fluff for me (I couldn’t bear PB&J, and lived off of Fluffernutters instead).

fluff

So how do these different narrative puzzle pieces fit together? It has to do with the summer that Gramie Stocker generously gave an antique family cradle to Mom to take back home with us. It was beautiful: dark wood, simple elegant lines, long and low to the ground. Once we got it back to Ohio (or was it St. Louis?) we displayed it in one of our big front windows, filled with plants and flowers.

But first we had to get it back to St. Louis (or was it Ohio?). In the back of that same wood-paneled station wagon, which was also filled with two kids, one dog, a month’s worth of luggage, plus those New England provisions we’d put in store to get us through the long winter. Our solution to this conundrum was based in the simple physics of things: when transporting an item that is, essentially, a container, you make better use of your space by filling that container with other items.

You’re picking up what I’m laying down, right? We packed that cradle full of bottles of Canadian Club and jars of Marshmallow Fluff. And this was back when plastic bottles weren’t yet ubiquitous, so these were all glass bottles and jars. Then we tucked that cradle along one of the side panels of the cargo bay in the station wagon. We spent the entire trip joking about what an incredible set of mess would occur if we were unlucky enough to get rear-ended during our travels.

I can’t summon the words to tease this out clearly, and I’m sorry for that. But there’s something in this crazy combination of details that reminds me of all the wonderful, wacky, warm-heartedness in my family. The sentimentality of valuing the crib and wanting to bring that New England treasure with us to the midwest. The love expressed in the tradition of transporting Fluff across state lines (this was back when it literally was not being sold outside of MA and NH) so I’d have sandwich fixings for the school year. The flat-out pragmatism of taking advantage of cheap NH liquor prices, and of packing this cradle full of stuff so we could get everything into the car. And the joie de vivre in seeing all the humour of what really was a comedy movie set-up.

Yeah. That’s how we roll.

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* Though just wait until I finish the one I’m in the middle of right now. Crazy train.

** Have I mentioned that I know someone who was quite literally Dooced? I do. And she was. And so I don’t blog about work.

*** Maybe next time I do this, I’ll toss the really crappy topics into the trash. It’s not like I have to conserve these little cards so they last as long as is humanly possible….

**** Seriously, yo. Strong-ass, awesome women in my lineage.

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Image credit: Flickr user Mr.TinDC, via a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license.

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