After further review into my own "domain" world....it's gonna take a wee bit of time for me to "build it so you can come!!!!" I am caught between wanting to post pictures and do all this cool stuff to this blogspot site and yet feel it doesn't make any sense and I should spend the time on my website. My friend Martine has a blog that looks great and has all these cool pics and gadgets. (Check it out for cool dog lover stuff! I am not much of an animal lover now that I have my own two real live human babes, but it's worth a look-see to check out her coolness factor! http://i-need-a-sugar-fix.blogspot.com/) So bear with me, as I continue to write and not worry about the "look" of my blog! The writing is really the heart here. It has reconnected me to what I really love.
So my thoughts today are of rhubarb. Rheum is a genus of perennial plants that grows from thick short rhizomes. The genus is in the family Polygonaceae, and includes the vegetable rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum or Rheum x hybridum.) The plants have large leaves that are somewhat triangular shaped with long fleshy petioles. The flowers are small, greenish-white to rose-red, and grouped in large compound leafy inflorescences. A number of varieties of rhubarb have been domesticated both as medicinal plants and for human consumption. While the leaves are toxic, the stalks are used in pies and other foods for their tart flavor.
Okay, okay...too much information! But on my recent trip home to Marinette, Wisconsin, I cut some rhubarb with good intention to make pie. My entire life was spent growing up, growing apart and coming back to this house, street, and country-scape. Our neighbors across the street have recently moved. This is a big deal for all of our family members, mainly my mother. The house sits empty like a shell, FOR SALE sign in the yard, devoid of any love or life that was so vibrantly bursting at the seams just a short period of time ago. It just doesn't seem right. But this is how life sometimes unfolds. Unexpectedly causing us to adapt to change once again.
For at least 50 years or so my mom has lived across the street from Mary and Jake. They are truly some of the finest human beings you will ever meet. Honest, hard-working, salt of the Earth...the kind of neighbors you dream about. They looked out for my mom and helped her out after my dad died. Mary and Jake came to America from Poland after experiencing a work camp set up by Hitler. They are Polish devout Catholics. Mary had a stroke last fall and is now living in a health and rehab facility. Her husband Jake moved to assisted living. They live apart after a lifetime together. Jake is in his early 80s and Mary is a bit younger. Jake has a small wood-working shop next to his house and several rhubarb plants grow behind it.
I took several walks while visiting my mom. A walk without pushing a big stroller is delightful! Returning to my mom's driveway I spotted the rhubarb. I picked enough for a few pies and only upon my return home did I feel the connection and love as I prepped the rhubarb pieces for my pies. I had an overwhelming connection to these incredible people.
I am not a baker in any sense of the word. I much prefer "cooking" as I can experiment and do nothing exact! Baking is a science and I never did like that subject. Ha! However, in my most basic attempt at these pies I felt the years of time spent with Mary and Jake. I remembered the many years their youngest daughter Janet baby sat me. She taught me to ride my bike without training wheels and told me that if I cried too long my tears would dry up and I wouldn't have any left. I thought about the giant lilac bushes in front of their house that I would pick and put behind my ear while I waiting for the school bus. I thought of the numerous times Mary would bring over strawberries, asparagus, cucumbers, Polish ham, paczkis, and any other homemade or garden delight.
The big asparagus plants have been dug up and moved by the children of Mary and Jake. A few random stalks made their way up and I cut them and ate them with my mom. It was like the last of a good thing before you feel acceptance and move on. So when I bit into my strawberry rhubarb pie, I felt connected to the past and in honor of these people. It is a rare and beautiful thing when you can call neighbors family.