Expectations

In the middle of Mass, Squints leaned towards me and whispered.  “Mom, what’s Black Friday?”

I leaned back.  Whispered bullet points.  “Day after Thanksgiving.  Everything goes on sale.”
He chewed on this for awhile before asking,“Is that a Holy Day?”

 I turned towards him.  “Where would you get that idea?”

“Well, at the stores, there are signs on the windows for Christmas and Black Friday so I…”

“It’s not a Holy Day.”
The day after Thanksgiving, we will not hold a vigil outside the store, waiting for gleaming doors to glide open and admit us.   No, we will spend the day after Thanksgiving in our usual manner.  The day after Thanksgiving, we will dip caramels.

My sister has already prepared several batches of caramel: melting copious amounts of sugar and stirring in ingredients I’m not allowed to reveal here.  As I write this, the caramel waits in rectangular baking dishes for warm hands to soften it and remove it from the pan.  The caramel waits for warm hands to shape it into bite-sized pieces.  The caramel waits for its thick shell of chocolate.
We’ve fallen into a pattern: Three or four of us will shape the caramels; Two or three will dip.  A runner will take cookie sheets full of glistening caramels to the dining room to cool and harden.

Cousins, together again at last, will talk and laugh and catch up.  Occasionally, a younger cousin will be recruited to grab a handful of caramels from the dining room and pass them around.  Orthodontist recommendations will be ignored. 
We will work for several hours in this way, dipping and talking and sampling a caramel or two.  When the caramel is gone, we will move on to peanut clusters.  And sometime after noon, my sister will begin cooking the several hundred pierogi (another secret family recipe) she also made in the weeks before Caramel Day.  For the second day in a row, we will overeat, stuffing ourselves with brats and pierogi and caramel, of course.

No, Squints, Black Friday is not a Holy Day.  But Caramel Day is sacred.  We shape our lives around around this day. 
After lunch, we will clean up and pack up the candy and head home to hide the candy from our children.  Because that candy will become Christmas gifts.  Teachers receive candy.  Neighbors receive candy.  Relatives and friends receive that candy.  In late October, past recipients of this treasure begin making their inquiries: “Are you making candy this year?”  People have come to expect it.  And if their box is a bit smaller than last year’s, they will not hesitate to let you know.  That candy has become legendary. 

I do not give it away lightly.
* * *

After Mass, we ate breakfast, and, on this day of rest, Squints and my husband set out to rake leaves.  

An hour later, Squints came in.  “Whew, I’m beat.”  He took out a saucepan and measured out milk.  “Seven bags, Mom.  Well, really only six because we had to fill one twice.  The wind blew it over and everything spilled out.”  He turned on the gas and added cocoa power and too much sugar to the milk.  He stirred.
The woman who lives behind us emerged, rake in hand.  She raked for a few minutes then lifted a small handful of leaves into the bag. 

Squints added his secret ingredient—peppermint sprinkles—to his cocoa.
The woman’s bag blew over.

“Squints,” I said, watching him take a taste of his cocoa and smacking his lips.  “Look there.”  I pointed.   “Wouldn’t it be nice to go help her rake leaves?”
He looked at me.  Frowned.  “I just…”

“Who knows?  Maybe you’ll land a lawn service job.”
He set the spoon down.  “You think she’d pay me?”

“I’ll keep an eye on your cocoa.”
“OK.” 

“Don’t expect any money.”
"I won't.  He shrugged his coat back on and headed outside.  I watched him approach, rake in hand.  I watched her pause, rake poised above the leaves.  I could hear Squint’s voice in my head.  Want some help?

I watched a smile blossom across her face.  I watched my son raking leaves for a woman he’d never met.  I watched two people, separated by half a century come together in a trivial task.  I wondered why it had taken me seven years to figure this out.
Forty-five minutes later, Squints came home, grinning from ear to ear.  “She was so happy, Mom!  You should’ve seen her.”  He raised his voice a notch.  “I never thought I’d get three bags filled today!  I’m so pleased!  And look…”  Squints fished around in his pocket and withdrew a folded bill.  “She paid me!”  He poured out his cocoa and sat down to drink it.

“I told her about Destructo.”  He paused, looking out the window.  “She’s a cat person.  She’s been feeding those wild cats.  They live beneath her porch.”
I nodded.

“She told me she’d ring my doorbell the next time she needed help.”  He dipped his spoon into his cocoa.  “She’s really nice, Mom.  And she seems lonely.  I think we should have her over for dinner.”
I paused.  I wanted to help a neighbor, but dinner?  “Well, at least we can make her a box of caramels.”

“Oh, yeah.  I told her all about that.  She’s expecting some this year.”  He patted his pocket to make sure his money was still there and finished his cocoa in silence.

For more about Caramel Day...
This post has been linked to Love Links

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Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: Expectations

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Expectations

In the middle of Mass, Squints leaned towards me and whispered.  “Mom, what’s Black Friday?”

I leaned back.  Whispered bullet points.  “Day after Thanksgiving.  Everything goes on sale.”
He chewed on this for awhile before asking,“Is that a Holy Day?”

 I turned towards him.  “Where would you get that idea?”

“Well, at the stores, there are signs on the windows for Christmas and Black Friday so I…”

“It’s not a Holy Day.”
The day after Thanksgiving, we will not hold a vigil outside the store, waiting for gleaming doors to glide open and admit us.   No, we will spend the day after Thanksgiving in our usual manner.  The day after Thanksgiving, we will dip caramels.

My sister has already prepared several batches of caramel: melting copious amounts of sugar and stirring in ingredients I’m not allowed to reveal here.  As I write this, the caramel waits in rectangular baking dishes for warm hands to soften it and remove it from the pan.  The caramel waits for warm hands to shape it into bite-sized pieces.  The caramel waits for its thick shell of chocolate.
We’ve fallen into a pattern: Three or four of us will shape the caramels; Two or three will dip.  A runner will take cookie sheets full of glistening caramels to the dining room to cool and harden.

Cousins, together again at last, will talk and laugh and catch up.  Occasionally, a younger cousin will be recruited to grab a handful of caramels from the dining room and pass them around.  Orthodontist recommendations will be ignored. 
We will work for several hours in this way, dipping and talking and sampling a caramel or two.  When the caramel is gone, we will move on to peanut clusters.  And sometime after noon, my sister will begin cooking the several hundred pierogi (another secret family recipe) she also made in the weeks before Caramel Day.  For the second day in a row, we will overeat, stuffing ourselves with brats and pierogi and caramel, of course.

No, Squints, Black Friday is not a Holy Day.  But Caramel Day is sacred.  We shape our lives around around this day. 
After lunch, we will clean up and pack up the candy and head home to hide the candy from our children.  Because that candy will become Christmas gifts.  Teachers receive candy.  Neighbors receive candy.  Relatives and friends receive that candy.  In late October, past recipients of this treasure begin making their inquiries: “Are you making candy this year?”  People have come to expect it.  And if their box is a bit smaller than last year’s, they will not hesitate to let you know.  That candy has become legendary. 

I do not give it away lightly.
* * *

After Mass, we ate breakfast, and, on this day of rest, Squints and my husband set out to rake leaves.  

An hour later, Squints came in.  “Whew, I’m beat.”  He took out a saucepan and measured out milk.  “Seven bags, Mom.  Well, really only six because we had to fill one twice.  The wind blew it over and everything spilled out.”  He turned on the gas and added cocoa power and too much sugar to the milk.  He stirred.
The woman who lives behind us emerged, rake in hand.  She raked for a few minutes then lifted a small handful of leaves into the bag. 

Squints added his secret ingredient—peppermint sprinkles—to his cocoa.
The woman’s bag blew over.

“Squints,” I said, watching him take a taste of his cocoa and smacking his lips.  “Look there.”  I pointed.   “Wouldn’t it be nice to go help her rake leaves?”
He looked at me.  Frowned.  “I just…”

“Who knows?  Maybe you’ll land a lawn service job.”
He set the spoon down.  “You think she’d pay me?”

“I’ll keep an eye on your cocoa.”
“OK.” 

“Don’t expect any money.”
"I won't.  He shrugged his coat back on and headed outside.  I watched him approach, rake in hand.  I watched her pause, rake poised above the leaves.  I could hear Squint’s voice in my head.  Want some help?

I watched a smile blossom across her face.  I watched my son raking leaves for a woman he’d never met.  I watched two people, separated by half a century come together in a trivial task.  I wondered why it had taken me seven years to figure this out.
Forty-five minutes later, Squints came home, grinning from ear to ear.  “She was so happy, Mom!  You should’ve seen her.”  He raised his voice a notch.  “I never thought I’d get three bags filled today!  I’m so pleased!  And look…”  Squints fished around in his pocket and withdrew a folded bill.  “She paid me!”  He poured out his cocoa and sat down to drink it.

“I told her about Destructo.”  He paused, looking out the window.  “She’s a cat person.  She’s been feeding those wild cats.  They live beneath her porch.”
I nodded.

“She told me she’d ring my doorbell the next time she needed help.”  He dipped his spoon into his cocoa.  “She’s really nice, Mom.  And she seems lonely.  I think we should have her over for dinner.”
I paused.  I wanted to help a neighbor, but dinner?  “Well, at least we can make her a box of caramels.”

“Oh, yeah.  I told her all about that.  She’s expecting some this year.”  He patted his pocket to make sure his money was still there and finished his cocoa in silence.

For more about Caramel Day...
This post has been linked to Love Links

Labels: , , ,

17 Comments:

At November 16, 2011 at 9:53 AM , Anonymous Beverly Diehl said...

Would love a Caramel Day tradition. Much, much better than the Shopping Sacrament of Black Friday.

Very cool that Squints made such a lovely connection with a neighbor, too.

 
At November 16, 2011 at 9:59 AM , Anonymous Elizabeth Young said...

Thanks for sharing the ebb and flow of family and neighbourhood life with us. They are so intertwined, but sometimes it takes a wise person to recognise it and teach the importance of both to the next generation. Way to go Kelly!

 
At November 16, 2011 at 4:13 PM , Anonymous TLanceB said...

Caramel Day sounds tremendous.

I wish the day after Thanksgiving was Pumpkin Pie Day or Turkey Sandwich Day.

 
At November 16, 2011 at 7:06 PM , Anonymous Julie Farrar said...

I guess great minds think alike because I posted on the sin of Black Friday Creep myself this week. I agree, Caramel Day sounds as if it should be added to the liturgical calendar. Here's the link to my post:

http://tinyurl.com/6p8uy9h

 
At November 17, 2011 at 8:44 AM , Anonymous Katie687 said...

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE - Looking forward to seeing you all on Caramel Day, oh and Thanksgiving too.

 
At November 19, 2011 at 8:51 AM , Anonymous Kim said...

I love that you have Caramel Day instead of Black Friday! I avoid Black Friday like the plague! Love your blog, I'm a new follower from GTKY Blog Hop!
Kim
http://www.mytwintasticlife.com/

 
At November 20, 2011 at 6:00 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading! We've done Caramel Day for years and I wouldn't miss it for anything.

 
At November 20, 2011 at 6:00 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks! See you soon.

 
At November 20, 2011 at 6:01 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Loved your post, Julie. Your pictures are beautiful.

 
At November 20, 2011 at 6:01 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Well, we do that too...

 
At November 20, 2011 at 6:01 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks, Elizabeth.

 
At November 20, 2011 at 6:02 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

And the shopping starts even earlier. Yesterday, my daughter stood in line for 40 minutes at one store because they had a huge one-day sale we weren't aware of. Thanks for reading!

 
At November 20, 2011 at 6:39 PM , Anonymous Lisa Weidknecht said...

Love your writing style! Thanks for joining my Planet Weidknecht weekend hop! I'm following.

 
At November 23, 2011 at 3:38 PM , Anonymous Cookie's Mom said...

This was a very engaging read. I love the Caramel Day tradition.

 
At November 23, 2011 at 11:05 PM , Anonymous Mama and the City said...

I still don't get the meaning of black Friday. No comprendo.

 
At November 24, 2011 at 12:52 AM , Anonymous Mirjam said...

I loved both stories, caramel day sounds great. And that story of your son helping out the neighbor is wonderful.
Visiting from lovelinks.

 
At November 24, 2011 at 11:39 AM , Anonymous Just Jennifer said...

Is this the first time I've been here? Your blog seems familiar, but I'm not sure...

Anyway, I love this post! I love that your son asked if Black Friday is a Holy Day. It is for many people, isn't it? Not me.

Love your candy making tradition too. Very special.

 

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