I’ve been on tour for what seems like forever, getting up at ungodly hours to catch early morning East Coast flights. My body’s default time zone is West Coast, so getting up and packing in time for a 4:45 pick up for a 7:00 AM flight had me crawling out of bed at an ungodly hour that was not quite three hours past my normal bed time.
Not only was I sleep deprived, those early morning wake-ups came with another indignity. I can’t hear. Without my hearing aids, an early morning wake up call by telephone doesn’t do the trick. I had to ask for the front desk to send security up to pound on my door until I gave them a verbal response.
Oh, the glamour of book tours, right?
On one of those early morning flights from Point A to Point B in a plane that was freezing cold, I was tired but couldn’t sleep. My head is such that, even in my misery, song lyrics surfaced—all three verses of Simon and Garfunkel’s Homeward Bound. I’m not going to print those lyrics here, but you’re welcome to google them and read them for yourselves. Because I was on a tour of one night stands. Now, on Wednesday afternoon, I’m at home with one of my yappy little dogs out in the laundry room barking at something that is entirely invisible to her humans. It’s fall, so maybe she’s barking at falling leaves, but I digress.
At the last couple of presentations I actually sang that song, because I was more than ready to be homeward bound. Last night’s event was at a library in Minnesota. In the afternoon, when it was almost time for me to get ready, one of my fans who is also a blog reader, someone named Kim, sent me a note saying that she was hoping to meet me at the event.
In her email she had mentioned how when she had written me a note about something in the blog months earlier, she had been astonished that I had responded. The truth is, I always respond. It’s part of my job.
So when Kim showed up at the event and introduced herself, I knew she was my correspondent. We spoke for a few moments and I signed her book. Then she opened an envelope and showed me a laminated, decades old ad for Kelloggs Krumbles. Kelloggs stopped making Krumbles years ago, but when I was growing up in Bisbee, that was something my mother and I shared in common—a love of Krumbles. I wondered for a moment how in the world she knew I loved Krumbles, but the line was long, and people were waiting. Kim put the ad back in it’s envelope and then handed it to me along with a greeting card.
She left the line then, and I put the card and envelope aside, planning on looking at them later. Kim returned a few minutes after that and asked for a photo of the two of us together, one which was happily provided, but I could tell that she was beyond exited to meet me—almost as excited as I was a year ago, when Kathy Kenda introduced me to her husband, Joe Kenda, of Homicide Hunter fame.
By the time I got back to the hotel, I was done for. I didn’t look at either of the envelopes until this morning. And this time, once again, I wondered, how in the world did Kim know I liked Krumbles. And right there in the envelope I found the answer—it was a blog I wrote in 2012 right around Father’s Day in which I talked at length about how during the school year my father conjured up batches of hot cereal for breakfasts while, during the summer months, we ate cold cereal often with fresh peaches added into the mix. And right there, in front of God and everybody, I talked about my mother and I eating Krumbles.
When I write books, once I’ve done multiple layers of editing, I hardly ever go back and reread them. My having to reread Taking the Fifth this year in preparation for writing Sins of the Fathers was the exception not the rule.
And the same goes for blog entries. Once I write them on a Wednesday afternoon, as I’m doing today, they end up being posted on Friday, and I never read them again.
I know I’ve written about my mother many times in these musings. I’m a child of the fifties. I had a stay at home mother and a father who worked long hours to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. Norman Busk appears occasionally in these missives, but not nearly as often as Evie does.
Kim had included a copy of a blog I wrote about my father in honor of Father’s Day in 2012—seven years ago. And so this morning, Kim gave me a real gift by having me reread the words of remembrance I wrote about my day back then.
That printed copy of the blog is something I’ll treasure, right along with that laminated ad for Krumbles.
Thank you, Kim, you made my day, and you made my homecoming that much sweeter.
Now if I only had a bowl of Krumbles.
Breakfast of Champions
Friday, June 15, 2012
This week we’re having one of the world’s summertime breakfast treats–Wheat Chex and fresh peaches and raspberries. Generally speaking I am not a mixed fruit sort of person. That goes for mixed fruit jellies (Are you listening Smuckers?) and for mixed fruit pies. (Rhubarb pies? YES! Strawberry/Rhubarb pies? NOOOOOOOO!)
But cut up fresh peaches with a few raspberries on Wheat Chex or even Honey Nut Cheerios? Either one of those works for me, because they take me right back to summer time in Bisbee, Arizona, in the Fifties. Not that we had an abundance of fresh raspberries back then. Those didn’t make it to Pay and Tote in Lowell. And what passed for lettuce back then, brownish soggy stuff, turned me into a confirmed LLA (Lifetime Lettuce Avoider.) I would guess that Pay and Tote’s fresh peaches weren’t any better than the lettuce, but we never bought peaches at the store. We grew them.
Our house on Yuma Trail had a yard full of peach and apricot trees as well as a single nectarine. The nectarines never managed to ripen because the tree was easy to climb and we ate them early and often. Fruit on some of the other trees there was less inviting. There were two figs trees, but as far as I know, a ripe fig never crossed my lips. And there was an enormous mulberry tree. That one was very exciting to climb, but the only thing the berries on that were good for was turning our bare feet purple over the course of the summer.
Does it sound like our yard was an oasis in the desert? Yes, it was. And why was that? Mine water! Around the outside fence of the property ran a pipe that carried water that never went inside. This was the brackish, mineral-laden stew that had to be pumped out of the mines. Rather than waste it, the company (Phelps Dodge) sent it out to the community for free. I can tell you that the fruit trees and grass in town LOVED it. Back then, free mine water made it possible for Bisbee’s Vista Park in Bisbee to be a tree lined grassy lawn. Once the company figured out that they could use the mine water to leach copper out of the tailings dumps, they took their mine water back. The town’s fruit trees which had thrived on mineral rich water, shriveled and died on a steady diet of fresh and very expensive potable water. If you go visit Vista Park today, you’ll find something that is mostly a xeriscaped wasteland.
But back to the fruit trees. Each summer my mother canned quart after quart of peaches and apricots from the trees in our yard, and we sold some as well. There’s a picture somewhere of my Dad and me, sitting together under a freshly harvested tree with a bushel basket heaped with apricots parked between us.
The peaches from our yard–the ones that didn’t get canned or sold–got peeled and cut up, chopped more than cut. My mother’s utensil drawer had an old tin can which my father had cut off with the tin snips at both ends. That’s what she used to chop up the peaches–the sharp end of that tin can. And that’s how peaches came to our summertime breakfast table–chopped into tiny delectable pieces.
During the school year our father made hot cereal every morning–oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, Malt-o-meal, Zoom, Chocolate Malt-o-Meal, and what he called “Whet-meal,” which was my father’s own peculiar mixture of Malt-o-Meal and Cream of Wheat. He made it on the stove in a four quart Wear-Ever aluminum sauce pan. While he was doing it, the man was in his element, wielding a slotted wooden spoon and singing “It’s nice to get up in the morning, in the good old summer time” at the top of his lungs in his particularly tuneless voice. (We always said, “There are 88 keys on the piano, and Daddy sings in the cracks!”)
The rest of the daily meal planning and cooking for our family of nine were designated as Evie’s problem, but school year breakfasts belonged to Norman. Actually there’s one more mealtime exception to that Mommy-only rule. On Sunday nights, we had cocoa and toast for Sunday Night Supper, and my father made the cocoa from scratch in the same four quart sauce pan.
During those long ago pre-air-conditioning summers, cooking hot cereal for breakfast every morning must have seemed like a bad idea. I’m also sure buying cold cereal for that many people was an expensive proposition, but it worked.
At most mealtimes, we ate what our mother served (A little bit of everything, and everything on your plate!), but for summer breakfasts allowances were made for individual tastes. My father preferred Wheaties–the Breakfast of Champions. I’m not sure how much he liked the flavor, but he certainly enjoyed reading the stories of the athletes featured on the boxes. My mother and I went for Krumbles. (I’m not sure if it was spelled with a C or a K, and since no one makes the old fashioned Krumbles anymore, there’s no way to look it up.) Other people cast their votes for Rice Krispies or Cheerios. (My mother never ponied up the cash for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes.) Whatever we chose, however, it was served with a dollop of my mother’s chopped up peaches and cold milk which was delivered fresh to our doorstep twice a week by generations of milkmen.
I guess it’s understandable how, in the week leading up to Father’s Day, the simple act of eating breakfast has taken me on a long trip down memory lane. I’ve spent the last hour recalling the two people who spent 68 years together being good parents on all the other days that weren’t officially designated as Father’s Day or Mother’s Day.
So here’s to you, Norman and Evie Busk. You done good.