Living in a Fairy Tale

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Although this blog is intended to be related to my writing, in the end, everything that happens in my life is related to my writing.  That couldn’t be more true than this weekend. It was a fabulous weekend, almost like a fairy tale.

Summer is waning and there is the nip of autumn in the air. I love this time of year. Autumn is especially nice in the country. It draws up images of pumpkins and scare crows, hay bales and country barns framed in russet leaves.

I grew up in the city, and although my husband and I have spent all our child raising years in the suburbs, pretty far out in the suburbs, I wouldn’t say we lived in the country. This weekend, we got a real taste of country life.

On Friday, we went to an estate sale at a 171 year old house, which is unquestionably out in the country.  Where as I’ve had a variety of stores within a short distance of anywhere I’ve lived, this township has no store. The nearest one is in a neighboring town almost ten miles away along a winding country road.

Despite the previous chilly night, the sun came out and the day was warm. The estate sale was incredible. There were tents covering tables of smaller items, and a barn full of furniture. There were people everywhere. It almost seemed like a competition, people racing to tag something before anyone else did. The items for sale were of high quality, and priced to sell. We had to take two trips to bring home all our purchases, even though we drive an SUV.

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Among our treasures is an 1800’s Chippendale highboy dresser, a wicker chair, a fireplace screen, an antique folk art table, a huge oriental rug, an antique handwoven wool rug and a 3 quart Le Crueset Gratin that was priced at only $5.00.  For those who don’t cook, or don’t know Le Crueset – trust me, that was the deal of a lifetime. For those of you who do understand –  take some slow, deep breaths –  and please don’t hate me.

Saturday morning, the sun returned, chasing away the morning chill. I started my day by hitting the local farmer’s market. There was everything from brightly colored vegetables, to fresh baked bread, to golden honey from local bees, and buckets overflowing with sunflowers. From there I went to a house just out of town from where I live. The woman who lives there raises chickens, and I was hoping for some fresh eggs for breakfast. Luckily she had just collected a dozen. You can’t get any fresher than that.

My husband and I were going to be having dinner at another couple’s home that night, and I still needed to make a dessert.  My “egg” lady also happens to have several apple trees. I asked her if she ever sells her apples. She said she just didn’t have the time to bag them and sell them. Then she said, if I  wanted some, I could pick as many as I’d like, no charge. She also pointed out which tree had the best apples and assured me that she didn’t use any pesticides, but I wouldn’t find any worms in her apples – she  sprays them with mineral oil. She also said that the apple tree I was picking from was called a Wolf River apple, and that the semi-dwarf variety isn’t available anymore, so if I wanted to, I could save some seeds and plant trees of my own. I took a grocery bag, and picked enough apples to fill it.

I made it home just as my family was waking up. I whipped together a breakfast of fluffy ham and cheese omelettes, bacon, toast with jam, coffee and orange juice. Then I went to work on my dessert. My egg (and now apple) lady was right, the apples were huge –  almost a pound each, and not a bug or worm in sight.

 

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I threw together an apple crisp – nothing is easier than apple crisp. I didn’t even follow a recipe, but I can share my non-recipe with you.

 

Apple Crisp

4-5 lbs. of apples,peeled, cored, and  cut into chunks (this is a guess, I just filed the pan – the $5.00 Le Crueset one.)

juice of half a lemon

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla

Toss together and place in ungreased 9 x 13 pan or 3 quart casserole .

In another bowl mix together:

2 cups old fashioned oats

1 1/2  cup flour

1 1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

2 sticks butter, melted

Spread over the top of the apples.

Bake at 400 degrees (Fahrenheit) for one hour.

Serve warm with ice cream.

 

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While my crisp was baking, my husband and I went back to the estate sale, this time joined by our best friends. By this time the family running the sale knew us. They shared the stories behind each item we picked out. They told us how the antique chamber pot I purchased was used by their grandmother, when she was a little girl, and how their mother hand painted the folk design in  a wooden bowl that will be displayed with honor in my home. To those items we added an antique candle stand, a lamp, two ladder back chairs, a federal style mirror, a Victorian boot jack, and a shabby chic metal menu board.

Before we left, our attention was drawn to the water’s edge where a man in a pumpkin boat was making his way down the river. I don’t mean a boat that looked like a pumpkin. He was sitting in a ginormous carved out pumpkin, with a trolling motor mounted on the back. He was also paddling. I can’t imagine a pumpkin is very easy to steer.  The bridge over the river was crowded with people, cheering the pumpkin captain along. Then, like something out of a movie,we heard the clip clop of horses hooves. Along came a carriage full of people, lead by two beautiful black horses.

 

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It seemed like the tiny township was putting on a show, just for us.

We finally said goodbye to our friends, both old and new, and tore ourselves away. We had to get ready to go to dinner with our other friends.

 

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Drinks on the patio, a delicious dinner of prime rib, and relaxed conversation made for a very enjoyable evening and a great end to the day. The dessert was a hit, and the crisp looked so pretty in my $5.00 Le Crueset pan. Yes, I’m gloating!

 

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Sunday morning  was cold and rainy, but we didn’t let that dampen our weekend. I made a large batch of Tex Mex chili topped with sour cream, cheddar cheese, and onions. We drank apple cider, and made a second batch of that yummy apple crisp – and yes, I did save the seeds. I just might plant myself an apple tree or two. Maybe this “country” weekend is the start of something. I kind of like this country girl thing. I do believe that this fairy tale  isn’t over yet. It’s very much a case of –

to be continued…

 

 

Spiritual Journey

Spiritual Journey

by D.L. Marriott

 

 

My husband and I love to travel. We usually travel with friends, shared experiences are always better. This time it provided witnesses. This story would be hard to believe, even to me, if I didn’t have them.

First a little bit about myself. My favorite time of the year is fall. I love the food, the crisp air, and the bright, yet earthy colors of the season.

I’m intrigued by early American history, and collect early American antiques. My love of all things colonial is enhanced, by the fact that my mother’s family settled on the east coast only a few years after the Mayflower. My family has played a part in U.S. history, my great-great-grandfather’s first cousin was President Grover Cleveland. We were royalty, so to speak, in America.

So I was, understandably, like a five year old going to Disneyland when we took a trip to New England in the autumn of 2004. It was my dream trip. It turned out to be much more than that.

We started in Boston and drove north through every seaside village we along the way, finally landing in Bar Harbor, Maine. It was breath taking. Every view out the car window looked like a picture postcard. I was particularly drawn to the quintessential white clapboard church. They’re all over New England, you can’t drive five miles without finding one. The image of the old white church, surrounded by fall foliage was the epitome of “Autumn in New England” to me. I’m pretty sure I turned from that delighted five year old into an obnoxious little urchin to my companions, as every time we drove past one I pointed out the window practically hopping up and down in my seat.

“Oh, look at the pretty little church,” was my mantra.

At first everyone agreed. By the end, it was usually a groan and a nod. I couldn’t help it they were just so…pretty.

Then there were the antique stores. Now I’m like the five year old in a candy store! You just don’t see antiques of this quality back home. We were stopping at every antique store we could find.

The first morning we awoke in a lovely bed and breakfast. Did I mention I just love country inns too? We started out early, wanting plenty of time to enjoy the sites as we made our way up the coast. The first town we came to was Essex, Massachusetts. Started in the 1700’s, it’s a town frozen in time. It’s also dotted with cute little antique stores. What more could I ask for? Unfortunately it was a bit early in the morning and most of the stores were still closed. We didn’t have the time to wait so we chalked it up to fate. Maybe we weren’t meant to stop. There were plenty of other towns, plenty of other shops to see. At the last moment, we noticed one antique shop that was open, but we couldn’t find a parking spot. Fate was toying with us. We had decided to just go on to the next town when we spied one solitary parking space. We pulled in, not believing our luck.

Knowing my family’s history in the area, I had talked with our friends about how fascinating it would be to find the grave of one of my ancestors on this trip. Of course, we weren’t going to take the time to actually wander through graveyards, so it was mostly said in jest. Imagine my surprise when I stepped out of the car and found myself standing in front of a very old cemetery. The only parking spot in this whole town and it is right in front of a cemetery. Is fate messing with me?

I laughed. “Hey! I wonder if any of my ancestor’s are buried here?”

I never got another word out as my eyes fell on a sign attached to the old wooden gate. It stated that the Reverend John Cleaveland was buried there. It turns out the Reverend helped to found the church and the town. I wasn’t sure this was one of my relatives, but I did know that that was the spelling my ancestors had used. We wandered in and found his grave along with the graves of his two wives, Mary and Mary. His first wife had died young and he wed again. Eventually I looked him up, our time was not wasted, he was family.

Already excited by this experience, we made our way into the antique store. It was packed full of wondrous treasures. In Wisconsin, it would have been a museum. My husband and I were both drawn to a cabinet in the corner of the basement. We fell in love with it immediately. Even the price was right, but we had a weeks worth of antique shopping. We couldn’t buy the first thing we saw.

We spent our week reenacting witch trials, hiking, sailing, whale watching, and eating a ton of seafood. I was amazed by the scenery, including all those pretty little churches. We went through dozens of antique shops, but never found another piece that we loved as much as that first one. Something about the fact that we found it in a town of one of my ancestors made me want it all the more. For all I knew, it was once his. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted it. I talked to my husband, and we talked to our friends. In the end the plans were changed and they agreed to go back to Essex. My heart ached with the hope that the mahogany secretary was still there. Fate was still with me, when we got there, it was still standing in the corner. Now for the haggling. When we discussed it amongst ourselves, we had to take in account our finances. The cost of shipping would be almost a third of the tag price. As much as we wished it, even out loud, we could not expect the owner to drop the price by that much. We would be lucky to get the customary ten percent discount. It was with this knowledge that we approached the woman behind the counter. She had quite the story to tell us.

“My goodness, everyone seems interested in that secretary. Three floors of antiques and we’ve had more people asking about that one piece than anything else all week. We even had one couple who had agreed to buy it, but the husband got angry when we had to ask him to move his car that was blocking our driveway. They just drove off, didn’t take it after all.”

Was there some otherworldly force at work? All that interest and it was still here waiting for me? What else did I need to believe that it was meant to belong to me?

We explained that we would need to make arrangements to have it shipped to Wisconsin. We were shocked beyond belief when the owner offered to not only make all the necessary arrangements, but to cover the cost of shipping if we paid the asking price. We never even asked for the discount. This piece was meant to be mine! We were told a little about the piece. It had been acquired from a local estate. It had possibly spent it’s entire life in Essex, and was from the same era as the time the Reverend had lived there. It fueled the illogical idea I had that this might be a family heirloom.

On the way back to the airport, we stopped in Rockport to do a bit of shopping. We were returning to the car when I realized that even though I had taken hundred’s of pictures, I had never taken one of any of the “pretty little churches” that I had oohed and aahed over. I could see a white steeple towering over the shops down the street. It was in the opposite direction of where we were headed. I sighed in defeat, following along behind my friends. They had put up with enough of my childlike behavior, I couldn’t ask for this too. Then I stopped. I wanted that picture. It was silly, but I wanted it enough to tell everyone to wait while I walked two blocks out of my way to take it. This time it had to be more than fate. It wasn’t until I got home and looked up the history of the church, that I discovered it was founded by another one of my ancestors, the Reverend Ebenezer Cleaveland. Of all the “pretty little churches” I had seen, I was compelled to take a picture of that one. I felt like my ancestors were speaking to me.

By the time the secretary arrived at our home, I was convinced it had to belong to my family. There were just too many coincidences, too many times fate stepped in to bring it to me. As soon as we had it out of it’s crate, we searched for some marking, some slip of paper that might give us a clue. We never did find any, but what we did find was that the upper cabinet was locked and there was no key. I had to question fate. That was until I remembered the beat up margarine container full of old keys we had taken from my grandfather’s house when he passed away several years before. Why we had taken that, of all the things my pack rat grandfather had collected, I do not know. Fate again? We went through every key, it was the last one that opened the doors. The Cleveland family had the key. I know it isn’t proof. I know some would call me crazy. But I know what I believe. I believe in fate, and I believe in spirits. That was no mere vacation. Those were not just coincidences. The spirits of my ancestors took me on a journey, and I have witnesses to prove it.

Addendum – November 10, 2012

My husband and I had gone through a series of moves, the last one in the fall of 2011. Somehow, during the move, the infamous key was again lost. We were upset, but held out hope that we would find it eventually.

Today, we were organizing some items in the antique secretary and my husband mentioned the key and how upset he was about it’s loss. I was more so, as I had been the one in charge of making sure the key had stayed safe. I found myself silently wishing we would just find that key. I pulled open a drawer in another cabinet to put something away and there, right out in the open, on top of everything else in the drawer, sat the key. Not only had I searched that drawer more than once, but I had just been in that same drawer a week before, and I know the key wasn’t there.  So, did the spirits of my relatives hear my plea and return the lost key? I personally think so.