Archive for the ‘domestic domovaya’ Category

Home Sweet Home

“Describe your dream house” – yet another Plinky prompt, but I can tie this one in to the NaBloPoMo theme of energy, because my dream house would use a minimum.

Mind you, I’m fussy about aesthetics, too.  Very fussy.  If I were to use wind power, for example, I wouldn’t have one of those windmills that looks like the drones out of Star Wars.  I’d build a windmill like the ones you see in Dutch landscapes.  Much classier.  What I’m primarily interested in, though, is geothermal energy, best described as “everything old is new again.”  You can use it not only to heat your house, but also to power it; in other words, you can go off the grid.  Supplement your geothermal plant with a root cellar as an alternative form of refrigeration, and you’re all set for power and water.

With the basics of energy sources out of the way, it’s time to talk about design.  The appeal of a “hobbit hole” is strong, and many years ago, I knew a woman whose retirement cottage was built into the side of a hill.  I can think of a lot of advantages to such a design – mostly geothermal – but there are two major drawbacks for me.  One is, where would you wipe off your feet?  You need a mudroom where you can change out of your outdoor gear into something that will keep the house clean.  And the other, of course, is that the space in a hillside is limited.  I don’t necessarily need a big house – I don’t live in one now – but I need more space than four hundred square feet.

So my ideal house is probably going to be along the lines of a log cabin, something that looks as if it grew out of the trees surrounding it.  Of course there are trees surrounding my ideal home.  Not too many – you have to think about mold – but the clear-cutting I see that heralds new construction always breaks my heart.  What do you do for shade in the summertime?  You have to have a few trees.  My house has a front porch for sitting out in the evening, and a back porch where I can hang my laundry, rain or shine.  We once lived in a house that had just such a “utility porch,” and I couldn’t get over how well my clothes dried in even the wettest weather.

The utility porch out back would lead into the mudroom, and the mudroom would actually be quite large, because it would house not just the footgear, but also a coat closet, cubbies for hates and gloves, a washing machine, a potting table for the resident gardener (my husband), and a utility closet with space for all his gardening gear and all my cleaning supplies.  That leads into the kitchen, a big ol’ farmhouse eat-in kitchen.  Like Russians, I firmly believe that the best and most authentic social life takes place in the kitchen.  Living rooms, if not used for the life of the family, are for pretentious old fuffs.

Which brings us to the living room.  Where I grew up, we didn’t have Family Rooms and Living Rooms.  An earlier generation had Parlors and Dining Rooms, and the “family room” was the kitchen; I’d still want any entertaining we did to take place in the kitchen, but I need a place for stuff that earlier generations didn’t deem necessary, like my husband’s and my music and literary libraries (substantial enough to constitute a branch of the local public library).  I’d want built-in shelves lining the walls of my living-room-cum-library, not just because they look classy, but also because you can use books as insulation.  The boob tube would hide discreetly behind a tambour, but a boob tube there must be; how else could I watch NCIS and Foyle’s War?

Nowadays, a two-bathroom house seems to be a must.  Whenever my mother-in-law would get on my nerves too greatly, I would silence her by telling tales of growing up in a house of seven people and one bathroom; only child that she was, such a concept was too horrible for her to dwell on, and rendered her speechless for at least fifteen minutes.  Not having at least two bathrooms was inconceivable to her, and I guess it is to most people nowadays, so okay, we can have two bathrooms in my dream house.  But I insist that one of them have a walk-in shower, all tile-lined for ease of cleaning, with a built-in seat.  The other, of course, has a bathtub, preferably porcelain, which holds the heat better than fiberglass.

Then there are the bedrooms.  There have to be at least four, preferably five:  One for my husband and one for myself (in our present arrangement, he can hear me tossing and turning at the opposite end of the house, with both bedroom doors closed.  I swear I am not exaggerating); one for a guest bedroom; one for an office; and one for…a chapel.  I know that the rustic German and Russian houses that I find so attractive used to have a “holy corner” where the family’s icons lived, but to get away with that, everybody in the house has to be on the same page.  My husband, who is not Orthodox, is okay with having icons in his living room, but not with my praying before them; so I’d like to have a room where I could pray in peace.

I’d have a lot of storage built into my husband’s bedroom.  The guy is a packrat.  There are piles of paper everywhere.  Sometimes I tell him that if I die before he does, the house is going to look like  the Collyer Brothers’.  I’m trying to make light of a situation that actually does scare me; sometimes, when clearing the kitchen table of months of debris, I’ll find empty envelopes from greeting cards.  Who saves empty envelopes?!

And my own bedroom would have to have a separate sitting area.  Actually, now I come to think of it, that could do double duty as a chapel, but what I really wanted it for was my cross stitch:  my frame and supplies, and storage for future projects built in.  Ideally, that needlework cubby would face the street, so I could watch what was going on outside; I have found that in the summer, I really enjoy stitching on my current (screened-in) front porch because I get to see everything that’s going on in the neighborhood, and it’s good to keep tabs on people’s comings and goings, especially when you see suspicious characters in the house across the street.

Gardens – well, that’s my husband’s thing.  My idea of a garden is the same as my stepfather’s:  He’d take plastic flowers and stick ’em in the dirt out in front of his house.  People out for a walk would slow down and stare, trying to figure out what variety of flower he had “growing” there.  I should add, in his defense, that he was a dedicated and prolific vegetable grower, like my own husband, but he didn’t have much use for flowers.  And although I personally love flowers, what I don’t love is plunging my trowel into the dirt and seeing Creepy Crawly Things everywhere.  Ewwww!

Lifestyles of the Rich and Brainless it’s not.  But for me – it’s my ideal home.


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“What is your favorite way to recharge when you feel drained of energy?”

There’s a reason this blog is called “Muttonings,” and there’s a reason I post as “Mrs. Mutton.”  It has everything to do with sheep, to wit:  Somewhere around 1977, I suddenly got into knitting in a big way.  Up to then, I had divided my time fairly evenly between knitting and cross stitch, but in 1977, my daughter was two, and the thought of those little fingers and eyes around sharp, pointy objects was too horrific to entertain; so I turned to the less-sharp pointy objects known as knitting needles, and for many years afterwards, knitting was my sole handwork.  In fact, my son, born in 1979, has never known me to do anything else.

In 1982, I became acquainted with the knitting philosophy of Elizabeth Zimmermann.  The woman was an utter genius at combining art, math, and practicality, and her chosen medium was wool.  Not just generic yarn – wool, “from the simple, silly sheep,” as she put it in one of her books.  It was largely due to her influence that I gradually became a Wool Snob, and began accumulating wool yarn to such an extent that my family teased that I was becoming a sheep.  These days I have stuffed sheep, pictures of sheep, sheep calendars, books about sheep…well, as you can see, the thing has taken on a life of its own.

So I am “Mrs. Mutton” (actually, that is the name of one of my stuffed sheep, who began life as “Ms. Mutton” of the famous brokerage firm, E.F. Mutton, until my husband rescued her from a life of Ms.-ery), and the odd pronouncements I mutter to myself have become known, locally, as “muttonings.”  All of which I offer as background to my favorite way of recharging when I am drained of energy.  Which is only partially with knitting.

There actually is something very, very soothing and mindless about repetitive hand motion.  Mind you, there is nothing relaxing about learning to knit; like any other unknown activity, it’s very stressful to learn.  But the rewards of sticking with the effort are completely disproportionate to the effort involved in learning the craft; you can actually knit your way to lower blood pressure.  And while your hands are occupied, and your brain either goes blank or focuses on the intricacies of, say, Aran knitting, other, more convoluted knots are unraveled.  I daresay that many a mental-health issue could be successfully treated by teaching patients to knit.

But as I say, recharging my personal batteries is a two-pronged process.  Knitting – or counted cross-stitch – is one prong, having something to occupy my mind that is completely unrelated to whatever it is that’s sapping my energy.  The other prong is classical music.

I’m not talking about the Bombast, or the Searching-for-the-Lost-Chord kind of cacophony that has become associated with classical music.  That stuff has its place (I guess), once you’ve become accustomed to the very different tempo of classical music, so much slower and more thought-infused than what currently occupies most space on the airwaves.  But if you want to relax, or if you’re really new to classical music, you want Baroque – Vivaldi, say, or Handel.  Or Bach, who wrote the music that is the title of this post, Sheep May Safely Graze.  Bach’s music covers every range of emotions, from utterly sublime to rollicking fun to just plain funny (his Coffee Cantata begins with a father grumping, “Ain’t it a fact that our kids give us a hundred thousand different kinds of heartburn,” or the eighteenth-century Germanic equivalent thereof).  And Vivaldi is such easy listening that a friend of ours once joked that “Vivaldi wrote the same concerto 425 times,” there being 425 works listed in the “Ryom Listing,” the most commonly used catalogue of Vivaldi’s compositions.

Knitting to the Oldies.  Works every time.

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“Which daily tasks take up the most of your energy?”

It’s a funny thing about getting older.  You never realize it when you are young, but when old people talk about “not having their get-up-and-go,” they’re actually talking about losing energy.  Now that I am in my sixties, I look back on the things I did when I was in my forties – full-time job, night classes, plus keeping house for a husband and two teenagers – and I shake my head:  How on earth did I do all that?!  Nowadays it takes me all morning to do chores that used to take an hour.  And the one that wipes me out the most is…making beds.

When I was young, I was taught to make my bed as soon as I got out of it, and I did this for years.  It was one less chore to clutter up my mind, and the bedroom always looks tidier and more serene with a bed that’s been made up.  Then I began married life in Germany, where you Just Don’t make your bed before airing it out thoroughly.  And I mean “thoroughly”:  People sleep beneath duvets, those puffy feather-filled comforters that are always covered in a big envelope, and first thing in the morning, the window is opened and the duvets and pillows are hung out for at least an hour.

(A funny aside here:  When my daughter was a child, I took her to Saturday school to learn German.  One of the mothers had just returned from a two-year sabbatical in Germany, and couldn’t stop talking about how grateful she was to be back in the States.  Since I was aching with homesickness – no, I’m not German, but the whole way of life had really clicked with me – I couldn’t imagine why she’d be grateful to be here.  Her answer:  “Those women and their featherbeds!  Every morning, at punkt seven o’clock, every window in Stuttgart would bang open, and out would come the featherbeds.  You could set your clock by the way those women hung out their featherbeds!”  Oh-kay.)

Well…it’s a habit that has stuck with me (one of many).  I won’t say I’m so fanatic as to get my bedding out the window by seven o’clock – for one thing, in the winter in New England the sun doesn’t rise until seven-thirty at the earliest, and I like it to be fully up before I put things out in the frost, or dew, depending on the season – but every morning by nine the latest, I drag the featherbeds off my husband’s and my bed and get them out for at least an hour, and usually, until the afternoon.  I used to yank them off and whisk them out the window.  These days, I drag them off and carry them through the hall and kitchen (we have a one-story house) and hang them off the back porch.  Then I put the pillows next to an open window so they can air, too.

By the time that’s done, I need to sit down and restock my energy.  I tell myself that this is because I’m so short, and lugging those featherbeds all through the house, holding them up so that they don’t drag on the floor (yes, I fold them in my arms – that’s how short I am), is bound to take the stuffing out of me.  But the truth is – I’m getting old.  And, as the saying goes, “My get-up-and-go has got up and gone.”

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Weekends being for free-writing in the NaBloPoMo world, I thought I’d take the opportunity to update folks on our latest home-improvement project.

Now that the kids are out of the house, we have been able to upgrade our property gradually over the past several years, adding porches front and back, updating the furnace, and most recently, putting on a new roof and upgrading the bathroom.  Thanks goodness for home-improvement loans.  All of these, I might add, were actually necessary upgrades; now that we are in our sixties, falls are much more of a concern, so the old back steps and front porch had to go (being made out of stone).  We have already seen significant savings in our heating bill from the new furnace – not an easy bill to trim in northern climates – and our roof would not have withstood another winter.

The bathroom was another matter, and not strictly speaking necessary.  What occasioned its remodel was the caulking around the tub, where it abuts the wall – the caulking was impossible to keep clean, and the hubster was constantly having to refresh it.  So when we contracted to have our roof repaired, he asked the contractor if he could do something about the caulking around the tub.  And the answer was…you should think about a new bathtub.

In “thinking” about a new tub (for all of five seconds), the hubster decided what the heck, just have the whole bathroom remodeled.  It’s only 6 x 8 feet (very roughly, 5.5 meters x 7 meters) – the house was built in the 1950s, when large and luxurious bathrooms were the province of Hollywood stars.  So we knew it was a project we could afford.  The real problem was that everything was going to have to come out and be replaced, and we only have the one bathroom.

The contractor was phenomenal.  He cut the bathtub out – I still don’t know how he cut porcelain into thirds – and the new tub was installed the same day, which was the first day of the project.  The new “surround” – a special wall that resists moisture – went in at the same time, and I could see why he had recommended replacing the tub:  There’s a “lip” that curves up around the edge of the tub, and the surround slots into that lip, eliminating the need for caulking altogether.  Twenty-first-century bathing.

Every evening before he left for the day, he would reinstall the toilet so that we had something we could use.  The bathroom sink, well, that was another matter; it sat in our kitchen for the entire three weeks of the remodel, and we had to brush our teeth at the kitchen sink morning and night, which gets real interesting when the kitchen sink comes up to your chest (as mine does on me).  For shaving, my husband had a small hand mirror that he would prop up against the kitchen window.  The last time we lived this way was when we lived in a third-floor cold-water flat as newlyweds in Germany, and even then, he had a mirror in the bathroom for shaving.  (I used to pour hot water from the kettle into the sink so that he had hot water for shaving.)

The walls came out, too, in a complete gutting of the bathroom.  Fortunately, the weather stayed warm so that we didn’t need insulated walls – we’d have frozen, otherwise – and the electrician hooked up one light bulb so that we weren’t showering in the pitch dark.  Using the bathroom in the early morning, however, was another story; who wants to turn on a light bulb at 5:00 a.m.?!  And that’s where flexibility saved the day.

When he was finished showering in the evening, my husband would drape his towel over two nails that had been hammered into the frame around the window, and that served as our “curtain” so we had a modicum of privacy in the evening.  Before we went to bed, we’d remove the towel, which left the light of a street lamp shining onto the white surround, and provided us with just enough “light” that we could see what we were doing before sunrise.  Really, I don’t know how people managed before electricity – how did you see what you were doing when it came time to light the fire in the morning?!  I mean, even a nighttime candle would have burned down overnight, no?

We did a lot of laughing over these three weeks – we laugh a lot anyway at the vagaries of life, but when everything is topsy-turvy, it really helps to keep your sense of humor.  We did a lot of reminiscing, too, about our newlywed experiences, and my husband recalled the winter morning when he was shaving in that cold-water bathroom and looked up to see…snowflakes drifting down through the closed window in the roof.  (It was a rooftop flat.)  Compared with that, our current state of affairs was almost luxury.

But I won’t pretend I wasn’t ecstatic when the bathroom sink was finally hooked back up and I didn’t have to stand on tiptoes to brush my teeth.

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“What is the first thing you see in the morning?”

The title of this post comes from an absolutely wonderful German folk song:

“Jeden Morgen geht die Sonne auf, in der Waelder wundersame Runde;/ und die schoene, scheue Schoepferstunde, jeden Morgen nimmt sie ihren Lauf.”  Loosely translated, “Every morning when the sun comes up, all the woods are filled with song; and the shimmer of a new creation, morning all too swiftly runs along.”  There are three more verses, but this post isn’t about those.

I am extraordinarily blessed to live, if not exactly in the country, in a rural small town.  It’s not as quiet as it was when we first moved here; too many people have discovered that they can drive to Boston from this part of the world if they leave early enough, and now our mornings, which used to ring with the moo of cows waiting to be milked, are filled with the swish of tires making their way to the nearby Turnpike, and thence to an interstate that will take them right into downtown Boston.

But it’s still quieter than when we lived in New York, almost on top of the Long Island Expressway, so the first thing I see when I wake up actually depends on the time of the year.  In the summer, my room is filled with a soft morning sun, and I can clearly see the icons that adorn my dresser across the room.  Now that it’s autumn, the sun doesn’t come up until after 6:30 a.m., so my room is filled with shadows.  From long habit, I feel my way to the windows and open the Venetian blinds, and the first thing I see out the window is – trees.  We have a yard full of them; no real flowers, outside of the “maybells” (lily of the valley – my husband prefers the German term for them) that encroach over the northern quarter of our yard, and as far as I’m concerned, they’re welcome to encroach all over the whole thing.  I love maybells.

Then I move from the east window to the north window, and when I open that, I see my next-door neighbor’s house.  It isn’t a show-place by any means, but it reminds me how blessed we are to have good neighbors next door to us, quiet folks about our age with a similar outlook on life.  Good neighbors are a gift from God.

When I make my way into the kitchen, usually the first thing I’ll look for is a light in the windows of our neighbor to the south – a convent.  It’s actually a novitiate for the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Healing Love, and if I can see a light in the window, somehow it’s reassuring to know that the girls have survived the night and are not in any trouble.  Just as our neighbors to the north have our backs, it just seems right that we should keep an eye on these girls and make sure they are okay.

After that, I like to stick my nose out the back door and see what the temperature is.  We have a thermometer next to the back door – it’s been there since before we moved in, and frankly, it looks like it – and it’s not the most accurate tool on the planet, but at six o’clock in the morning, it does its job.  (It’s really only inaccurate in the afternoon, because our driveway is a sun trap and the thing registers about 15 degrees hotter than it actually is.)

Then – assuming I’m the one who’s up first, which isn’t always the case – I put the hot water on for coffee, and head into the living room for my morning prayers.  Coffee per se is my husband’s job; he makes better coffee than I do, and I can’t think why, because I’m the one who taught him how to make coffee.

That first look out the window at my world fills me with peace and strength to begin the day.

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Given the state of the federal budget, many are the cries for reductions and taxations.  But where to slash?  Push Granny off the cliff?  Where to raise?  Those lucre-loving denizens of Wall Street?  On only one target can both sides comfortably settle:  those blood-sucking federal employees, those lard-butts who sit around Washington all day doing crossword puzzles and pulling in twice what the average American wage-earner earns.  Let’s face it, nobody likes paying taxes; why not dun the tax-takers?

So I thought I’d introduce you to your Friendly Neighborhood Fed so you could get an idea of where at least some of your tax dollars really go.

Well, yes, some of them do go to Washington to support Congressional Representatives and Senators, not to mention whoever currently inhabits 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  (Yes, I know who currently inhabits it, but not even he can live there forever.  At least, not as things stand at the moment, though I wouldn’t put it past him to have himself declared President for Life or something.)  Some tax dollars do go for farm subsidies, transportation subsidies, medical research, defense, education, student loans, etc., etc., etc.  In fact, so much goes out on all of this that I’m wondering why people fixate on federal civil-service employees as the Source of All Our Ills.

Oh, wait, I forgot, they don’t do nuttin’.  Well…almost nuttin’.  They do the medical research.  They process Social-Security claims and income-tax returns, and those nightmarish FAFSA forms so well-known to college-loan applicants.  Not a few of them put their lives on the line for you and me (and earn peanuts doing it, incidentally) – we call them soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.  But there are also the people who guard the president, ensure that smugglers are caught, try their level best (with sometimes outright hostility from Congress and the administration) to keep our borders safe and minimize the effects of illegal drugs.  And there are the people who, since 1971, have been making sure that you get home in one piece at night (OSHA, to be specific).

They don’t all work in Washington.  Most of them, in fact, work ten or twenty miles from where you live.  They pay taxes the same as you do, not only state and local and property taxes, but federal income taxes – which means they pay a portion of their own salaries.  When they drive to work, they buy their gas at the same gas station you do; when they take mass transit, they pay the same fare you do.  The health insurance they get isn’t the same razzle-dazzle cover-everything plan that the Congress gets; it’s the same Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan as yours, with, possibly, one exception:  They pay a portion of their insurance coverage, something I never had to do when working in private industry.  They make co-payments on their medical care, too.

When they go out to eat, they eat at local restaurants.  Their kids go to school with your kids, unless they attend a parochial school – and maybe yours do, too.  The houses on which they pay property taxes look like yours, to a greater or lesser extent; some have larger homes, but some have smaller homes, too.  If they live in one state and work in another, they pay state income taxes to both states, same as you do.  They shop at the same supermarkets you do, and get their hair cut by the same barber or hair stylist that you use.

Strikes me that an awful lot of your tax dollars are being plowed back into your community, via federal civil-service workers.  Naive idealism?  Not really – I’ve been married to one for over forty years.

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Talk about a memory tied to a certain candy, especially if it involves another person or a place.”

Oops, looks like I pre-empted today’s prompt yesterday.  I guess that’s what happens when you take things day to day, as I tend to do now that I’m retired.

But, especially now that I’m halfway through my seventh decade of life (did I just write that?!), I do enjoy sharing memories of a time increasingly distant, and since part of this prompt mentions memories tied to another person or a place, I’d like to run with that.  It does mean getting off the Sweet topic, but sweets really never were a big part of my life.

It’s August now, hot and humid, and every year around this time the memory of my grandmother’s yard surfaces.  As I’ve mentioned, my stepfather was Polish, and his mother was a farm girl from the Old Country; she never did learn to read or write, but there wasn’t much she didn’t know about growing things.  The part of her yard that fronted the street was a riot of flowers, a plot at least 10 x 20, and things grew there all summer long.  I don’t know what they were; I doubt she knew their names in English, and since she was the only gardener I knew, there wasn’t a hope of my knowing what they were, either.  Nor was her garden laid out in tidy beds, so that you could point to a flower and ask, “What’s that?”  Grandma’s flower garden looked like she had taken packets of seeds and broadcast them into fresh-dug earth, and then she tended whatever came up.  It certainly flourished.

In the back of the yard (which was really the size of a house plot) was where she kept her vegetable garden.  Those beds were tidier, and it was easier to recognize what she was growing there.  She had peppers, onions, beets, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, peas, green beans, and she must have grown her own horseradish, too, because she certainly made her own horseradish every Easter.  I don’t know how she did it.  It was the best stuff to eat, but grating it must have cleared out her throat and lungs for the rest of the year.

Early in my childhood, she also kept chickens, but two of her sons lived in the same house as she did, and as their families grew, I guess she felt that the chickens weren’t safe among so many little savages, because they disappeared by the time I was ten.  One of my uncles had six kids, the other had nine, and then there were the grandchildren who didn’t live there but visited regularly; we probably terrified the chickens by our sheer numbers.  The rest of the yard, and this is why I refer to it as a “yard” and not a “garden,” was given over to play equipment for the hordes of savages:  swing sets, slides, eventually a huge above-ground pool where my cousins disported themselves all summer long.

I guess I was 20 or 21 when I paid my grandmother a visit one hot August afternoon.  I’m not sure where the cousins were, but I do remember that it was uncharacteristically quiet that day.  My grandmother was watching soap operas, but she turned the TV off so we could visit, and we spent a bit of time chatting in the cool of her basement apartment.

“Come out into the backyard,” she said suddenly, and rose, shuffling the length of the house from front to back; she had terrible arthritis.  She made her way up the steps from the cellar into the yard with a pot in her hand; I assumed she was planning to dig up some vegetables for her supper.  Instead, she began pulling up grass by the handful, long stalks that grew next to the fence that bordered her vegetable garden.  I offered to help, but she was content with her grass-pulling, so I just sat and watched her.

When she had filled the pot in her hand, she hobbled back into the kitchen of her apartment, rinsed off the grass, chopped it, filled the pot with water, and began to cook it.  To say I was floored is an understatement.  It would never have occurred to me that my grandmother might be senile, especially since we had just been conversing lucidly, but – cooking grass?!  Where was she going with that one?!  After half an hour or so, she turned the flame off and ladled the grass soup into two bowls, and set one before me.  Yikes.  But what could I do?  She was the only grandmother I had, and I loved her and didn’t want to offend her.  So I picked up my spoon and ate.

It was delicious.  I’ve never tasted anything like it, before or since.  I couldn’t wait to get home and tell Dad about this wonderful stuff his mother had made.  “Oh, yeah, schav,” he said, when I told him.  “Do you make it from just any grass?” I asked.  “No, you need sorrel grass,” he said.

I’ve never eaten it since that summer.  Never found sorrel grass to grow, and frankly, I’m not sure it would grow for me; I have the blackest thumb in the neighborhood, if not in the entire Northeast.  Once I looked it up online and found that a couple of Jewish food companies actually sell it prepared, as they do borscht; but it doesn’t appear to be for sale anywhere but in the New York City area, and even though I’m from there, I haven’t been back home in over twenty years.  I’ve long since lost my taste for city living.

My grandmother has been on my mind a lot lately, probably because lately I find myself hobbling more and more the way she did, as her arthritis progressed.  It’s a little strange to think of myself as being as old as my grandmother, especially since she had so many skills I’ll never acquire.  Like making schav from scratch.

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