Sitting on the cushy-warm leather sofa just outside of Dr. S’s office, concentrating intently on bending and moving the wire-core rubbery figure’s arms and legs, an anemic-looking, three-year-old body aches with the arthritis-like symptoms her grandparents reported experiencing. The three shared evenings in front of the soothing heat radiating from the antique round oak wood stove in the living room of a creaky old house built over 60 years previous.
Unsuccessful in her focused attempt, she takes a deep breath, the first of her petite aching body since the doctor’s thorough examination earlier in the day. Becoming aware of the doctor speaking in a solemn, monotonous but deep voice, she noticed the big heavy wooden door to his office was slightly ajar as she sat in the doctor’s waiting room.
At first, not really hearing distinct words, only that flattened, low voice, and with the simplistic mind of a child, she began to feel impatient to leave. Daydreaming, trying to imagine what the special treat she had been promised, believing she was the good girl everyone had asked of her to have endured the extensive and painful diagnostic testing the doctor had done earlier in the day. Would it be her favorite ice cream? Perhaps the plastic handgun and holster she had wanted to be like Annie Oakley? Would it be a new toy, maybe a shiny-faced dolly smiling from the crinkly cellophane of a colorful cardboard box?
Slowly she realized she was hearing words, distinct words, words no one wants to hear, whatever their age! Even though not exactly comprehending some of the doctor’s words, she pieced together the sad picture the doctor was trying to convey to the young, unsophisticated parents. The Orthopaedic specialist was attempting to educate them about the RARE and terminal bone disease the morning tests had revealed. She knew what RARE meant. She heard the Dr. trying to explain to her parents that his expectations for her recovery were worse than grim.
Many years later, she remembered thinking to herself, nooo! I will not let that happen! I have to be very convincing when I announce to them ALL that I am stronger than anyone realizes, can win over this pain, and will be a normal girl! They will all see, I will show them!
The crying face of her frightened young mother first emerges from the partially open dark wooden door, followed by her white-faced father with his head hung, following stiffly behind the mother. Dr. S slowly followed her father until they surrounded her tiny body settled into the mammoth-sized leather sofa.
Out of the child’s mouth before anyone could speak as simply and as convincingly as she could muster, from her rosy lips came the words, “I am NOT going to die!!!” She remembers feeling the entire universe go into slow motion and then stood completely still. Holding her breath, she waited for someone’s confident reassurance that never came.
Mother walked away into the dark hallway, followed by father. Dr. S handed the uncomfortable, lost girl the “Mr. Bendy” toy, promising that she could take it home and keep it for being such a good girl for his exams. She promised him she would practice exercises until returning to show how painless were her movements, equally as freely as Mr. Bendy. The Dr. was speechless and hugged the girl tightly to his chest, glancing helplessly toward the outer door of the waiting room where her parents stood. It was a very long and quiet ride home that day.
Dr. S recommended visits to Dr. George, a chiropractor in Gardiner. Weekly uncomfortable, sweaty Ultra-Violet Ray treatments and manipulation were the best he could offer. Aside from the not-so-positive prediction, doctors were convinced she would be unlikely to survive beyond the age of ten, having no further information on the rare disease.
Accompanied by medical records, Dr. S did attend a worldwide medical conference in Japan where he learned only two other known instances of Calcinosis Universalis did not survive beyond their teens. There seemed to be no documented cause or follow-up for the odd condition which developed seemingly overnight, accompanied by a high fevered outbreak of this disease. All the girl knew was that it was excruciating to move and that she wanted to cry, sleep and vomit most of the time, making both parents angry. The Dr. ordered a few series of X-rays to document the overabundance of calcium in the girl’s body for his records.
Daily olive oil massages on grossly swollen and knobby knuckled hands, trying to sit on the floor with painfully stiff skinny legs crossed. Exercises consisted of balling newspaper pages into as tight & small a ball as possible or bending her index finger toward the base of her palms. Impossible mission! Painful memories of squeezing the newspaper with tears spilling from her eyes, trying to be silent so she wouldn’t upset anyone or be yelled at continue to permeate her adult dreams.
Western medicine has not provided anything for relief, but diagnostic tests have depleted the health account she shares with her husband, leaving them with only questions and bottles of ineffective Rx medications. Today, at age 70, she manages the excruciating pain of her recurring “terminal” disease by dry-vaping medical marijuana flower. She enjoys gardening, riding her Kubota tractor, kayaking, and hiking the Perkins Highway on sunny days.
National health care consultants and Osteopaths agree that the medicinal qualities of THC are most likely helping her body push back the debilitating effects of the painful childhood disease, Calcinosis Universalis. For as long as she is again able to enjoy the outdoor activities she loves and can perform yard maintenance or drive to fill her pickup truck with compost, she is satisfied that her self-care allows her to find peaceful moments.
Before T is the heavy cardboard box she visits frequently. Sitting on the new padding she was pleased she had added to the old worn wooden barstool recently salvaged from the pile of discarded furniture on its’ way to the recycling center. The mystery of how this works never ceases to intrigue her. Residing in the dark place again, she finds herself sitting in front of a cardboard box in her most feared of all areas.
Feeling no sense of time or place, always sensing cold, nearly permanently paralyzed, her mind is swimming with regret over too many negative decisions. Negative results. Guilt over tasks still undone. People she pushed away. Phone calls ignored. Places unvisited, things too numerous to list, deeply felt like a heavy anchor pulling her down but would not be forgotten. The heavy cardboard box remains closed.
T’s attempt to concentrate through the darkness of her mind on making breathing rhythmic. Deep belly breath in, hold it, push out slowly from pursed lips, focus; the initial steps to lifting the box lid, revealing this particular mystery on this particularly dark day. Afraid and anxious all at the same time, wondering, what if it doesn’t work this time? How can it not work? But will it?
Time passes. Who knows how many minutes, anticipation builds. Finally came the fortitude. Take another deep breath, hold it, let it out slowly between those pursed lips, and……ever so slowly lift that hinged lid to open the box. Unaware of anything but the song, she heard a sweet harmony coming forth.
Each equally sized, perfectly measured piece twinkles and beckons to her, select ME. Fingers dance gingerly over familiar glass samples. Feeling the blood pumping in her heart, at her temples. By touch alone with closed eyes, she plucked a glass sample from the box. Opening her eyes to see, T found the glass selected is green. It feels hard and cold in her hand at first.
The first sample selected is a textured glass. As the artist continued to hold the piece in her hand, she began to feel it warming. Fingers explore the texture on the face side in contrast to the smoothness of the reverse. The green-ness is hypnotizing. Hands signal brain to notice warmth in the glass, or is it in the hands? The warm interaction is as delicious as the deep, transparent color. Reveling in the intensity it invokes; fingers linger on that solitary sample before moving onto another. Returning to the original piece randomly selected on the table, the exercise continues until seven glass samples are chosen, representing the number of days the dark time has lasted.
Sometimes at this point, T’s mind has already begun to assemble a new design to create. Other times the colored, textured pieces bring a distant memory or special feeling of calm, never sure which will reveal itself first. The color green reminiscent of spring, the St. Patrick’s Day that T’s Irish grandmother loved to celebrate, and her various gardens waiting to be preened and awoken. She loves to watch the first tiny shoots reaching through the rich seafood compost toward the warm rays of spring sunshine, growing the healthy vegetables and herbs she eats. There it is! A sudden thawing, defrosting. Sensing something; at last replacing the numbness inside. The sample box has worked its magic again.
T is most importantly thankful for her sense of touch, sight, and finally the ability to create something beautiful from cold glass objects. Her talented hands have learned their skills well and she has many. Forged once again forward through the tunnel of darkness, utilizing inanimate objects to restore some feeling inside what she believed was her deadened, black within.
T is a proud woman to have self-taught most of what she knows, resarching, educating, learning to use her hands to create beautiful objects and interesting stories. The mechanics of the human brain: wondrous. The brain-organ is the nerve center of our world, the database of who and what we are.
Tasting the hard, thick, brown square of dark chocolate Grampie finally agreed to share with me after succumbing to ten tortuous minutes of my innocent childlike begging, my mouth explodes. My eyeballs seem pushed back into my now-aching head and I wonder where the loud buzzing sound is coming from. Not sure who is doing all the screaming. Ohhhhh noooooo, it’s coming from me!
I begin intermittently spitting into the dusty gravel driveway and yelling and spitting and yelling and spitting and yelling something indistinguishable. My legs begin to go wobbly and my arms are flailing as if I were going to take flight. I WANT to fly away! Faaaaarrrrr away from my hero, my Grampie who is now doubled over, laughing hysterically in his deep, gravelly voice until tears roll off his rosy cheeks and his shiny bald head is as red as a boiled lobster.
The spitting and yelling continues until he can once again stand upright and pulls me to his chest with a big bear hug. Grammie, in her full-length, crisply ironed cotton apron emerges from deep within the house, most probably the kitchen, with a Tom and Jerry jelly glass of cold, red ZA-REX. She had been carefully watching out the tall kitchen window as we walked thru the yard on our weekly trek to inspect the “blueberry fields” and had witnessed the entire interaction. She anticipated this very outcome as she watched my begging her playful husband and saw that he had finally handed me a chunk of his “brownie”.
That moment was the first time I became aware of Grampie’s lifetime love of chewing tobacco! He surely did covet chewing chunks of that nasty smelling stuff! Wherever he went, a fresh double-brownie sized chunk, newly wrapped in cellophane, and tucked into the breast pocket of his plaid flannel shirt. It truly seemed his special friend at times. He reached into that secret hiding place for refreshment, out of boredom, for consolation and for comfort. It seemed that chewing centered and calmed him all at the same time, just as a baby doll or soft blanket does when we are small.
It is not much of a stretch to imagine how I thought this enticing brown substance to be a luscious brownie. I was salivating for a chocolaty treat as I marched proudly alongside the strong, wise Grampie I adored.
None of the three of us ever forgot that awakening, my first exposure to the cognizance of chocolate versus tobacco. The recounting of that day continued for years, being told and retold from family holiday dinner tables to random visitors after I was long tucked away in bed.
He did so love to chaw. He chewed while walking outside first thing in the fresh air of morning. He chawed a chunk after eating a hearty lunch. He chawed vigorously while driving the car and much to my embarrassment, spit the “juice” out of the driver side window. Sometimes when we took an off-island adventure, and if the car window was only partially down, the juicy drool left drips that ran down the clean window glass like muddy stripes. If he chose to spit while the car was in motion, I would wait until the stripes curled at the bottom, looking to my innocent little girl mind like upside down chocolate candy canes.
When I was in my 40’s and Grampie was nearing the end of his life, he lay pale and struggling for breath and dignity from a hospital bed. Unable to speak much above a whisper, he crooked his finger to draw me closer to his face and asked me to go into his closet to reach into his worn flannel shirt pocket for something for him. I was not surprised to feel the “chunk of chaw” he was asking me to sneak to him.
As I crossed the room, I was overwhelmed by memories of his love affair with chewing. Those memories however had far less an impact than the look of sheet delight I saw in his twinkling eyes as I handed him the treasure he had so longed for during his lengthy stay at the hospital. His tired, worn, scraggly face seemed to glow and his age faded away at that moment.
He grabbed onto the chunk of chewing tobacco and clutched it to his chest under the crisp white hospital sheets for the remainder of our visit. He thanked me with a whisper in my ear as I hugged him for what we both knew would probably be the last time. I remembered the first time he shared his brownie with me.
At Grampie’s funeral, we all passed his casket slowly, some lingering to pay a tribute in their own special way. I tucked my favorite pinky ring (a simple love knot) into the breast pocket of the shirt where he always kept his beloved chewing tobacco. As I sat on the hard wooden bench facing his casket, I watched as my younger sister tucked a fresh package of chewing tobacco into the very same breast pocket, her special gift for his next journey.
The words to the song are: “Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go.” That is exactly what my family actually did. Following the single file trail, we walked across the Kennebec River ice from the Swan Island landing to the Richmond State dock. Grampie had freshly shoveled a trail, marking it with saplings (small leafless trees) posted along his snow banks during winters when walking was a safe mode of traveling across the river prior to spring “ice-out.” Nearly overcome by driving wind and drifting snow in a whiteout crossing, he wasn’t about to get disoriented and end up feeling foolish coming home late and out of breath again. He wasn’t about to tell Gramie how he scared himself that night either. It was done. He would fix it like he fixed anything else, carefully and with a great deal of serious thought. That trail was marked immediately after that night in the light of the next day and every snowy winter day following.
When making a trip together, someone was designated to pull a toboggan; sometimes I’d get to ride along with the early Christmas gifts on the Thanksgiving-Christmas trek back across the river until we reached the dock on the Swan Island side. There were years when passing the river was totally impossible, either by walking his well-groomed trail or by boat. We were thankful when everyone was able to cross for the annual family event. Grampie loaded us all into his snub-nosed green Jeep for the rest of the slow bumpy crawl along the one island road we called Main Street. Some years he had to go out with a plow to open the road up prior to driving the Jeep down to the Swan Island landing for the crossing where he would meet up with family on the Richmond side of the Kennebec River.
Preparations began at least two weeks prior to the actual day of Thanksgiving. Gramie and I sat at the kitchen table, working through the menu in great detail for the longest time beginning back when the pumpkins were picked. She wanted everything to be plentiful, cooked well, and just plain perfect in every way. As a youngster, I would clap my hands when I got excited, saying yes, yes, yes, let’s do that in answer to her menu selections. She would smile at me with her kind, sparkling eyes and begin to write her list. Grampie’s assigned mission was to go overstreet (to Main Street in Richmond) for the supplies. He returned after his two-way trip across the river, laden with her handmade recycling bags filled to the brim with food and baking supplies he had gathered, following her list most carefully. He always jokingly remarked, Nearly emptied out the sto-ahh this time, shuda gone over for it all in the scow instead of Swanee! He must have been a handsome devil in his day. Even as a small girl, I can remember loving the twinkle in his eyes and the dimples in his rosy cheeks.
A few days before Thanksgiving she began to thaw the frozen hulk of a turkey, dunking it in a salty brine bath another day. She commenced having what I came to think of as a pie-baking marathon. I was her “lovely assistant” atop my turtle stool, until at the conclusion; both of us were completely covered with flour. She could certainly produce a mouth-watering selection of picture-perfect pies: Custard with a crimped edge, cherry with a browned lattice top (my favorite), apple with sweet cinnamon-y juice bubbling out of the vents in its mountaintop crust, blueberry with pools of jellied blue juice highlighting the “B” Gramie had pierced in the top crust with a bone-handled fork. Traditional mincemeat pie always seemed Grampie’s favorite with raisins, suet, and a mystery ingredient that seemed to be some kind of adult secret I was not privy to for some reason. Might that secret ingredient have been venison? It’s only a question! She created cranberry sauce by simmering whole fresh cranberries in a well-worn aluminum pan on the woodstove.
Giant brown biscuits, light as a feather, came out of that little old woodstove oven. Plum pudding, which had no plums in it at all, steamed in a soup can with both ends removed and set into a pot of boiling water. This hearty brown sweet bread required one more component before it could be served, the coveted nutmeg & vanilla flavored, hard sauce. Grampie was once again called into action at this stage in the Thanksgiving preparation. Only he had the biceps to stir this confection to its peak of perfection, a semi-stiff consistency to be spread like butter on top of warm plum pudding. Anyone observing could plainly see the kitchen was where Gramie worked her magic. She was masterful and happy there.
Baking utensils used in Marion’s island kitchen
PARKER carving the turkey
Essential to desserts were the ice cream toppings she made. Everything was laid out like a smorgasbord when the ice cream was ready. Frozen strawberries from the store had to be thawed and cut into chunks before slowly simmering down into thick syrup; pineapple “drizzle” syrup emerged after the pineapple juice was reduced from the canned pineapple. Butterscotch, caramel, and hot chocolate syrups were all made from scratch, and containers of chocolate jimmies and red-hot cinnamon candies purchased “overstreet” were set out with spoons stuck in each container for self-serve scooping.
Before the homemade ice cream could be churned and all those toppings were ready, Grampie had to suit up as he called it to go outside to collect thick yard-long icicles off the roofline. He stuck the sparkling spears into layers of fluffy snow in a bucket like pencils into sand, later, inside breaking up the icicles to mix them with rock salt and snow. Those components would make the slushy mixture we used to surround the stainless steel bucket containing the actual ice cream recipe. Inside the shiny cylinder, the paddle turned all the ingredients, ensuring that the ice cream would freeze. We wound the handle, several people taking a shift, cranking it round and round as it increasingly became more difficult to turn or until our arms nearly fell off, then we were assured that the ice cream was the perfect consistency for eating.
I can still hear all our stainless steel spoons tapping like wind chimes against the bottoms of our cut-glass ice cream dishes. The next hour was a contest to demonstrate the various individual topping ideas. Excess ingredients slid down the ice cream mountains, like avalanches.
The wood stove had to maintain a consistent temperature for browning up the 25-lb. turkey, feeding everyone, sometimes up to twenty family members, friends, and children. Arranged in an L-shape, tables took up nearly the entire kitchen, a familiar place where we faced each other to share all those family jokes and crazy stories. There wasn’t much room for anyone to walk around to locate their appointed place at the table but everyone carefully searched for their spot. Gramie and I set her ancient but crisply ironed white linen tablecloths out before all the dishes, serving plates, and food were placed. I remembered her using the heavy metal iron, heated on the wood stove, intermittently coaxing the most stubborn wrinkles out by sprinkling the linen with a ginger ale bottle filled with cold water.
Each person could expect to find a nut cup of handmade design full of mints or candies and nuts with a name tag placed next to their designated plate. Some years the nut cups were styled as turkeys, made by tracing my hand on multi-colored construction paper or leaves made of brown grocery bags, hand colored and cut out in the shape of oak leaves. Other years her origami fans laced with delicate ribbons and tiny silk roses were the project. One year we cut out pictures of each guest’s head from photos, simply glued to the side of the nut cup, designating the seating arrangement.
The pies stayed cool in the unheated room off the kitchen called the pantry. Canned goods and baking supplies were kept in the cool pantry on shelves surrounding all the walls but the one with the window in it, which had the perfect window seat for me, the room where I was banished during time out for childhood offenses. I always hoped that there was a freshly baked pie when I went in there from which I could cleverly steal a tasty bite.
I believed for a long time that no one would know who the culprit was, until one night shortly after I was tucked into my bed, I overheard Grammie telling a story to Grampie about how they must have mice because she found her fresh apple pie once half eaten except for the top crust. After that, I heard her repeat the story to many of her Needle Club friends at their next monthly meeting. I was too ashamed to ever do that amazing trick again.
Grampie would cross the river on Thanksgiving morning, after getting both the woodstoves roaring. At times, I would accompany him, other times I stayed back to help Grammie in the kitchen. He drove to Dresden Mills to pick up his father, my great-grandfather. After delivering him to the warm kitchen where we were still preparing the food, Grampie would cross that river yet again to meet and escort the rest of the guests, towing a toboggan heaped with Christmas gifts across from the Richmond dockside. We celebrated both holidays at once some years due to the frequent impassibility of the river for months during the winter as much as it probably was the one time everyone could manage getting together at the same time and place.
We shared our feast, gorged on desserts with the women, at last, doing the dishes with kettles of hot water heated on the stove while the men enjoyed a ride down Main Street to “check on the deer.” The afternoon concluded with us all gathering together in the parlor next to the Charlie Brown Christmas tree decorated with ornaments Grammie and I had made with dried botanicals. The miniature deer atop a cotton ball snowdrift or a tiny Christmas tree with little gift boxes under it were scenes we placed inside milkweed pods. Rather than purchased reels of shiny garland, we used thinly twisted vines for ours. Grammie instructed me on how to fold thinly, using imaginative cutting techniques for cutting delicate lacy snowflakes and crimping tin foil into long elegant icicles that sparkled in the light of the kerosene lantern at night. I made colorful construction paper chains, our long strings of popcorn and cranberries took hours to string with a chunky long needle on a waxy thread.
Walnuts were emptied of their contents, strung with yarn loops for hanging, and glued back together then the textured nuts were painted in bright greens, reds, blues, and gold, sometimes dipped in glitter, all displayed so proudly on such a sparse little tree. It meant so much to know of its origin, I loved those trees more every year. Grampie trekked out into the woods for each tree, made a stand, and presented it to Grammie.
In the fall, she and I spent hours combing the fields for the milkweed pods and vines to dry at just the perfect moment, harvesting the natural elements we turned into ornaments for our tree. She poured through mail-order catalogues to find the miniature animals, glitter, yarn, construction paper, glue, or other items needed to create the scenes inside the hollow pods. They were things of beauty, which I packed with such care well into my adult life and through several cross-country moves.
The best part of all the festivities was being able to open the gifts we had handmade for each other. New flannel pajamas hand sewn on her treadle sewing machine for my sister, for our auntie, and for me. A delicately crocheted tablecloth for my mother, a new quilted denim vest for my father; a bottle of whiskey carefully wrapped in a beautiful patchwork quilt for my Grandfather. A fifth bottle of vodka, creatively wrapped in a new knit winter cap and scarf for Grampie and brightly printed calico fabric, skeins of silk embroidery floss, or balls of cotton crochet thread for Grammie. I was so proud to produce a multi-colored knitted chair seat, made with leftover yarn on my Knitting Knobby tool for the chair where she did her after-supper needlework.
The worst part was the cleanup when all the beautiful wrapping paper was set into the kindling box to aid in starting the next morning’s woodstove fire. Grampie had to take everyone back to the mainland for the drive back home. We were all tired, sometimes it had begun to snow and everyone had to rush before the storm got bad and crossing the river got too miserable. It got very quiet and suddenly the sweaty kitchen and the big drafty old house felt lonely again, but boy, did we have lots of goodies to eat! Most people left with what Gramie called a care package, her way of sending love back home with them but we still had “enough to feed all the starving kids in China,” Grammie would spout off.
For years I never gave any thought to the possibility that other children did not live on an isolated island, did not celebrate in such a grand way with family love surrounding them on that day.
Ours was what I truly believed Thanksgiving to be for the rest of the world. I definitely miss those Thanksgiving celebrations; often find myself singing the words “over the river and through the woods” as I drive over the hill from my house today to see the vista of Swan Island in the Kennebec River.
Ice cream was a rare commodity on the island game preserve where I lived with my grandparents during the late 1950’s – 1960’s. The mention of making ice cream got Gramie excited, thinking about gathering enough ice and digging the bag of rock salt out from its hiding place in the corner of the woodshed. On the island, refrigerated ice was scarce, so making ice cream was a really big deal. The icebox in the small gas refrigerator was about the size of a small loaf of bread; it would not keep anything really frozen for very long, certainly not ice cream, even for half a day. The necessity of searching for ice was rather odd, given that in the history of Swan Island there had been three huge ice warehouses that loaded multi-masted schooners with ice for transport to the West Indies, Africa, and other parts of the world! The sailing ships would load up approximately 100 tons of blocks packed either in sawdust or hay. They endured four months in order to travel over sixteen thousand miles, crossing the equator twice on their mission to deliver the pure Kennebec River ice blocks to London and onto other exotic places like Calcutta.
Making ice cream was a special event, the promise of a family celebration. A lot of loving preparation went into taking turns with the churning. Done usually on someone’s birthday or holiday, many people were around. Rarely was there any ice cream left over from the dessert feast.
Churning ice cream for us was mostly done in the winter when it was fun to gather long thick icicles hanging down from the roofline of the house. Grampie would stick them like giant pencils into a pail of snow, to be packed around the container and layered with rock salt comprising the freezing components of the ice cream. The ice cream churn consisted of a wooden bucket with a wide steel belt around the outside. On the top sat a tight-fitting lid with a hole in the center, sitting above a separate stainless steel cylinder inside where the actual mixture that would become ice cream would be poured. The lid of the inside container had a hole to receive the crank mechanism connecting to the paddle arm inside the cylinder. When cranking a handle on the outside of the wooden bucket, it turned the paddle, freezing the mixture. The turning of the handle was the churning part of the operation. The circular motion kept the sugary milk and cream mixture agitated until it produced the frozen ice cream treat, the reward for all that hard work.
The exercise involved the entire family taking turns for the duration of the freezing process. Churning constituted cranking a handle on the outside of the wooden tub, taking about an hour until the sweet liquid in the container got slushy and turned firm or until you felt your arms were about to fall off. Gramie’s part of the project offered up the very best selection of toppings: homemade maple syrup made in the spring in Grampie’s syrup hut behind the shed, pineapple jam, butterscotch, previously frozen juicy raspberries, chocolate jimmies, mini marshmallows, a chunky sweet topping she made from frozen strawberries, and of course, hot chocolate syrup made from scratch.
The job of the churner was to ensure a constant turning movement of the handle, accompanied by a lovely assistant who would ensure that there was at least a ¾ measure of layers of snow, ice chunks, and rock salt melting between the wooden bucket and the stainless container. The churning continued until it was so difficult to turn the crank that you just knew that ice cream was nearly a solid mass inside that cylinder drum. There had to be more than two or three people doing this as the time required depending on the air temperature, as well as the temperature of the sweet melting mixture. The whole process took place inside the big oblong black kitchen sink in a commendable effort to avoid splashing salty water all over the kitchen floor.
Acrylic painting by T. Blen Parker,
Original page from the book: CINNAMON’S SWAN ISLAND ADVENTURES
The ingredients for making the ice cream were heavy cream, milk, vanilla, table salt, eggs and any special flavoring one might want; the possibilities were endless. We normally made plain vanilla but dared to experiment with blueberry, (nobody liked eating the hard little BBs), strawberry (pretty good if you mash the fresh berries first), and raspberry from berries fresh-frozen in season, (we should have strained out the seeds), chocolate or peach flavor. We even made peanut butter and grape jelly ice cream once! Of course, being such a special occasion, everyone was invited to go back for several helpings and each would involve experimenting with a different topping.
The stainless tank was removed from the outside wooden bucket of slush and plunged deep into the nearest snow bank to stay frozen, keeping perhaps only one more day. Grampie’s walking stick marked the spot where the cylinder was buried. When the lid was next opened, the mixture inside would have turned to an icy block of the hard frozen sweet treat, which then needed to partially melt off before one could even scoop any out into a dish. The second time around, however, was never as good, perhaps because it merely involved stepping outside the shed door to retrieve the cylinder. The excitement of the preparation was what made the task. The teamwork of numerous anxious people doing all that churning built anticipation to a peak!