This is one of those posts that I feel needs a disclaimer right up front, because I already know I won’t be able to convey the fun we had, the experiences we gained, and the relationships we forged. The disclaimer should be something along the lines of the ubiquitous drug companies’ list of side effects for the various prescription drugs that populate print and TV advertising. Perhaps something along these lines: This post is intended to document the immense fun and incredible experience of a few days spent in northern Louisiana with an amazing family. This post should not be read while enduring a dismally empty social calendar or a puny vacation fund. This post may cause severe envy among readers who were not invited. Consult a psychotherapist if the side effects persist for more than four hours after reading, or proceed to the nearest emergency room if you find yourself entertaining thoughts of showing up in Bastrop, LA, unannounced.
Ok, I feel better now.
The more I think about it, the expanse of this experience cannot be contained in one simple posting, so there will need to be multiple installments. This, the first installment, is gonna cover the trip itself and the corn. Oh, the corn.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m not a fan of car travel and try to avoid it at all costs. That said, I would get in the car right now — not even 24 hours after returning home — and make the trip again. That’s how great this trip was. My favorite girl and my best boy and I packed up the car and headed out of Houston Tuesday morning, not knowing what lay ahead in the 400 miles between our house and our destination. Little did we know that we were in for the experience of a lifetime.
The first time my dear friend Amy invited me to her family home in Bastrop, LA, the timing didn’t work out; never again will I allow another event to stand in the way of going to Mama’s house.
Mama and Papa and the infamous Sanders sisters — Gina, Holly, and Wendy — rolled out the red carpet and put on the dog for us. First stop when we arrived at Mama’s house was a tour of Papa’s garden. I’d heard about this little slice of heaven and was beyond happy to see it with my own eyes. My iPhone photos do not do it justice. The first thing we saw upon entering Papa’s garden was asparagus, and I’m kicking myself for having missed its harvest.
I will be back in the spring for the asparagus. Mark my words, Papa!
Next is the cabbage. The plants are huge, and the ruffly leaves are pretty enough to be part of an elaborate floral arrangement. The heads, however, belong on a plate, sliced and simmered to perfection.
Our little piggie would lose her mind if she saw this watermelon, growing fat and ripe in the sun.
The corn was the star of the show, and one of the main reasons we drove to Mama’s.
We were going to get to help put up corn.
For the uninitiated, “putting up corn” refers to the process of picking, washing, blanching, de-kerneling, and freezing the delectable veggie. We’ve been on the receiving end of some of Mama’s corn, lovingly transported from Louisiana to Houston and carefully guarded and doled out upon special occasions.
This is good stuff, people.
There’s a reason Mama’s corn is referred to as “liquid gold.”
Here’s how it works: Papa picks the corn early, early in the morning once he’s deemed it ready. He can tell when it’s ready by looking at it on the stalk and by experience.
Know how many ears of corn each stalk produces?
Go on, guess.
Think about how tall and wide each stalk of corn is, and guess how many ears are waiting to be picked.
Yep, just two ears per stalk.
(I guessed 6. Silly city-slicker).
So the fresh-picked corn is piled up, ready to be shucked.
Before long, the shucking is done…
After the shucked corn is toted inside, it’s got to be meticulously washed. First the sink is scoured, then each and every ear is scrubbed and de-silked under hot water. While this step is the most laborious part, you know this germophobe loved it.
The container of water to the left of the cutter serves an important purpose: we dunk the shaved ears into the water, then run them back through the cutter in the opposite direction, to collect every drop of the milk.
We processed 192 ears, which translates into 17 quart-sized bags of liquid gold.
If Mama and Amy weren’t looking, I might have been tempted to kiss that corn good-night.
Once the corn was put to bed, we loaded up the discarded cobs onto the 4-wheeler’s trailer. By the time they’ve been de-kerneled and milked for every drop of goodness, they look like a foam roller used for painting a wall.
Usually Papa takes the used cobs into the woods and leaves them for the local wildlife. This time, however, the cobs went to Papa’s friend’s house to feed his wild hogs. My favorite girl wasted no time wrangling an invitation to go see these hogs for herself.
Stay tuned for a full report on our day of skeet-shooting.
It’s a great morning at the beach. The Sox won last night with a walk-off hit by my favorite player, Jacoby Ellsbury. Hopefully the photo will load; I’m blogging beachside again and don’t want to interrupt my blissful morning to post on a real computer; if my iPhone and the WordPress app can’t handle the photo, I’ll get to it later. Maybe when a cloud passes overhead.
It’s unusually clear today, enough to see the Isle of Shoals. The sun is shining and the west wind is blowing. I’m pre-hydrating with a water course so I’ll be fully prepared for the beachside beverages, whenever they may appear. While the lure of the Bloody Mary is strong, I’m going to stay strong and wait for the pm bevvie.
Meantime, all hail Jacoby!
My toes are in the sand as I write this. The waves are crashing as the tide comes in; seagulls are squawking as they scrounge for breakfast. A few fisherman have set up long-cast poles, hoping the early bird gets the worm. I mean fish.
I kept flight attendants Scott & Devin hopping on the way here. They did a very good job refreshing my beverage and they served me a lovely salad topped with grilled shrimp with fresh fruit on the side. The fresh-baked white-chocolate-macadamia-nut cookie went straight back to my kids who were slumming in coach. My new flight attendant friends were bummed that they’d run out of cookies before realizing my kids were back there. I watched Mardy Fish trump Ryan Harrison on the tennis channel in flight, started a new book, and accepted cocktails from the dynamic duo. There was a slight miscommunication though, and Scott offered me one more as we started our descent, not knowing that Devin had already locked up the bar. I teased them enough that they sent me off the plane with a bottle of wine, wrapped festively in a cloth napkin. We drank it on the train and toasted my new friends.
Yesterday was one of the best beach days ever. Today looks like a repeat performance. I’ve had a cup of coffee and made a quick run across the state line to the nearest store to procure a few supplies we didn’t pack because we carried our luggage on. We had a quick turn-around between landing at Logan and catching the train to Newburyport. Despite my sage warnings yesterday, my kids got sunburned–Macy on her arms, Payton on his legs. My little darlings are accustomed to the aerosol sunblock, but were left to their own devices with the old-fashioned, rub-on kind. There’s nothing fun about getting scorched on the first day at the beach.
Our lovely hostess treated us with homemade lobster pie upon our arrival, after bubbly on the beach. Both were as decadent as they sound. Acutely aware of all that i missed last year, I’m savoring every crumb, every drop. Soaking up the sun, relishing the sound of the ocean and the feel of the cool breeze. Cancer and its myriad troubles are a long way away.
This is it. Today’s the day. I’m leaving the heat & humidity of Houston behind for 2 weeks of balmy-but-not-hot weather and cool ocean breezes. My right-brained son pointed out a few days ago that I haven’t been to Salisbury Beach in 2 years. Duh. Of course I knew I missed the trip last year — was painfully aware in fact — but hadn’t thought about it in those terms. So it goes without saying that I have a lot of making up to do. A serious re-do is in order, and it starts today.
We were much more bogged down with bulging carry-on bags to entertain these little guys on the 4-hour flight. Lugging diapers and endless snacks, as well as car seats, across the country while fretting about how to keep them still during the travel time.
Nowadays they’re much simpler (and thankfully out of diapers). They’re entertained by their iTouch or iPhone and can even load their own devices with songs and TV shows from iTunes. Now that’s progress!
We’ve been talking for days about hitting all our favorite haunts: Markey’s lobster pound, Dunlap’s ice cream shop, Willie’s candy store, the arcade, and of course Blink’s for fried dough. The order is always the same at Blink’s — chocolate frosting with chocolate jimmies. I try to talk the kids into sharing a piece every year, and every year they insist they need their own. Because fried dough hot out of the fryer and covered in frosting and sprinkles is a tradition at the beach, they win that debate. They’ll burn off the junk-food calories chasing waves in the ocean. The water’s a bit cool for this Texas girl to frolic, but it will make me happy to watch my kids battle the waves in giant tubes.
My heart is full as I gather my last-minute things and zip my suitcase. This time last year, I was learning the ins & outs of home health care and lugging a wound vacuum around while my kids flew across the country without me. I was learning just how insidious cancer is and the many ways in which it disrupts one’s life. I had wrapped my head around my diagnosis, endured endless testing, made heart-wrenching decisions, and faced a nasty surgery and long recovery. All of that was bad, no doubt, but the worst was putting my kids on a plane to go to our beloved beach without me. This time last year I wrote about it on my Caring Bridge page:
“The kids are excited, and they’ll have a fantastic time. I can heal in peace for 12 days with no one to think about but myself. That’s bizarre to me. After spending the last decade-plus taking care of my kids every day, minus a few days every year for a girls’ weekend, that’s kind of weird. If I miss them too much, I can always flip on SportsCenter of Disney Channel and leave a trail of dirty clothes around.”
No need to do that this year — I’ll be right there with ’em. Macy reminded me that we’ll be watching the sunset on the beach tonight. I might even get myself a piece of fried dough.
I’m definitely taking the advice of a very wise friend, who said “Drink cocktails. Eat lobster. Love life.”