Post #568 Rememberries

April 15, 2018 at 8:33 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Health is on the upswing, getting things under control, until Boom!  The flu hits.  Racking deep coughs, fevers leaving me weak as a kitten.  Luckily these things seldom last long with me.  And even though today was cold and gray (snow fell while I was walking the dog), yesterday was warm and sunny.  Need more of those days.  When I was a kid in Arizona I could lay out in the yard for an hour or so and bake any disease right out of me.  No so much here on the east coast.  In our never ending efforts to get to know our new state and neighborhoods, we were on a drive recently, and in one back road out of the way area we passed a house that had a grape arbor in it.  Do you know what a grape arbor is?

Grapes grow on vines.  Like most vines, they can’t support themselves, so unless they have something to grow up onto they will grow along the ground.  As you might guess, that’s not very good for the grapes.  So when people decided to cultivate grapes, they came up with all kinds of solutions.  Trellises were favorites for a long time.  But for the back yard gardener, the simplest solution was an arbor.  Picture a series of arches connected into a walkway of whatever length you like and you have the idea.

As you can see, it gets the grapes off the ground, and it lets the grower see how the harvest is coming along.

When I was kid, we lived in upstate New York and down the street about three house lived the family who became our best friends while we lived there.  I loved their house.  One big family, three floors, three separate family units.  The house had one of those wrap around porches that went along the front and the side.  The front yard was practically non-existent, but the side yard and the back yard were any kids delight.  We had endless games of tag, hide and seek, and kickball there.

Grandma was completely old school.  She was the type that always had a cookie for every kid in the neighborhood.  She also made things from scratch.  Whatever that was.  When I was 8, I used to think about her scratching at the table a lot until I figured out what it meant.

One thing I remember most about her was her unending campaign to keep us kids out of her fruit and vegetables.  Every Spring snow drops would poke their heads out of the dirt first.

Right after that, the trees would start showing green buds, crocuses would poke up, and she’d be out in the vegetable patch getting rid of the leaves and “trash” she used to protect the beds.  We’d help her reluctantly since all we really wanted to do was play.  I learned a lot watching and helping her.

We were kids, constantly running around and screaming, burning energy like it was going out of style.  So we were constantly looking to refuel.  Cookies were good, but not always forthcoming.  Things growing in the dirt were better, if we could get them without Grandma catching us.  She usually did.  Our Spring and Summer games were punctuated by here shrill voice “You kids keeps away from those apples!  You kids get out of that garden!”

Our kickball games were non-ending and her apple tree was first base.  Our diamond was lopsided and the space between first base and second was the longest stretch of the whole game, but we had a blast.  It only took two people to get up a game, but it was more fun with more people.  It was hot and tiring and we took constant breaks.  The hose got a good workout providing us with plenty of cool water.  The best part was when the little tiny apple nubs started appearing.  We developed quite a taste for under ripe hard green apples.  I think they were Granny Smith apples.  I don’t remember they ever turned red, and I do remember tons of apple pies, apple cookies, apple bread, apples cake, and apple sauce coming from her kitchen.

The thing that was hardest to keep our hands off of were the grapes.  I grew up liking sour better than sweet.  Don’t get me wrong.  Like any kid, I ate my fair share of candy, cake, and cookies.  I kind of still do although I’m having to change that quite a bit these days.  My passion was dill pickles.  My mom used to mourn because she couldn’t keep pickles in the house.  Once a jar was open, it was fair game.  All three of us kids would descend en masse and wipe out a jar like a plague of locusts.

Under ripe grapes were like an addiction.  You had to wait until the grapes were about the size of the fingernail on your little finger.  Any earlier and there was no juice in them.  You popped one from the bunch and crunched it between your teeth and felt that unique bitterness that tasted faintly of grapes flood over your tongue and down your throat.  If you got them too early it would actually hurt going down.  I’ve heard stories of kids who ate under ripe fruit and veggies who got tummy aches.  Never happened to me or anyone I knew.  I guess we could have digest nails back in them days.

But, Lord, if you got caught!  Grandma would shrilly list all the things she wouldn’t be able to make because you ate a grape.  I know she was really just trying to warn us off of eating unripe fruit and making sure there would be enough.

Funny thing was, every end of summer picnic, every Thanksgiving, every holiday had plenty of fresh fruit pies, cookies, preserves, everything that made the celebrations special.

I remember one time when I was about 7 or 8 we wanted PBJs for lunch.  We couldn’t find any jelly.  Mom remembered that Grandma Down The Street had given us some homemade jelly a while before.  She found it hidden in the back of a shelf and handed it to us.  We managed to get the lid off after a time but the next step stopped us in our tracks.  There was a thick layer of something white and hard on top.  We tapped it with a knife but it was unyielding.  We tried a little harder and even though we tried, it was impervious to our attempts.  We could see the jelly through the glass jar, but we couldn’t get to the jelly despite our best efforts.  We finally called mom who dissolved into tears of laughter.  When she managed to collect herself, she explained how they used to make sure the preservers wouldn’t spoil by sealing them with a layer of wax.  She took it off for us and we made our sandwiches.  I took a bite and tasted summer and fall.

When I saw that grape arbor, for a few moments I could hear her shrilly telling us to leave those grapes alone!



1 Comment

  1. Wow. That brought back a flood of me worries of my great grandma and her grape arbir. Although she had stopped harvesting them to make preserves a few years before she would still yell out to us, “you kids stop eating my grapes. You’re going to get a tummy ache. They are not ripe quite yet!” Thanks for the memory Joe!

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