The Cut-off

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There’s a short cut down the fabled back road.  Fewer people know of it than of the back road itself.  Just past the turn for the farm market is a row of mailboxes, all for a single yellow building on a big plot of land.   It’s an old house and I always wondered if it was a farm-house many years ago.  The “cut-off” is the very next right turn.   I get this smug feeling as I turn and watch all the cars behind me continue straight. 

Just as you turn the corner there is a huge field of millet.  Now, in the fall, it is probably ready to harvest.  It is a deep golden brown with the flower a chocolate brown.  In the breeze it sways in waves.  The road is possibly a mile long and on both sides are big houses and small farms.  It is a beautiful little road, no sidewalks, just ranch fences.  There’s a 4,000 foot log “cabin”  with a very large barn.  On the well-manicured lawn is a statue of a majestic horse, rearing up on its hind legs.  There’s a newly built mini-mansion with a stucco finish and a lovely front porch, including built-in gazebo across the street.   Another property has  a small exercise area for horses complete with jumping fences.  Further down is a quaint little ranch house with a corral in the side yard.   The biggest white horse I have ever seen lives there.  All the way at the end on the left is a fenced-in pasture where horses, mules, alpacas and of course, the infamous Jersey geese (f/k/a  Canadian geese) graze, though not necessarily at the same time. 

The homes and land are all well cared for and  beautifully landscaped.   The road empties out to a preserve with a huge lake.  It makes me smile to imagine someone riding down the road towards the lake on horseback with a fishing pole sticking out of a saddle bag.  It really is a timeless piece of Americana right in the middle of New Jersey.

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The Barbeque and the Squirrel

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 This entry is not quite as ominous  as the title sounds and no squirrels were injured or harmed during the actual event, except for those suffering from the effects of what they, of their own free will and stupidity, decided to ingest.

 In the backyard down There are two patios – one with a gas grill and one with the park bench.  When not in use, the grill has a protective vinyl cover on it – forest green to match the trees.  The grill is “not in use” alot  and actually, there is a new grill because when the cover came off in anticipation of the  ” sort of annual ”  Memorial Day Barbeque (all my family), R discovered that my beloved squirrels had chewed through the rubber hose that connected the gas grill to the gas tank. 

I insisted the poor things were starving all winter (it was very harsh with unusually large accumulations of snow) and they even ate holes in the heavy canvas cover on the bench.  This provided R with the perfect excuse… I mean reason… to buy a new grill.  The first one was going on four years old and the base was rusting anyway.  So, after consulting his brothers (who are grill masters) and some comparative shopping, a new grill was purchased and, once  assembled, a mere 3 hours later, it was ready to take its rightful place on the patio. 

 The Memorial Day party was a blast .  On a picture perfect day,  with all of the “definite attending” guests joining all of the “maybe attending” guests  we had one of the biggest and most successful party we have had in years.   The bright yellow day lillies were in full bloom.  The patio table’s umbrella provided shade, there were extra tables and chairs on the lawn and the colorful table clothes fluttered in the slight breeze. 

  W came to play grill master, was quite relaxed and his most charming Southern Gentleman self.  He brought his eldest Son, who admired all of his father’s handiwork and the peaceful feeling of There.  My Son came with my Niece (and her entourage) and he started styling my Sister’s hair, while F and I had a poker conversation.  My Mom helped with all the preparations and filled in as hostess when I was fussing in the kitchen.  My Dad and his Wife brought watermelon, as did my neighbor across the way to add to the watermelon I bought because I forgot what I asked people to bring.  My Cousin and her Husband, on a romantic anniversary trip to Atlantic City, stopped in “for a few minutes” and were almost the last to leave.  Everyone ate and chatted and mingled and I was very happy that my family and friends enjoyed being There in the way I had always hoped.  True to my family heritage, there was extra food that I divvied up and sent home with everyone.  I must admit, when it comes to throwing a party, R and I are a formidable pair.

 The summer rolled on and the new grill sat outside across from the park bench, covered in its new forest green vinyl wrappings, unused but admired.  As September approached, we started planning the  ” sort of annual ”  Labor Day Barbeque (all of his family).  There were to be eleven of us including several adult nieces.  R and I argued several times about the menu and amount of food to be offered.  R tends to have a more realistic relationship with food than I do and, truth be told, we have never run out of anything when entertaining when he has been in charge of the provisions.  When the shopping was finally completed and he conceded to extra steaks but held his ground on extra appetizers, I knew in my heart that we still had a bountiful amount of food.

 The morning of the party dawned bright with a promise of low humidity and temperatures in the  high  70’s – Perfect Weather once again!!  I was starting the salad and veggie platter production when R went out to check the grill’s gas tank.  He returned with that “Someone’s  In Big Trouble” look and announced that once again, my beloved squirrels had made a meal of the rubber hose from the NEW grill to the tank. 

 With my urging for calmness, and realizing that he did not have 3 hours to put a new gas grill together, R came up with the idea of buying a charcoal grill and repairing the gas grill at a later date… well, asking W to repair the gas grill at a later date.  He went off to Home Depot and came back with a charcoal grill and all the necessary fuels.  R opened the box and found that the “grill” part of the charcoal grill was missing ,  so unless we were going to roast the steaks on sticks   –  caveman style  – this grill wasn’t going to cut it.  With much growling, he packed up the “semi-grill” and returned to Home Depot.  Someone at that store surely got a tongue lashing.  Of course if I went, they also would’ve had to put the grill together for me and kissed my feet.   

 While R “went shopping”, I chopped, sliced, diced, moved tables, placed table cloths, arranged chairs,   defrosted shrimp, cursed my lack of height as I climbed on step stools to reach the top cabinet shelves for bowls, doubled checked for clean hand towels in all three baths, and finished up everything that needed to be done  until the very last minute.  Company was expected any time after 12 and the cooking was to start at 2.  R came home and started putting together the grill.  At 11:50 I finally went up for a shower.  At 1:45 the first group of company arrived (sans adult daughters) and at 2:30 the second group of company arrived (ditto).  We now had enough thawed filet mignon for approximately 15 people with only six adults  (including ourselves) and one seven year old attending .  Everything went exceptionally well once R got over that.

 The little guy, J,  thrilled with his toy space gun birthday present, proceeded to shoot his uncles.  So, he was taken to the woods behind There to hunt for bears, coyotes or some other menacing animal.  We followed the grass path, avoided sticker bushes and low hanging branches.  We checked the ground for tracks and trees for fur that might have been rubbed off,  listened for strange animal noises,  but finding  no animal large enough to shoot, we returned to the house about 30 minutes later with a new “mini-boulder” for my backyard collection.  A spot was carefully chosen and the stone was planted.  The food was terrific and before birthday cake, J was taken to the new outdoor gym equipment ,  about a 20 minute walk down a paved path on the wooded side of the development.  His mother and I dissuaded him from shooting any squirrels which scampered about (though I’m sure his Uncle R would have been delighted with the present of a  dead squirrel that day) and as J walked and beat the trees with sticks as little boys often do, I prayed that no squirrels appeared in the back yard while R and his brothers sat outside on the bench.  After J’s 30 minute gymnastics exhibition, including the inevitable hanging upside down, we walked back to the house along the sunshine speckled path.  I sighed happily enjoying the glow of another successful party with our family.  It has been a wonderful summer There.

 R will order the new hose, W will install it on the gas grill and I will coat it with a cayenne pepper mixture and keep the squirrel and bird feeders  filled  with seeds for now on.  Hopefully the squirrels  will  lose their taste for rubber  and this grill will last another four years .

Patriot Rock

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Among the interesting things on the trip from Here to There is something that has been in the book “Weird New Jersey”  Nothing weird about it though.  On the side of the road is a rock painted with red and white stripes and a blue background with white stars.  Along side of it are several flags of all different sizes that people have put up next to it, including a POW/MIA flag.   It’s been there for more than a decade and pre-dates 9/11.  

I remember,  many years ago, some moron repainted the rock and instead of Old Glory, the logo of the NY Giants looked out on the road.  A few weeks later, someone repainted the flag.  Then about a month after that, another moron painted some psychedelic peace symbols in crazy colors.   Again, someone repainted the flag and it hasn’t been disturbed since.  And I hope it never is disturbed or vandalized again.   Something about it feeds my soul and fills my heart with pride.  This country welcomed my immigrant family nearly 80 years ago.  We need to be reminded that unless we are Native Americans, all of us have immigrant families and that diversity is what makes this country not just the greatest in the world, but the most unique.   I thank the Lord every day that I was born American.