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Archives for : May1954

Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

The last two weeks in May start a fierce competition in the neighborhood. Best lawn. The individual competitors from each household begin to care for their grass and shrubs with more interest than a newborn deserves. Steve enters strong each year by assessing the needs of each plant around the perimeter of the house, takes an afternoon doing something with the lawn tools to ready them, and begins his assault. The grass is already a springy shade of green and the bushes and trees always look better with a little trimming. The new weeds don’t have a chance with Steve at the watch. I don’t mind a bit when he cleans up all of the old leaves and debris that have attached themselves to the bottom of the shrubs. The late afternoons are reserved for sitting and enjoying the handiwork. In between, the men sometimes take time to have friendly conversations with the other competitors and have long discussions of the products and equipment to use on the yard. Some of the men on our block are very competitive and there have been rumors of sabotage in the past. It’s fun for the wives to watch. How else could we have talked our spouses into doing yard work? The competition really heats up toward the 4th of July. I’ll keep you posted.

The one good deed the guys all help with is yard work for the oldest couple on the block. The guys take turns showing up on Saturday mornings to mow, trim, and weed the property so that Donald and Anna don’t need to do the maintenance. Anna plants flowers alongside the front path and serves the men lemonade. Donald and Anna moved in after he finally retired from the military. They had traveled and lived at bases all over the globe and he had fought for the country as a career soldier. Anna had lived on bases in the states when he was involved in more dangerous duty, and their children had been born here. Every holiday, a few station wagons full of their children and grandchildren came to visit and spend time with the proud grandparents. Anna is a great cook. Even my children like to visit her to see if they can get a free cookie or two. Donald always gets up early on the holidays and places his flag on the holder outside of the front door. It’s a nice reminder to all of us to remember our recent past and all of the sacrifices made for the wonderful suburban life we enjoy.

Mum’s the Word

Last Wednesday, Gil called me late in the morning unexpectedly. Gail and I were scheduled to leave for downtown for lunch at the Crystal Tea Room and do some shopping. At first I thought Gil was just calling to tell me that Gail wasn’t able to go due to some issue with one of the children. I was used to caring for my two children, but Gail had three and she seemed to always be juggling more. Gil asked if I could meet him at the hospital because Gail had been admitted. He explained that he didn’t want to be away from her too long but that she had asked for me. I left immediately. Gil has admitting status at the hospital, so I was sure Gail would get the best of treatment but I didn’t know what for.

When I arrived at her room, Gail was sitting up partially in bed. She refused to have the overhead light turned on because she hadn’t taken the time to make up her face. Gil excused himself and Gail told me that she had “lost another one.” I knew immediately what she meant. Gail had experienced a miscarriage two years ago, and we had discussed it at the time. She was sad for a few months after, and we all tried our best to not mention babies or anything that had to do with babies, but we did live in a community of growing families and there was the inevitable slip-up from time to time. Gil and Gail’s children were close in age to mine and I had already gotten to the point that I didn’t think any more babies were going to come along. But in Gail’s mind, since the children didn’t need her as much now that they were older, she should continue to have more children to remain a mother. I knew that Gail and Gil met years ago in college. Gail was studying nursing and Gil was pre-med. They were the couple that would take medicine by storm. After they married, Gail stayed home to start their family. Gail always had advice when someone fell, she never minded checking a temperature to see if a trip to the doctor was required, and she mended plenty of bumped body parts in the neighborhood. Gail liked being able to use her professional knowledge and enjoyed Gil’s discussion of his cases over a martini at night.

Gail and I talked for a few minutes and she was able to share her sadness at not being able to carry another baby to term. We made plans to have a fancy lunch when she felt better. Gail reached out and held my hand in silence for a few minutes. She closed her glistening eyes and a tear fell slowly down one cheek. I squeezed her hand and wiped the tear away. We sat quietly together. I think the together part was the most important. There was nothing I could say to take away the pain, and acknowledging tragic occurrences with close friends nearby may be the only recourse to suffering sometimes.

Gil returned a little later, walked me out, and thanked me for coming by to see Gail. She would be discharged in the morning. Gil was going to go home to Greg, Gracie, and Gertrude, but I told him that I would pick them up, send the sitter home, and he could stay with Gail a little longer. Gil agreed that he would pick up the children later that evening. The children had dinner with my tribe, played some board games, and didn’t ask too many questions about their mom after I told them that she would be home in the morning. Maybe children are more resilient than we are.

My girlfriends aren’t all mothers, but most of us have experienced the joy and strange sadness that accompanies having children. Gail’s path may have been completely different if the children didn’t come along when they did, and she was still trying hard to stay useful by having more kids. I was very thankful for my children and didn’t think we would have anymore. Some heavy bleeding and big tumors that required some medication a couple of years ago may have answered that question for me. But my girlfriends always had each other. When one needed caring, someone stepped up to provide. In a way, we all mothered each other. Maybe that’s the real secret of women – we’re all mothers.

A Chicken in Every Skillet

I’ve been afraid to cook chicken for three weeks. It seems a little insensitive when you have a pet chick living in your utility room. Feathers watches me while I do the laundry and I still leave big band music playing in there to keep her company. She peeps when she sees me or the children and that is cute. But she has been losing some of her feathers lately and seems to be growing. We may have to take that drive out to uncle’s farm before Spring gets warm.

Junior’s suit went to the Mighty Wash for a cleaning and came back spotless. Steve reported that the putting greens are still closed for repairs. Jane Van Wyck resigned from chairing any more club events.

Today when I returned from the market, I apologized to Feathers, gave her some extra pieces of cut up fruit and started dinner. We would break our chicken fast and enjoy Chicken in the Skillet – my version of a chicken potpie that is baked in the oven. It’s a great dish to serve on nights when everyone eats at a different time because it stays ultra-hot in the cast iron pan. I’ll probably pull the door closed on the laundry room during dinner so Feathers doesn’t know.

Skillet Pot Pie

1/2 cup butter

1/3 cup all purpose flour

1 1/2 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 cups milk

2 tablespoons butter

1 large sweet onion, diced

8 ounces fresh button mushrooms, sliced

4 cups shredded cooked chicken

2 cups hash browns, cooled and cubed

1 cup thinly sliced carrots

1 cup frozen sweet peas

1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 prepared bottom piecrust for 10 ” skillet

1 prepared top piecrust

1 egg white, beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt 1/3 cup butter in large saucepan over medium heat; add flour and stir for 1 minute.  Gradually add chicken broth and milk, whisking constantly for 6 minutes or until thickened.  Remove from heat.

Melt 2 tablespoons in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, add onion and mushrooms.  Saute for 10 minutes.  Stir in chicken, hash browns, carrots, and peas.

Prepare crust and place in a lightly buttered 10 inch cast iron skillet. Spoon chicken mixture over crust and top with second crust.  Brush with beaten egg white.  Cut 4 slits in top crust for steam to escape.  Bake for 1 hour.