Monday, February 21, 2011

Valentine's Day Memories, by Bonnie Mansell

On Valentine’s Day Steve and I drove down to Balboa to have dinner at BJ’s. We parked on Park Avenue, next to the alley that runs behind the old Island Rooms Motel, where I used to stay as a child with my mom, her sisters, and Grandma & Grandpa, along with all the cousins.

Steve and I walked down that well-lit alley and I showed him the tiny house in the back that we used to rent. Tiny as it was, we only rented half of it. I can hardly believe how many people we got into that little space.

We walked down to the ferry and rode it across the bay to the peninsula. We were the only pedestrians on the ferry on this calm cold night - a contrast to the bustling crowds drawn to this spot in the long, warm evenings of spring and summer.

The quiet atmosphere and clear sky encouraged both romance and nostalgia. We reminisced about crossing on the ferry with our children when they were little, about my own childhood memories of that same crossing, and about my parents as they enjoyed grandparenting our children.

The ferris wheel was turning, but only a few brave souls were riding it on this windy night. We were not even tempted. As we walked through the fun zone, we remembered my mom riding the merry-go-round and ferris wheel with our kids, while my dad watched. We passed the bakery and I remembered the doughnut holes that Grandpa used to buy for us.

When we got to BJ’s we found to our relief that it wasn’t crowded. This was the BJ’s where we took the kids to celebrate their birthdays, so our memories were filled with the chaotic joy of those days. We used to sit in a booth, crowding in as many people as possible and putting high chairs at the end.

It was here that my mom showed the kids how to tear off one end of a straw wrapper, blow through the straw, and “shoot” the wrapper across the table at each other. She also showed them how to scrunch the wrapper, accordion style, into a teeny ball, drop small amounts of water on it from the straw, and watch it “grow” and wriggle like a worm.

After dinner, we took the ferry back to the island. We walked around the island before going back to the car, another tradition full of memories. I could see that Steve’s hip was hurting, but this is part of the way he gives himself to me. He knows how much I love walking, so he walks with me, even though it hurts.

As we walked, we talked of simple pleasures – Balboa Bars, kids walking on the retaining wall, the changes that time brings. I am grateful for places like this in my life – places I couldn’t afford to live, yet completely accessible for pleasant evening walks, places of beauty and wonder, where the memories are free.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Race, by Charlotte Boquist

Fall comes early in Wyoming. Usually by the middle of August you wake one morning and know that it is fall. There is a feel in the air, a smell that is fresh and crisp and you know….. It won’t be long until the night turns cold and one day very soon snow will cover the fields and the garden. This morning with the first hint of fall, you feel an urgency not fully realized in the long summer days before. You know that soon the garden’s bounty will have reached its limit.

For several weeks we have been harvesting the bounty from our garden, racing against time to “put up” our winter’s food. This morning it is green beans being picked. The bucket is brimming and you carry it to the welcome shade of the back porch where Grandma has been waiting impatiently to get started. Her age hasn’t allowed her to take part in the harvest and she misses her garden. She is happy that she is still able to be useful. You sit with her there in the cool of that protected space as the two of you spend an hour snapping the fresh green beans.

It is a pleasant time of companionship. Two generations working together toward a mutual goal. Chatting while you work, grandma passing on her knowledge and history of the family to you. It is a lovely time of communication; the two of you working together accompanied by the steady “snap, snap, snap” of the long crisp beans.

Soon the bucket is emptied and the process moves to the kitchen where the vegetables are prepared and packed into sterilized jars. The filled containers are then moved into a kettle where they are further processed in a hot water bath. This is boiling the jars and their contents for a certain amount of time, which makes the food safe for consumption for as long as a year afterward.

Day after day the process has been repeated through the hot summer. Lining the shelves of the root cellar are jars of red tomatoes, green beans, peas, and brilliant maroon beets. We’ve make pickles both sweet and dill, lovely applesauce and apple butter, rich with cinnamon. Peaches and pears have been canned and currant jelly joins the parade. Potatoes, carrots and squash are stored whole in bins in the dark, cool space.

We know that we are in a race against Jack Frost’s inevitable visit that finally ends with the first snowfall.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Wrapping in the Fog, by Annette Skarin

I had a long week. The Thursday of my writing class I fell off my bike (my Paul Frank baby blue beach cruiser with the blue butterfly bell). The Saturday and Sunday before that, I spent several hours in the hospital because of a reaction to some medication. This caused muscle spasms.

When I woke up the next Monday morning, I reached over to hit the snooze button on my alarm. The realization that I was supposed to be making my daughter her lunch reached into my foggy brain; and pulled me out of bed. I groped my way into the kitchen. My brain kicked into automatic gear. Unzip her lunchbox, pull out the cilantro-jalapeƱo tortillas; the cream cheese; honey smoked turkey; cranberry sauce; and then the lettuce from the refrigerator to make a wrap.

I slathered the tortilla with the cream cheese, piled on some turkey, and what I thought was a good amount of cranberries, and then after piling on the lettuce, I began to roll the whole thing tightly. Cranberries began to ooze out of the sides. They plopped on the cutting board, dropped on the floor, and smeared all over the outside of the tortilla.

As my daughter walked into the kitchen and saw me holding up two cranberry-red hands, she commented, “Having trouble with the cranberries Mom?” By the time my daughter left the house-I was still cleaning up the gooey red stuff while mumbling to myself.

And that’s a wrap, folks.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Life As I Remember It, by Charlotte Boquist

…..began with a walk along the highway to Grandma’s farm. I had my hand in my Momma’s as we trudged along the edge of the road. It was early summer and the weeds that grew by the side of the black top weren’t very high. Later in the summer they would be almost as tall as I was at three or four years old.

This highway in the early thirties was a long way from the busy path to Yellowstone Park that it is today. We most likely walked the whole half-mile distance without seeing a car.

The reason for our walk that morning has been lost in time, but it wasn’t an unusual occurrence. As long as Grandma lived we went to her house, and even now, when visiting that part of Wyoming, my sister and I are drawn back to the farm. While they lived to their late nineties, Grandma and Grandpa are both long gone. The farm had passed down to my Uncle Jonathan and now another generation to his son Tom.

The road has changed very little in the seventy-plus years since that walk took place in the very early part of my life. It remains a two-lane black topped highway, a little wider, but with much more traffic. It is still a major artery carrying tourists to see the wonders of Old Faithful Geyser and all the amazing sights in Yellowstone National Park.

As we wended our way to Grandma’s that morning I remember the warmth of the sun on my back and the comfort of my Momma’s hand as she led me onward. I have no recollection of any conversation that must have taken place.

I do, however, recall the red-winged black birds defending their territory in the cattails that grew in the drain ditch beside the road. The birds were sounding their warnings saying “ok-a-lee, ok-a-lee” as they flitted about warning the late comers that this place was spoken for.

There is a smell that goes with this memory, the odor of creosote. This distinctive smelling substance was used to treat the wooden telephone poles as a preservative. The telephone poles marched along the drain ditch that followed the edge of the road.

These are some of the sights, sounds, and smells that still bring back that early childhood time--my first memories.