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Oh FUDGE

Mom starts it all. Somewhere along the way she acquires a recipe for fudge that does not involve a candy thermometer. And sweetest of all, it tastes divine.

Her fudge becomes more than legendary. It become a family legacy. To be faithfully carried on by Mom’s only granddaughter, our daughter Emily.

If you know the right people you might score some of your own Midge Fudge.

“Mom, you must get a fudge lesson from Granne. Not by phone. In person. Watch everything that she does. Carefully. Pay attention.” I paraphrase Emily, but not by much. And so I sign up for a private class of Learning to Make Fudge the Midge Way.

I visit Mom in Reedville as many times as I can make the three+ hour each way trip fit into my schedule. It’s usually a day trip because as much fun as Mom and I have together, my life on the OBX needs me too. Mom and I go to lunch, shop for savvy clothes, go to local events. And one time we make fudge.

I have actually never helped Mom make fudge, being a busy teen when she starts her mission and then I am off to college and later become a married gal and mom. So a lesson really is necessary. To get all of the fine nuances down pat.

Mom has been making Christmas fudge for years. It is the sweet treat every one of us fourteen gathered at 6416 Three Chopt for the Christmas festivities look forward to bingeing on bit by bit and bite by bite.

But as with most good stories there is the requisite tragedy. One year the bingers are left fudgeless. The fudge is sequestered on the second story (the house is built on a slope) screened in back porch adjoining the kitchen. Any food that won’t fit in the tiny indoor pantry is safely kept on tables on the back porch.

In the kitchen at 6416 Three Chopt (the window opens next to the crime scene porch) Keese tries to pin the missing fudge on Dad. He vows that he did not take it. He cannot believe that it has gone missing either. Cousin Jett wisely keeps to the side.

The six marathon bridge playing adults in this story decide to take a collective break and refuel with fudge. The tin is no where to be found. As Dad’s youngest sister, Keese, tells it, “We all start blaming each other, like three year olds, for taking the fudge. We cannot believe it’s really gone.” They quiz us, the children. We definitely know better than to sneak more than a tiny piece at a time. We are innocent and clueless.

Then, like a lightning bolt, the solution hits Mom. She has marked the tin “Richmond” in preparation for the trip from Ohio not to confuse it with other fudge destinations. She gifts deserving people everywhere.

It is the days of home dairy product delivery. Not wanting to believe her conclusion but having no other answer, Mom decides that the milkman from Richmond Dairy has absconded with the fudge. Of course he didn’t really take the fudge in a thievery manner, he thought it was for him. But the adults are fine with absconded, they have been denied any fudge until the next Christmas, a whole year away!

Emily is determined that the fudge legacy Mom has so faithfully woven into our family cloth will not fade away. She picks up the baton after Mom dies, insisting that as much as she will cherish every physical item Mom wants her to have (Mom’s list of who gets what is as legendary as she is) the one thing she really needs is the fudge pan. It’s nothing special, Mom’s humble cookie sheet pressed into service during her fudge marathons.

But Emily is right, Midge Fudge cannot be made properly in anything else. THE Pan oozes the flavor of all the fudge that has come before. And emits the loving touch of Mom’s hand as she prepared batch after batch.

Fresh fudge setting up in the one and only Fudge Pan.

At first Emily brings the fudge she has made with her for second Christmas on the OBX, individually packaged up. If someone cannot make it, their fudge is left for the next visit to the OBX. Then Emily upgrades everyone. Fudge is mailed as soon as it is made. It’s so much fresher. This year an unscheduled postal closing day vexes her as the fudge packages are en route and thus stuck somewhere aging unnecessarily.

Finally the mail gets moving again but Andrew’s package is lost in transit. Six year old PJ is terribly distraught. So is Emily. Lewis offers anyone else’s fudge to tide them over. No one volunteers. Ours is already consumed. Stephen says that it would have to be their kids portions, as he and Sarah have shown no such restraint.

Midge Fudge getting ready for delivery! Emily includes a love note with each delivery so that recipients know the history of their treat.

I put a bug in Emily’s ear that cousin Peyton and I have been talking, among other things, about sneaking fudge at Three Chopt. When I tell Keese this, she says, “We all knew you kids were taking pieces. We just never said anything.” So much for stealth.

I suggest that a package of fudge to Peyton would not go unappreciated. And it is not. “Omg. Your sweet baby girl sent me Midge’s fudge with a cute picture and sweet card. You raised a fine daughter!  I’ll write her!!!!  Yahoo. My inner child will be shoving fudge in my mouth before I get caught!!!!!”

And she on the spot munches through two layers. Which turns out to be a very good thing because not long after the first text I get another, “Guess who got into Midge’s fudge. That’s throw up (she has sent a photo of a small but telling lump on her favorite rug) but I had it (the fudge) way out of reach. This is a dog that can’t climb up on the bed! Oy!!” Thankfully Alfie barfs up the little that he ate. Just proves that Mom’s fudge knows no boundaries. It’s loved by all.

Chocolate is bad for me? But it was so good. I admit it. I absconded. I really did. Guilty.

In fact when Keese and Emily chat at Mart’s memorial service, Keese asks if she can please have more fudge this year. The five or six pieces, while much appreciated, are just simply not enough. Keese is probably still scarred by the milkman denial year.

Oh yes, our girl knows her market, she sends you just enough to want more. “Emily,” as Peyton puts it, “is like the pusher man. First one’s free.” And when asked she says that a text appreciation message is quite acceptable, but a hand written postal note gets you more.

As much as she loved how happy her fudge made people, this photo of Mom in her pre-fudge making years is not far from how she felt after an endless fudge session.

Look what you started Mom! Thanks!! The legacy you built piece by piece over the years binds us all together in such a sweet way.

Epilogue

Cousin Peyton, slightly younger than her brother Rick, Jett & myself just read a short separate post I have put up about the fudge tragedy. When I ask her if there might be any missing details she replies, “I’m sure I was huddled in a fetal position with the shakes and chills jonesing for fudge. That’s probably when you caught me eating that candied grapefruit rind!!!”

Candied grapefruit rind? Yes, it is as awful as it sounds. Mother Leigh made it, not one to waste anything especially perfectly good grapefruit rind. As Peyton points out, it was truly an era of waste not want not. I try to like it. But clearly my personal sugar addiction has a line. Peyton and anyone else is welcome to the entire lot.

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Christmas in the SAND

Living on Guam in the 50’s is everyone’s dream life, from kid to adult. We go to the beach, we party, we play, we bond. In later years whenever the subject comes up, my parents always refer to this period of our life as the time when everything is perfect.

We ride out typhoons, one a direct hit. I vividly recall Dad taking me out in the eye to show me how calm everything is. Only moments before the wind is blowing with such ferocity that anything not tied down (he and fellow crewmen have spent hours tying down planes so that they will not tumble like weeds) gets carried along.

Typhoon preparedness on Guam 1953

Almost every night that the weather is good, there is an outdoor movie on base. Folding chairs are set up. Attendance is always full, even if it’s a repeat show. There’s no bathroom so you either endure or go home, which isn’t too far away. Everything on base is within walking distance.

On Saturdays, all the base kids pile onto a bus and get driven off base to a local theater somewhere short of nowhere. We fill the theater, dozens of screaming wild ones with pennies to spend on candy and popcorn that if selected wisely will last the entire morning. I am sure the only adults around are the bus drivers and the film operator. We form new friendships, dissolve old ones, fight over seats, food, and anything that strikes us as worthy. We love it all.

I go to school off base that is a series of quonset huts, one per class all connected by a concrete sidewalk. There is a big hut to serve as an auditorium. And in the middle of the complex a walk in refrigerator where cold milk is served to go with bag lunches. No cafeteria. We eat on the porch of our classroom hut.

On base we entertain ourselves by running behind the DDT truck spraying for mosquitoes, getting as close as possible to the back of the truck so to be entirely enveloped in the cloud of poison. You have to hold your breath, the smell is so awful. I am bad at it and give it up after a few tries. Still our kids marvel at why they are not malformed head to toe.

We sneak into the sugar cane fields behind the base, always leery of the possibility of lurking Japanese soldiers, to get stalks of cane to suck on. The sugar taste is so good.

Dad brings me exotic dolls and clothes from Japan whenever he goes there. A doll with wigs to change her status from young unmarried, to geisha, to wife; covered cloth slippers with a separation for your big toe. And straw open shoes with a velvet thong between the big toe and the rest, you would know the design as a flip flop, but then the concept is totally new to all of us. Learning to walk in them is hard even if they are pretty, the strap is annoyingly uncomfortable.

But the absolute best of all for a kid on Guam, is Christmas. The Navy shipmates decorate their ships within an inch of their smoke stacks. They are gaudy beauties to behold. I never tire of a trip to see them.

Decorated Navy ship on Guam 1953

A huge hanger is set up with presents for every kid on base. We get a collapsible cheap glass wind chime packed in a flat cheaper cardboard box lined with thin tissue. It smells divinely of the orient. I am always sad when mine breaks. We get a mesh stocking full candy. And, as if that is not enough, there are individual gifts. There is a line by age for girls and one for boys. The presents, identical according to specific sex and age, are wrapped and hidden behind screens and carefully handed out by an adult as you reach the front of your line. This glory stops at age twelve. I have figured out that the twelve year old girls get a toy red piano. I really want a piano. I’m only ten plus I won’t be on Guam when I’m twelve, our tour will be up. I get in the line for twelve year old girls and lie my way forward. I have not one bit of guilt about my deception. Mom doesn’t know how I have come by my treasure, she’s clueless about the details of the process, so I’m spared any inquisition.

Christmas 1953 on Guam. Me holding seven month old sister, Suzanne. Note the red piano behind my left shoulder. And next to my knee, the unique Japanese forerunner of the now common as sliced bread, flip flop.

The piano is only eclipsed by a German doll that I get for Christmas. I have sleuthed out my gifts, so this doll, a last minute addition, is a complete surprise. Mom tells me later that she initially passes on one for me because she’s done her shopping. But when she realizes that I will be the only doll age girl on base without a German doll, she picks a simply dressed one for me. It seems that a ship has come in mere days before Christmas with the dolls and there is a scramble for the most elaborately outfitted ones. I am impressed with the girls who get dolls dressed in over the top clothes and accessories but I love mine, simple dress and all. She’s absolutely beautiful.

Just as is life on Guam for those of us lucky enough to have our Christmas moment in the sand.

EPILOGUE

When your past gobsmacks you, in a good way, you just have to laugh and pay attention. Preparing to start a post about Christmas on Guam I see feedback from from the youngest daughter of Dad’s pilot partner in crime.

She has happened upon my blog post about her dad. She’s my sister’s age so I really do not recall a lot about her. Both born on Guam, they were but babies. Her older sister, still younger than me, I very much recall as cute and fun.

Normally I write and rewrite and put a draft aside but like I said when you’re gobsmacked you rise to the occasion, so Merry Christmas Yvonne aka Bonnie and Marianne!

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The GRADUATE!

hilarey get diplomaShe’s a graduate. With highest honors, summa cum laude with honors in English. That means she maintained a 3.9 grade average or better and wrote and defended a thesis. Her topic is Gender Parity in the Film Industry. She tells me when we chat about the process, that her paper is accepted on the first presentation (one student in the department needs four attempts). The committee is very impressed with Hilarey’s writing, her supporting visuals and the work she put into all of it.

Donny & I want to go to graduation. Hilarey and Lewis want us there but they know all too well that it is a five hour drive. They keep saying not to feel obligated. And we don’t. But we really want to be there. It’s the getting up at 3:30AM that stalls us. We vacillate back and forth for days. Finally Donny decides. We’re going. There are the ceremonies plus the moving. One more car will be a help. We end up with all four vehicles packed full.

As I am taking a picture of Hilarey’s surprise departmental award, she tells me that when her parents drop her off four years ago she decides that if she has to be there for four long years she will make her mark. She will do her best and make it count. And she does.

IMG_3869  graduatedadjusting the mortar board hilarey & lewis

Not only does she graduate summa cum laude with English honors she receives the departmental Outstanding Graduating English Major award. This award is voted on by the entire department faculty. After nominations from faculty members and much discussion, votes are taken and the student with the most wins. It’s not an award sought after because few, if any, even know about it. Hilarey has no clue. She is there to simply make her mark.

Hilarey’s mentor, Hannah Abrams, is determined that Hilarey will receive this prestigious award. She speaks on Hilarey’s behalf. Eloquently, she reports when she meets us as we finish our lunch at Blue Surf. In telling the story, through occasional tears as she is still so passionate about it all, Hannah explains that while set on Hilarey winning , she didn’t want to over sell her nominee so keeps things brief. The professor that follows reads a poem and more for that nominee. “Do over,” she cries. “I need to tell you more.” She is granted more time. She explains how Hilarey is the exemplary student for the award. This bubbly professor has a winning personality and I can just picture her sincere enthusiasm. “We get it,” her colleagues finally say. Hannah wants to be absolutely sure.

She continues her praise. Not only is Hilarey a scholar, she competes (and wins) in SUP races. She has a long time supportive boyfriend (now fiancé). She has a life. Yes, Hannah’s fellow professors really get it. She thanks them and leaves. The committee is seriously considering another candidate but because of Hannah’s empassioned delivery, both students receive the award. That’s our Hilarey. Anyone will go to bat for her because she is just that good. And she deserves every single accolade that comes her way.

And soon she will be our daughter-in-law joining our three other amazing daughters-in-law (and one not to be left our awesome son-in-law) that complete our family. Welcome to the family Hilarey! And congratulations!!

honor graduate

Summa Cum Laude with English Honors May 9, 2015

 

 

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My Little Sunshine OBX = Success

val

Val beaming as she heads off to the store.

May 1, 2015 marks the grand opening of good friend and soon to be family, Valerie Netsch’s, awesome store, My Little Sunshine OBX. It’s a blend of new and may as well be new off beat items for that youngster everyone has at least one of or knows someone that does.

When she tells me of her plans I am in awe of all the work ahead. I cannot get beyond the thought of hangers and tags by the hundreds. Plus everything else that goes into opening a new store. But she’s done this before so she knows the drill. Val and Robert knock it out in their impressive to witness work ethic mode. All the while smiling. And being cleverly creative as well as economical.

My job is encouragement plus a plethora of little people SLAPBoards I create just for her shop. And some SandyBands for the younger set of course. And lastly, I need to be sure that she is launched properly. I dream that I am her first official paying customer (she is so successful at marketing she has people begging to buy before opening day). And so I set out to make it so.

mls

My Little Sunshine OBX

I arrive a bit before 10AM. I sit a few minutes in the car and then go up to the door. Val and helper Gail are doing last minute things. Like try to figure out just where the key to unlock the iPad is so music can be played. Tiny panic when Val thinks that she has thrown it away. It’s found. Music floats through the air. I select my items and hand Val paper money. Who keeps their first dollar bill anymore but I think it’s a fun tradition and want her to have all the right karma. She takes a picture of it.

Customers are filling the store. A lady checks out. I’m not sure if she uses cash or credit, but I am next with my real purchase using my credit card. Surprise for goddaughter Haley Rea when she graduates. Donny later tells me that he thought of Haley when he saw the item too.

So I may have been first cash and credit customer on opening day. At any rate my job is done. I have brought my dream to fruition. And brought in customers for Val. Not that she needed me for that. But Donny & I are awesome customer magnets. Everywhere we go a shop can be completely empty and sheer moments after we step inside it fills up. We have considered hiring ourselves out. Customer magnet anyone? We are willing to travel.

Congratulations Valerie! You are a ray of sunshine in everyone’s life and your store beams.

 

 

 

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