"Happy ever after in the marketplace" always comes to mind when I am roaming the Red Hook Fairway, a stupendous food playground with a stunning view of New York harbor and the Statue of Liberty. It's the only supermarket I've ever felt drawn to for spiritual sustenance as well as groceries; after a pilgrimage through the cobblestoned streets of this strange big-sky neighborhood, one reaches the water's edge and, seemingly, every good thing to eat in the universe. Blessedly and uniquely Brooklyn.
My Uncle Don and Aunt Valeska, the almost-94-year-old twins who journeyed to eternity in close succession this past holiday season, seemed close at hand. Don would have been taking pictures of Miss Liberty and the boats plying the choppy waters; Valeska would have loved the endless bounty of whole-grain breads and granola and other healthy goodies (if not the citified prices). We celebrated their lives and their effervescent personalities--"like two peas in a pod," as one of us said--over the weekend, at a heartwrenching and wonderful family reunion/memorial in the little town of Yellow Springs, Ohio. Here Valeska flourished all her adult life and raised my clan of first cousins on a rambling homestead with my Uncle Lynton, a self-sufficiency farmer, skilled linotypist, and fellow eccentric. The Child and I brought stories and memories of Don to the gathering, and in return received boundless love, comfort, and homecooked food from our far-flung family.
My cousins' childhood home is a true CrazyStable in its own right--a tiny hand-built house in the woods on the edge of town, surrounded by fertile Ohio fields and a leafy footpath where the railroad used to run. Lined inside with worn beadboard, it was christened the "wrinkly tree-house" by the Child on her first visit years ago; its mossy tumbledown outbuildings and curious nooks and crannies are "peas in the pod" to the New Jersey country house where Don and my aunt Louie spent their weekends. Although filled with Valeska's children, grandchildren, and even a few great-grandchildren (and one grand-niece), it was strangely empty, without my aunt's musical voice and bubbly laughter. Stories were told, old pictures exchanged, many cookies and much ice cream consumed. I was given an amazing heirloom I didn't know existed--a bust of my uncle Don at age 14, an elfin youth with a grand head of nappy hair. It will take pride of place in our guest room, "his" room, where he'd spend the night after visits.
As our rental car bumped down the muddy road, I took a final look back at the Ohio CrazyStable, hardly more than a shack on a hill. I never saw it in its prime, when barefoot children fanned out in the summer to pick strawberries into buckets, or gaze at the lightning in the night sky. If I ached at leaving it behind, I can only imagine how my cousins must feel. The day was gloomy with persistent squalls of showers, but as we drove away the sun broke through for a few moments, dazzling the raindrops as they fell on the stubbly cornfields. A sunshower--what could be a more fitting end to this journey?
Time for good winter things now, I hope...cooking and baking, lusting over garden catalogs, picking up the pieces of house projects that have lain under the chaos for awhile. Time to take the Christmas tree down, and not a moment too soon to think of Spring.