I grew up in the same town where my mom and dad were raised, near where their parents spend much of their lives. In the early years, this area was called Derby. It was settled by small families like millions across the US who cropped up in suburbs throughout the 1950s. Brick and framed houses lined up in blocks that connect neighborhoods like Legos to one another. A community of families whose kids rode bikes through town, dug tunnels from one back yard to the next, and where walking four blocks to the dime shop for a bag of candy was commonplace. Growing up, I knew Elsie, the lady that ran the gas station we called “Elsie’s”. We had a Duckwall Alco, a Yellow Front, and Tasty Donuts where my dad worked as a teenager. Hi-Lo Market in downtown Derby is still busy on Friday afternoons and they still ring up each purchase with a cash register that prints a ticket with the prices the cashier punched in. And, we still have a drive-in movie theater, one of just a few hundred remaining throughout the country.
We have a big Memorial Day parade each year and part of the staging route for the old cars — you know, the kind that go “ooooOOOOOOOga” — includes my street. The boys across the way that play basketball for hours everyday pulled the basketball hoop in just for the occasion. I woke up to find American flags flying on vintage cars in front of my house and neighbors walking to the main drag to watch the parade, mini flags waving. A gentle breeze plays the wind chime in my apple tree like a harp from the heavens. Growing up just off America’s Main Street with grandparents, parents, neighbors, and friends nearby, today is yesterday stopping by to visit. Dad stopped by, too. And at my house, I make cookies and coffee for guests.
Something sweet, but not too sweet. Something springy, but not with citrus. Something Grandma Florence would have made this time of year. Yes, of course, applesauce cookies sparing not event the slightest measure of good old fashioned shortening. With fresh brewed coffee and Wartime tunes in the background, Dad and I spent a couple hours visiting about baking cakes, yard projects, and the music that gave our nation a common language and rhythm in years when our country’s roots were growing deep through sacrifice and collectivism. Grandma joined us through the legacy of her applesauce cookies.
I sent some cookies home with Dad and gave him some to drop off at my brother’s house. I gave some to Don and Doris, my neighbors who have lived in the house next to mine for over 40 years. One of my best friends stopped by earlier with his daughter, asking if they could use the potty for an “emergency” stop because my house was the closest to the parade route where they were watching the festivities. I hope they’ll stop by on the way back for some applesauce cookies. There is no greater honor than the unexpected knock at the door by a beloved friend who comes home as easily to my house as to his own. There is no greater joy than offering homemade goodness, still warm from the oven, for friends and family on a spring day. And, there are no greater memories than being loved and adored, protected and doted over, than what swells up in my chest from the scent of warm applesauce cookies baked in the peaceful heart of home.