Tag Archives: Emily Ball Desjardins

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 (my grandmother’s antebellum home in the West End of Richmond) 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 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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Mom, We NEED A Swim Team!

team on boat

My heart sinks a little bit at Emily’s request. I know just how much work all of it involves. But I know too that she misses the swim team activities that we engage in when we live in Richmond. There we’re an east end team newly welcomed into the immense James River Aquatic Club that also includes big money clubs such as the Country Club of Virginia. The league is one of the largest in Richmond. We are Anirav. Varina spelled backwards. We are small. We barely win any meets but we are in the big leagues. (Still going strong Anirav won the JRAC Sportmanship Award for their division in 2014).

I know nothing about swim teams. As a teen, I once consider joining the newly formed team at my neighborhood pool, Swimland, in Whitehall, Ohio. But when I find out the practices are early mornings before the pool opens and how absolutely cold the water is, I quit before I start.

At Anirav five year old Emily is in swimming lessons with a friend whose brother is on the team. Missy is a powerful swimmer but she does not yet swim the length of the pool without stopping. Neither Emily nor I realize the significance of the feat but when she accomplishes this in her test to pass the class, she immediately gets drafted by Missy’s mom to swim on a relay team.

It sounds like fun. We agree. It’s an away meet at Sandston. Emily does her part but she is very slow. Still she completes an otherwise incomplete relay team. They win points and ribbons. And we’re hooked.

championshipAs the years progress I find myself team mom, creating a team name, gathering monies for t-shirts and accessories, and attending JRAC meetings as our pool representative. The league is divided by size of teams and so we are put together with our own kind. At the end of the season every member team joins in the championship competition. It’s days of heats and heats of swimming, camping out under any available shade to await your turn after hours upon hours of waiting. But you dare not leave, your parking place will be eaten up.

Win your heat and you advance. The best Emily does is come in 9th over all in butterfly her last year before we move. Not bad for a summer league only swimmer. Many of the summer league kids also swim in the winter and keep their skills at top notch level. That’s 9th out of hundreds the girls in her age bracket. Just a bit higher and she would have gotten a place ribbon.

lewisThen we move to the Outer Banks in the mid-eighties and settle into our new life. We have a great community pool but it lacks youth activities. And is so casually run! Our Inlet Court neighbor, Tom Piddington and I both volunteer for the board of directors at the same time with the same purpose in mind. To make the pool a safer place. He has come from northern Virginia and a strong community swimming pool lifestyle. We don’t know each other at all. His kids are all grown. But we hit it off. We become the official pool committee. We write guidelines. The board publishes them and every member gets mailed a copy. This takes an entire winter of our lives.

As summer rolls around I take charge of hiring a staff. I get my WSI certification and schedule swimming lessons. And we begin Emily’s swim team. The first year I watch. The next year I decide to coach. I have seen enough. I know how this works. Scott Zincone has come on board as a lifeguard for the pool and jumps in to co-coach.

rick & scott

Rick Gray from Duck Woods Country Club has also heard the calling, this time over beer and conversation. He’s in it too for his kids. Both pools have actually had teams in the past but neither in recent history. Being a willing rookie Rick follows my lead. We pattern our match ups using the JRAC footprint. We plan meets. Surprisingly to me Colington proves to be the power to beat.  Emily & Donald are used to the low on the totem Anirav team. So much that when a meet that the Argonauts can win is scheduled during our OBX vacation time, we voluntarily travel back to Richmond to help out and back to the OBX to finish our ‘hope this never ends’ vacation.

Duck Woods is our only competition. Okay to be accurate back up just a step. Nautics Hall in Manteo does join our adventure one year but after we organize the first (and only) Outer Banks Swim League Championship and they end up in third place Manteo fades from view.

hawk powerAnd so for years we compete weekly against Kitty Hawk neighbor Duck Woods. Our team is huge. We have a big pool to draw from. We get more points in the age for age, stroke for stroke match ups. But the real victory of the meets comes down to which team can take the blue for the all age mixed free style relay. We win most of the time but when DW does win those bragging rights they are elated. I can relate. Small team roots run deep.

Emily insists that we have team suits. Parents are willing to pony up for this matching uniform. I collect size information, monies and order suits. We pick a team name. I create a design. We get Hawk Power t-shirts made. We bake snacks to raise money for ribbons and team accessories. Through the marching years to stretch our dollar, I screen print swim caps. Hats. We get towels embroidered. And gear bags. And backpacks. And always more t-shirts. We are a team. We are the Mighty Seahawks!

 

 

 

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