Friday, November 28, 2008

Memories of the Christmas Parade

It's the Saturday after Thanksgiving and time for the annual Boonton Christmas Parade sponsored by the Fire Department.  Laura and Suse used to march those years they were girl scouts and so it holds special memories.  The parade route ended at Santaland and what a great scene it was with  the swarms of people, children and marchers getting refreshments, waiting to see Santa, mingling and talking, and walking around in every direction among the Santaland features.

Somehow this year I can't run the risk of even hearing the parade.  The sounds of drumming and music ride over the hills and can be heard at our house. I just don't want to go there where the parade music could take me.  The memories are mostly happy but somehow I have an instinct I'll feel better if don't hear it. I have something to do a few towns away at that time and that is for the best.

Happy memories:  Daisy Troop 655 marched as reindeer and Laura (in pink coat) was Rudolf in a Boonton Christmas Parade many years ago (2000?)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

Laura liked to pick out gourds and small pumpkins in the fall and for Thanksgiving.  She usually reminded me to get some Indian corn too for hanging on the door.  This is my Thanksgiving arrangement of gourds and corn and white turnips too, put together in her honor.  At her grave, the mums are dried and spent, as they could be expected to be this late in November and as such they will carry on their vigil at her grave through Thanksgiving.  The holiday's passage is noted there with a balloon and some gourds to be added for the day.  At the last visit, we had some loud company in the nearby sugar maple tree.  It was a Pileated Woodpecker hammering away in search of some dinner.
With the cold weather, there's a skim of ice on Griffiths Pond.  A Hooded Merganser had joined the Buffleheads there the other day but now none of them are in evidence.  But the weather is set to moderate and I expect to see them again.
Memories of Thanksgiving past:  Here is Little Laura with Grandma and Grandpa and, in the other photo, 9 year old Laura has some fun, popping up from a hiding place behind the table.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone with special thoughts for those keenly feeling a recent loss, whether they are from our town, or from across the miles, and whether an old friend or new.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Laura's Pumpkin Pie

It was two years ago that Laura was still able to get to school part of the day and go a few places. She was walking around with neuroblastoma spread throughout her body, in most of her bones, in her bone marrow, and insidiously spreading in soft tissue and in her liver.  Thanks to Zometa, her bone pain was controlled.  She was walking around with platelets in the single digits.  She could not tolerate even oral chemo anymore. Here is Laura in late November of 2006 working on a project for school with her trusty friend, Pepper, alongside.  
It's time to get ready for Thanksgiving.  What would Laura have put in the shopping cart?  Besides ingredients for the pumpkin pie, Laura always reminded me to get some refrigerator crescent dinner rolls which she liked to make.  Since they were little, Laura and Suse always liked to have a Shirley Temple with a special dinner and as they became older, they made the Shirley Temples themselves,  very much enjoying the pretty and festive drink.  Our way of making it was just to mix some grenadine syrup into ginger ale until you got the pretty color. (P.S Commercial grenadine syrup is highly sweetened. A less sweet alternative might be to use pomegranate juice which is what grenadine syrup was originally made of.)
The rest of the dinner included for us such ordinary things as celery and olives, Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce, numerous vegetables including little white onions (just boiled or in some kind of white sauce) as well as all the traditional items.
Laura felt well enough that Thanksgiving of 2006 to stand up and help make a pumpkin pie.  This is the recipe we used from an ad in a magazine.  We made it last year and will make it again this year.  It's called Perfect Pumpkin Pie but it really now is "Laura's Pumpkin Pie."

Laura's Pumpkin Pie

1 ready made graham cracker pie crust
1 egg yolk slightly beaten
1 egg slightly beaten
1 can (15 oz.) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 can (14 0z.) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ginger

Brush bottom and sides of crust with 1 egg yolk. Place on baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 5 minutes. Remove from oven
In large bowl whisk together 1 egg, pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and ginger until combined.  Pour into crust.  Bake on baking sheet at 350 degrees F about 50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool for 1 hour. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Garnish as desired. Store in refrigerator.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Before we leave fall altogether (and after days of rain and wind, cold air is set to move in), one last look at the leaves under the Japanese Maple in our yard, the tree that afforded a friendly perch to take in the world and was a favorite of Laura's.

Have a couple of different sort of Laura projects in the early stage that have been keeping me busy.  Not sure yet how things will work out, so will describe at a later date!

This weekend has been centered around taking care of Suse as she recovers from having her four impacted wisdom teeth removed.   She has needed a lot of pain medicine and I don't think she is going to be ready to go back to school tomorrow.

It was two years ago that we made an overnight trip to Long Branch, NJ so that Laura could enjoy looking out at the ocean.  Long Branch was not too long a drive for an overnight trip as her Jersey shore favorite Cape May would have been.  Our room at our hotel in Long Branch
 was on a high floor and we had a great view of the beach and ocean.  We had a fun dinner while looking out at the ocean.  The next day we browsed around the trendy new shopping district.  We looked but did not buy finding the stores very expensive.   Of more interest were the statues of the Seven Presidents who used to frequent Long Branch in its heyday  a century ago.  The seven were Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Harrison, McKinley and Wilson, and they are commemorated in larger than life statues looking out over the beach. (One statue shows up in one of the photos.)

Just wanted to point out that we have a Friends of Laura Stiles page at the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) site.  The link is over on the right side of the page with Laura's Caringbridge site and other links. You can see a slide show of the 2008 Lemonade Stands there. Though at this time of the year, we do not have any stands planned, we have included a fundraising page  for ALSF.  Also we will soon put up a Giving Tree page for the Children's Neuroblastoma Cancer Foundation where a $5 donation puts an ornament on her tree.  Thank you for your support of the fight against neuroblastoma and childhood cancer in the upcoming holiday season! 

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Laura's room has become a kind of sitting room for us.  Nearly everything of Laura is still there: her collections, her books, stuffed animals, clothes and shoes still at the ready and, on display, many items from and about her life.  She had a good little television and we often all gathered there to watch something together, and still do.  There's a trio of photos propped up on the white chest in her room and every night when I turn off her little Hello Kitty lamp there, I say good night to her, speaking to those photos, including this one of her as a smiling 7 year old.

It's been raining and misting on and off for days now.  What I used to call the "Misty Days",  a brief season that we have most Novembers, that I was always eager to point out to the girls when they were young, and the occasion to quote them a favorite poem, "The Mist and All," by Dixie Willson.

Early November is the time the Japanese Maples around our yard seem to transform overnight from a somber shade of olive  to a brilliant shades of red and orange.  All of Laura's growing up years, she would have glimpsed the fiery color through our windows and admired it around our yard.  

In the tangled garden, there's still a few roses blooming as well as  snapdragons.  And in the woods around our yard, the Witch Hazel are in bloom.

I wasn't going to go there but I will.  It was two years ago that we slogged through the flooded roads, on a very rainy November day, fearing with the traffic we would miss the show Laura was so eager to see but we did make it, finding after long  delays on NJ roads and at the Tunnel, that in the last stretch our travels proceeded quickly, that we could make our way unhindered through the rainy streets of Manhattan, amid lights gleaming everywhere on the wet pavement,  to reach the theater and with helpful assistance getting us to our seats,  sit down, somehow dazed that our luck in traveling had turned around so quickly, for although the show was already underway, we had not missed much.  Yes, the show was Wicked. If we were all soon transfixed by the show, I'm not sure what word describes listening to Elphaba singing "For Good."    Did I know somehow then what that song would come to mean to me or was it that Ana Gasteyer as Elphaba rendered it so extraordinarily, or both.  

Well, read on, if you willing to have a mist in your eye, for below is a portion of "For Good"  which you will remember was read at Laura's Memorial Service, that was to come, astoundingly, only two months later:

"It may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
by being my friend
Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you...
because I knew you...
I have been changed for good..."

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Looking back at an early November, many years ago-little Laura and little Suse walk hand and hand over a carpet of leaves on Pepperidge Road.

The wintering ducks have started to return to Griffiths Pond.  Some  Bufflehead and  Ring-Necked ducks arrived on Friday.  Maybe another day will get closer for a photo though these are wild, wary ducks and that will take some luck.

Suse  took care of two nice dogs this weekend.  After an energetic session of retrieving  tennis balls, Gracie (Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever/Lab mix) and Katie (Chesapeake Bay Retriever) here pause a moment with Suse.

Many leaves have fallen but there is still a lot of color in the late turning trees and throughout the woods.  During a walk in the Tourne today, the raspberry colors of the Maple-Leaved Viburnum really caught my eye.