Tuesday, December 22, 2009


I'm admiring our driveway, hard blacktop against a soft snow-white backdrop. I'd guess about 30 person-hours of hard work went into this masterpiece. Two cars remain under cover, but if we wanted we could drive them away, to Mexico for example, and well before we arrived at our destination the rest would melt. Adam, Manley, Karen and I deserve to be proud of our efforts.

I think, like all things homemade, it's prettier than the neighbor's lane cleared by gasoline or diesel. I realize I'm biased and you, dear reader, may think I'm full of manure. I'm reminded of a sermon I heard long ago. Two couples had invited the pastor to dinner. At the home of the first couple, everybody climbed into a car and drove to a fine restaurant. The second couple welcomed the guests into their home and gradually served a meal they had prepared. I'll let you guess which meal the preacher considered extra-special. Of course, he waited until his next assignment, or maybe later, to tell the story.

A pickup parked not far away bears a slogan I'd like to steal: "It's not what you buy, it's what you build." Karen often says she likes the home we're living in now much better than the big, more modern house we enjoyed in North Carolina because it reflects us, our tastes, our work, and our eccentricities, unlike the other house, which was always "the Thomasons'" not just to us but to everyone who met us and tried to picture where we lived. Anyone who knew the inside of our current home before we did would not say it looks the same.

Even the garden beds tickle me now, hidden underneath two feet of melting snow. I can't see them, but I know they're thriving, worms working, playing with manure and mulch, getting ready for spring. Try to order a garden online. You might be able to find a gardener to work for you, but I promise you, the result won't feel like "your" garden. It'll feel like that new dress or suit you bought at Bloomie's.

Virginia says she remembers stories her father told about eating foods her grandmother had "put by." Together they would leaf through black-and-white photographs of Grandma's canning kitchen with row after row of glassed-in veggies and meats. When they went grocery shopping in New York, Virginia would search for see-through containers and beg for pickles, applesauce, dried beef, even pig's feet. Now, when children come to visit, she leads them by hand to her well-stocked pantry and lets them choose something.

A visiting friend recently oohed and aahed about our basement kitchen and its antique glass-windowed cabinets. "So," she said, "when you're hungry you come down here and pick out something to eat. What fun!"

You can't buy that.

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