My Christmastime Quest

The best things in life require effort.

Lebkuchen, for instance.

lebkuchen bar and bear
Pictured: Lebkuchen not from Day’s Bakery

My hometown of Honesdale, Pennsylvania is semi-famous for two things: the Stourbridge Lion and “Winter Wonderland.” It should also be famous for the wonderful lebkuchen from Day’s Bakery. Their wonderfully soft and spicy bar-style lebkuchen is simply divine. And when the crunchy glaze cracks and begins to melt in your mouth . . .

Unfortunately, they don’t ship. At least, their website doesn’t offer shipping and I haven’t heard back from my email. I could ask family to send me some, but things of that nature tend to get “lost in the mail” – if you know what I mean.

I tracked down a recipe that sounds like it might be similar to my culinary fantasy, but the ingredients proved to be cost-prohibitive.

Lebkuchen-Gewürz
If only I had a German delicatessen

The stores in my area don’t even sell a boxed variety, the smaller, crunchier lebkuchen set on oblaten. Rumor has it that the commissary sells some sort of lebkuchen, but I’m not in the military. I have friends who are, though, so maybe I can call in a favor or two.

Now if only I could find some Moxie to go with it . . .

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You Were My First Love

Everyone remembers their first love.

firstloveFirst best friend

Cute (or handsome) teacher

The only one who “got” you

The collegian

 

Given opportunity, we might try to find them again.

find meCalling cards

Autograph books

Yearbooks

Facebook

 

If especially bold, we might drive by their house.

first house love

This summer, I rediscovered my first love: the library.

Honesdale Library
Public Library
Honesdale, PA

My hometown library contained all the charm, character, and mystery of a 100+ year old home. I adored the card catalog – every book condensed in neat little boxes. I learned Library of Congress designations before I could read most of the books. The high water mark of the big flood of ’42 was still visible on the walls. Each room was its own section; no getting lost in this library. In the hall, a wide staircase to the forbidding upstairs, off-limits to regular patrons. In the front hall, the television that stood for years until my friend C_____ bought it for $20. I wonder if he ever replaced the missing tubes?

The big library in Scranton – in my mind a fortress – with two separate buildings: one for kids and one for adults. The first time someone told me I was too young to be in the adult section. The joy and wonder of “getting lost” in the ironwork stacks. Knowing the library better than my teachers for the annual research trip. My first copy card. Learning microfilm and microfiche.

Scranton PA Public Library
Public Library
Scranton, PA

bookstack1I loved to read. My first book report – given in the second grade – was Moby Dick (unabridged, of course). In the fourth grade I explained the symbolism of Snowball in Animal Farm. I read political theory and philosophy while my classmates struggled with Little House on the Prairie. My parents told me that during one PTA, a teacher said I shouldn’t act so smart. Apparently I made the rest of the class feel stupid by using the word “doubloon” in a sentence. We were discussing Treasure Island.

But along the way,  I stopped loving making time for books. In pursuing education, I stopped reading for fun. Well, at least during the school year. The only books I remember reading for personal pleasure between 2003 and 2008 were Charlotte’s Web and The Silmarillion, both in German. I’m sure there were books I read – some I even wanted to read – I just don’t remember them.

wilbur-und-charlotte-charlottes-web-e-b-white-hardcover-cover-art

For the last few years, I’ve saved up and bought the books I wanted to read. But I forgot about the library. And so, several weeks ago, short of cash but long in the To-Be-Read list, I went to my local library.

New Bern NC Library
Public Library
New Bern, NC

It’s not like the libraries of my childhood. It’s small(er), but maybe that’s because I’ve grown. It was obviously built – or at least renovated – to be a library. Two large open rooms and a smaller local history/microfilm room. No chance to get lost in the stacks, just look down the aisle. But still, it’s a library. And I’ve discovered the books call to me here just as well. It’s love, rekindled.

IMG_0986
(but not on a kindle)

 

 

Home Again

Main Street Honesdale POSTCARDI spent eighteen years of my life in that house. For six of them, I couldn’t wait to leave. Now that I’m asked to recall it, I find my memory lacking. If I close my eyes and imagine myself back in the seventh grade coming home from school, perhaps I’ll remember more.

I always thought I lived on the edge of nowhere in rural Pennsylvania. Rolling hills, farmland, towns so small if you blink you’ll miss them. You can pass through an entire postal code without seeing a single house. Our address listed a town, but the town line was half a mile away. Town itself was a mile. Beyond our house things really spread out.

The driveway is long: 0.2 miles. At one point it was paved; now, not so much. I can walk it blindfolded and have walked it in the dark on moonless nights. On the right: a pond where we swim in the summer. On the left: an old horse pasture where, as a kindergartener, one of them tried to eat my jacket. Years later, we buried my dog Duke with one of the horses. Opposite his grave are some fruit (peach?) trees. Cross the creek. As a child I feared falling into the creek, but I don’t know why. It’s not the kind of thing that could happen accidentally. In the summer, the creek would often flood its banks and cover our driveway, especially if debris caught in the culvert. Finally, there’s a steep hill. A path to the left takes you into the woods. I once fell on that trail while Duke walked me; I bashed my knee on a rock and needed stitches. The hill itself is perfect for sledding, but I’m not supposed to do that. Supposedly it’ll make the hill too slick. At the top of the hill is our house, the only house on the drive. Set back from the road, we have our own undisturbed slice of the world.

The front yard is more of a front hill. It flattens out eventually. When my parents inevitably send me outside, I have a tree with a tire swing and climbing rope and wide branches perfect for reading. My dog Wulf – a Black Lab/Rottweiler mix – enjoyed the rope more than I did; he’d play tug-of-war with the tree. Can you guess which part of the tree I like most?

We have a back yard, too. When I was younger, Mom and I would play whiffle ball or throw a Frisbee. Sometimes we cook hotdogs or roast marshmallow or make s’mores in our fire pit. I once baked bread over the open flame using an old “Carthaginian recipe” for a school project.

A big green shed stands in the woods out back. At various times it’s housed chickens, pigs, and firewood. Not all at the same time, though. One of the pigs grew so heavy it broke through the floor! I hate hauling wood from the building. I used to be afraid that snakes or spiders would crawl in there for winter protection. Sometimes I was right.

I’m not sure what color the house was when I was twelve. It was either yellow or blue. I remember painting the wood siding with my sister. I got shocked by an outlet while washing the siding. When we were done, she painted a blue smiley face on my stomach.

We have a garage, but don’t park a car there. Instead, we store canned goods, groceries, lawnmowers, and other stuff like that. During deer season, it’s where we hang deer for processing. It has a stale, musty smell, the exact opposite of the semi-damp, pleasant musty smell of Grandma’s basement.

Instead, enter through the kitchen. Small but cozy, I seem to remember something always cooking either in the oven or in a crock pot. If not, it’s in the fridge waiting to be heated. In the winter, I used to sit under the kitchen table with my feet on the radiator. In time, this place would be taken over by Wulf. When Mom baked cakes or pies or pizza, he’d end up half covered in flour. There’s one tall built-in cupboard, used for storing cereal and baking ingredients and paper goods. It’s perfect for hide-and-seek except it’s the first place anyone would look.

The dining room and living room are one long room divided by flooring. The dining room had old linoleum, cracked and faded; the living room had carpet, its floral pattern enhanced by countless spilled drinks. Both have since been replaced: the linoleum with wood laminate and the carpet with newer carpet (blue Berber with ScotchGuard).

The dining room is the center of the house. From it you can go to the front porch (a tiny raised concrete patio since replaced by a large wooden deck), the living room (TV, couch, Dad’s recliner), or my sister’s room (I didn’t go there often).

Stand in front of my sister’s room and turn left. There’s a hallway there; shelves and racks covered by curtains hold my parent’s coats, the vacuum cleaner, extra bedding, and the family collection of board games. At the end of the hall is my brother’s room. I didn’t go there often, either.

Come back from my brother’s room and pass through the dining room to another hallway. Down it and on the left is the bathroom. I think it had a tile floor, but it was replaced sometime in my childhood with laminate. An old, in-wall medicine cabinet with lights on either side is set into the right-hand wall. The bathtub is on the left. We have a laundry chute to the basement. This is also a good hiding spot, but is the second place people will look.

At the end of the hall is my room: bed, bookshelves, radio, wardrobe, parents’ closet, and one small window set high into the wall. It was here I learned to love literature and classical music. When I lived here, posters of wolves covered the walls and ceiling.

You have to go through my room to get to my parents’ room. Previously a sunroom, its large windows make it perfect for watching summer thunderstorms. Mom does her sewing out here. I guess the light is perfect for it.

Go back to the kitchen and down the stairs to the basement. Be careful: the stairs are steep. I once dropped my science project (hydroponically grown plants) down these steps the night before Science Fair. I still took 3rd place! The basement is where the washer and dryer are. There’s also a toilet, but you’d only want to use it in an emergency. Dad’s workbench is down here. It’s where he tinkers and cuts meat when necessary. At the back of the basement and near the furnace is where we stack wood. Be careful when stoking the fire, a stray spark can start a fire. My best friend burned his house down because he wasn’t careful. One day we had a chimney fire at our house. My brother and sister pulled the chimney down and saved the house. A door from the basement leads to the garage. On the door is a dartboard. I took out all kinds of frustration here. I never became very good at darts, though.

Well, that’s the house. Hope you enjoyed the tour!

This post is being published as part of Writing 101. Challenge 11: Today, tell us about the home you lived in when you were twelve. Pay attention to — and vary — your sentence lengths.

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