Tag Archives: memories

Next door neighbors

Growing up, there was a childless couple who lived next door whose names were Fred and Maxine. It’s funny, I can remember so clearly what their dog looked like (a German shorthair retriever who was a hunting dog, not a pet) but only have the vaguest recollection of what Maxine looked like (thin, elegant, older than my mom) and no real recollection of what Fred looked like.

They were responsible for my initial decision to not have kids. I said to my mom, “Why do Fred and Maxine have –?” and my mother said, probably a bit tired after a day of dealing with my sister and I, “Because they don’t have kids. They can afford to buy / do that because they don’t have to pay for kids.” I think I was seven or so then. I remember thinking, huh, I’d rather have –, think I won’t have kids.

Anyhow, for some reason, I was thinking about their living room this morning. We’d go over there ever so often so Mom could play bridge (and I think pinocle sometimes?). The kids would be shunted off to the family room, which was on the other side of the entrance and down the stairs. We’d often get pretty bored down there – there wasn’t a TV, and no kids stuff other than what we brought with us, and the kids didn’t all get along particularly well. I’d sneak up into the living room because Maxine would always put out Spanish cocktail peanuts.

Their living room, though, was really beautifully designed, and I wish I had a picture of it today. It was done in champagne browns and golds, and that fifties metalic grass green. All the furniture was mid century modern (in my memory, it’s teak, but I LOVE teak so I am probably making that up) and I can almost remember the paintings on the walls. It was elegant and timeless. I’ve looked through my Mom’s photo albums and there don’t seem to be many pictures from that time (makes sense, my dad would have just died, and I can’t imagine my mom wanted to document that much, and why would you take picture of your neighbor’s living room?).

Funny how much of this stuff stays with you.

Longwinded rambles about the farmers’ market

The farmers’ market today was awesome. It is raining steadily, and the crowds were just as thick as they always are, which makes me happy. Brian was astonished that I would think fewer people would go – it’s Portland, he said. Very few people with umbrellas either, heh. Both of us had rain-proof jackets. I had my rain hat on (a cabbie hat) and he has had a headache for three days, so the rain felt wonderful on his skull (crew cut again).

The best thing we bought today was a bag of nettles. Katie, Brian and I were talking about nettles over dinner at Lucca one night.

To date, after surgeries, and injured ankles and back and neck pains, and pulled teeth, burns and cat attacks, nothing stands out as pain quite like an Oregonian nettle sting does. When I think about pain, that’s the pain I picture, and if I focus on what it felt like that day, the hair on my arm actually rises. I remember what my mouth felt like (dry) and my face felt like (tight – the first time that happened) and exactly how it burned and burned. I think I was 13, we were staying in a cabin in the mountains, no clue where. I remember that I was bored and went for a walk and came back just perfectly to brush by that plant.

Our farmshare in Madison (Harmony Valley) would include them in the early boxes, so I’ve cooked with them before, adding them to pasta dishes. Gingerly, suspiciously.

Tonight, I am making pizza dough and we are going to have a nettle, garlic and olive oil pizza. I will also probably make a cilantro pesto pizza as we have left over pesto from last night. Brian is thinking about stinging himself with a nettle before I boil them, just to see what the deal is. I’m recommending against that.

The nettles were my last $2 in the farmers’ market budget. We got them from the mushroom people who are right up there with Groundwork Organics as my favorite vendors at the PSU farmers’ market. The mushroom people sold us the awesomely good dried shiitakes last year that we are still working on using up (a 5 pound bag, awesome to have), and the wild huckleberries that I gorged on and froze and make huckleberry pancakes with, and last week’s seabeans.

The mushroom people are great, because they are happy to sit and talk about how to prepare any of the unusual things they carry. They are going to have seabeans again next week, and she said I really have to get some for sushi since we didn’t use them that way last week. Cool, I can do that.

The person I liked the most today was an elderly woman — I’m guessing mid 80s. She was tiny, and dressed for the rain, but properly, very elegant. She had a good sized traditional black umbrella and she was talking to the oyster fisherman about which was the best type of oyster at this time of year. She was trying to decide which to get for her meal that night. I don’t know why that pleased me so much. She was clearly there on her own, in the rain with the rest of us, connected with the world and happy. That’s probably it, that’s my goal, that’s what I’m trying to achieve and maintain. Neat.

Stories

My aunt, grandmother and mother on the beach in Florida

Just wanted to write this up before I forget to tell my sister about it.

I helped my aunt buy a computer today, and I mentioned that I had been scanning slides. She’s been helping me identify people in the pictures because I don’t always know (they are from the 50s and 60s).

I was trying to figure out where a neat picture of gnomes from 1958 was taken, and we figured out it was either in Circus World in Florida or Knott’s Berry Farm in California. She mentioned that she spent her 12th birthday in Florida. As we were talking about it, she told me the following story.

My mom was just graduating from college and didn’t really want to do the touristy stuff my grandparents and her sister were doing, so she’d stay back at the beach, tanning. My mom loved working on her tan, and maintained a nice one. I got the feeling that my aunt was a little disappointed at the time that my mom wouldn’t go with them (there is quite an age difference between them).

What my mom was actually doing is this – as soon as the rest of the family would leave, she’d dive for sand dollars. She got enough sand dollars so that on my Aunt Sue’s birthday, she spelled “Happy birthday, Susan” on the beach in sand dollars.

It reminds me so much of my mom and of my sister, it choked me up.