Monday, March 28, 2005

Easter. Another holiday passes beneath the bridge, carried on the confluence of the many rivers that constitute our life experiences.

As I was growing up we traded holidays around--Thanksgiving at my aunt's, Christmas at the grandparent's, Easter at my parents' place. And some times a New Year's Day thrown in. Then a new order was agreed upon for the next year.

For whatever reason, it's holidays at my grandparents' place that I remember the most. We'd wake up and open Christmas presents or Easter baskets, hit church and then embark on the two-hour drive to their place. For a kid, a two-hour drive is very nearly interminable. I hated it. Passionately. And when we got there, there was very little to do but read my grandfather's collection of Pennsylvania Game News magazines and play a few board games which they kept for the grandchildren. Yet, somehow, those visits are most firmly embedded n my mind. Even more so than the holidays we hosted at our house.

Food was of paramount importance at my grandparents'. They were both of sturdy Pennsylvania Dutch stock, the descendants of farmers, and hard work breeds imposing appetites. My grandfather was a civilian airframe and powerplant mechanic for the Army Air Forces-later the US Air Force--following a brief stint as a bomber pilot flying a biplane bomber which I believe was called a "Liberty", and my grandmother was a social worker in an era when few women held college degrees and worked.

My parents were somewhat older when I was born (a tradition I carried on), so all of my memories of my grandparents are post-retirement. I mentioned food...

Entering their house between breakfast and lunch was the beginning of a day-long sensory experience. The kitchen had the atmosphere of a rain forest as water vapor rose off of the pots of boiling potatoes and carrots. Meanwhile, the whole house was redolent of coffee and bacon from breakfast, carried further by the vapors from the yet-to-come dinner. Better yet was to arrive the night before and have breakfast there as well.

Dinner was the high point of the day. The food was very nearly unending. Thinking back to those days, I have no idea how we consumed so much food. A proper Pennsylvania Dutch dinner consists of seven sweets and seven sours, so there was always a relish plate with sour onions, sweet onions, sour pickles, sweet pickles, etc. Not to mention ham, vegetables, pineapple stuffing and mustard sauce (ask me for the recipes) and dessert. These days I could pretty much fill up on the relish plate alone.

And Pennsylvania Game News magazine is a pretty interesting read. The best part is "Field Notes", where game wardens report some of their more interesting experiences.

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