My girls and I leave the city Saturday morning and head southwest to my hometown for an oft-lauded wine festival and visiting with old friends. We listen to classic rocks songs on the radio which instigate one memory after another - a nice accompaniment to the flat, boring stretch of highway. As we get close to Essex County, the sky gets more and more overcast and we curse the imminent rain for intruding on the much anticipated party.
Navigating the once-daily haunts due south of HWY 401 is like I always say: everything’s strange and everything’s the same. I drop the girls off at their dad’s and go to Debbie’s where we catch up over a Guinness. I hope you have a friend like her.
The rain is coming down hard and steady and we carry on cursing it over a drive to the grocery store to pick up what will become the beautiful spread of a breakfast the next morning. Once we’ve all gathered back at the house we pack up golf umbrellas and plastic sheeting to cover wet picnic table seats, and the rain lets up just then. Even the weather gods shouldn’t mess with serious wine drinkers intent on a good time and happy homecoming.
The grounds are a bit mucky but certainly not “Woodstock” as some grim souls had predicted. As soon as we walk into the place and before I can get some wine into my glass we start running into old friends. I didn’t send out a “facebook blast” saying I was going down, thinking that with the short turnover in time I’d be content to bump into people as the fates would have us do.
There are lots of long hugs. I don’t know if I can describe my gratification in the love I got from my old friends – to still "belong" to them. I make my home in Toronto now, but despite a number of moves around different neighbourhoods I still don’t feel as if I “belong” anywhere. Maybe that’s related to my single, empty-nester state. But whatever it is, these wonderful old pals can’t possibly know how easily they filled what has been a rather empty vessel for quite some time.
Next morning at Debbie and Len’s we all sleep late, maybe a little groggy from all those bottles of that excellent D’Angelo Foch. After the big breakfast, Deb and I sit out in the backyard with spiked orange juice and admire the day – particularly the clouds.
Not willing to waste the weather gods’ change of heart, we go back to the festival site and see some more people, and try some foods. It's such a beautiful spot beside the river, and it is great to look around the town and all its changes.
As I told a couple of my colleagues about the weekend Monday morning, one said she thought I looked particularly happy. She’s right. This sort of weekend is one of those reminders about what exactly it is that sustains us. I don’t care what they say. You can go home again, and they will all love you as much as they did the day you left.
This is a response to Willow's latest Magpie Tales visual creative writing prompt. Visit Magpie Tales and find all kinds of wonderful writers and poets and their takes on the prompt and giving hearty support to each others' creative efforts. Give it a try! A creative challenge is good for you!
I come from tomato country, in what many call Canada’s “banana belt” – Essex County. You never tasted a tomato as good as a warm, fresh picked field tomato. No tomato was redder, richer and full of flavour as those. Sadly, most of the tomatoes there are machine harvested now, and with the forced ripening for one-time harvesting, they have never tasted the same.
There was a tomato factory in Amherstburg when I was a kid, and every August the familiar tomato soup smell permeated the air as the farmers rolled in daily with their wagonloads of tomatoes, and the colourful and exotic migratory workers from Jamaica would appear in the streets. Sometimes the boys in my neighbourhood would run after the tractors and hitch a ride on the back of the wagon. That tomato soup smell always reminded us that back to school was coming.
When I grew up I married into a farm family and one of their crops was tomatoes. Workers would come in from Quebec each year to pick them. For a few years before my kids were born I would sit on the planting machine with the others and feed the seedlings into the grippers on the wheel. The steady clicking and turning of the machine had a meditative effect – and made the job rather pleasant, and I learned to love the bitter smell of the plants. Later in the season we would hoe weed patches – a much harder job but you sure didn’t have any problems sleeping at night!
When I think of those years I think of gorging on summer’s bounty. We would have fresh corn and toasted tomato sandwiches every night for supper. We canned pickles and tomato sauce and our freezers were stocked with bags of corn, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli and asparagus. I remember long days, with barbeques and dogs and deeps suntans and the smell of dirt and grass on my stained, calloused hands.
These are the things I think about when I find field tomatoes on the market in August and I pick one up and take a deep whiff.