We recently moved my grandmother into assisted living. Never an easy move, but her new two bedroom apartment is almost as large as the old house where she had lived since she got married in her 20’s. She has high ceilings, windows in three directions, and lots of light. She’s also made some new friends and really seems to be doing well. However, the old house is still full of junk so my mother flew in from The Netherlands to help us sort through old boxes, photographs, and so on.
Together we went through endless dusty basement boxes with doll clothes, photo albums, ancient sleeping bags, and seemingly endless rows of empty canning jars. Each type I pulled an old cardboard box or plastic bag out of a dark corner under the stairs, I was afraid I might open it up to discover dead animals, raccoons, or pet cats that disappeared before I was even born. Fortunately we suffered nothing but some hilarious discoveries of old 1950’s/60’s cookbooks, food with expiration dates going back as far as 1988 (!!), and most notably: A box of “Sparkles”. Apparently my grandparents used to arrange dances for friends in their basement (my mom says she and her sister were never allowed to attend), so they would spread these shimmering flaky ‘sparkles’ across the floors to make them smooth. I’ll try to get a picture of them if they’re still there next weekend. At least the sparkles are prove they were indeed dances that they were keeping my mom and aunt out of, and not some secret Lutheran cult celebrations of self-denial.
Many hours and torn up embarassing family photos later, we finally called it a day. We loaded up the cookbooks, photos, a working refrigerator from the 50’s and the collectibles that I was taking, and picked out some of my grandmother’s dozens of garden hoses and shovels to use in our own garden. (God knows why an elderly woman needs 18 garden hoses, 11 shovels, 5 hoes, and 3 wheelbarrows; it was like one of those “historical museums” full of donated farm crap. Monetary value: zero. Emotional/cultural value: Oh, wait… also zero.)
Just as we were about to get back in our car, my mom mentioned that the cherries were ripe. Never one to pass up cherries, I rushed out to the back to find the tree completely covered in perfect, luscious sweet cherries of the Royal Anne variety. Nearly every single cherry was ripe and untouched by insects. We picked everything we could get our hands on, and filled our mouths and bowls. My husband even climbed into the tree to get more. Finally, after filling some bowls and eating plenty more, we decided it was time to head home. We’re going up there again next weekend, and I can only hope that the cherries will still be good. And if we’re really lucky, the numerous figs on my grandma’s tree will also be ready for picking. They may need a little more time.