Paladini Potpie

Adventures within The Crust!


Stuffed Artichokes

We didn’t eat a lot of vegetables when I was a girl growing up in Ohio. My dad didn’t think it was a meal unless there was a big plate of bread on the table and my mom didn’t consider it a meal unless there were potatoes. Our vegetables ran along the lines of grey-green canned peas or spinach, with an occasional celebratory head of iceberg lettuce. Still, I grew into healthy adulthood – and a love affair with fresh vegetables.

I tasted my first artichoke when I was about 16. We had moved to California and I had a babysitting job for “some rich people” who introduced me to that most wondrous vegetable! I love them every way they can be prepared – so you can imagine my anticipation when I walk in our garden and see four strong beautiful artichoke plants!

My friend, Kathy, who gave me a couple of the plants, tells me that once they start producing I’ll have more artichokes than I know what to do with. I hope so.

I said I like them any way they can be cooked, and that’s true, but when John and I were first married we had dinner at his parents’ house and his mom introduced me to the very best artichoke recipe in the world. There is quite a bit of prep-work, so I don’t make them real often, but they are worth the trouble. Hands-down, Stuffed Artichokes are the Paladini Family Favourite!

Stuffed Artichokes
Combine 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs with 1/2 cup dry parmesan cheese. Add about 1/2 cup hot chicken bullion and a little olive oil. Set aside.

Wash four large artichokes, work at spreading out the leaves. With a sharp-edged spoon (like a grapefruit spoon), reach in and scoop out the center thistle fuzz. Wash them well again to remove any fuss that clings to the artichoke.

Depending on the effort you want to put into the project, you can cut the pointed tip off each leaf with a pair of kitchen shears. I used to do this all the time, but I’ve discovered it is not really necessary. They still look pretty, and taste just as good.

Definitely do cut stems from the artichokes so they will stand up in the pan. (I didn’t do this the first time I made them, and it was a mini disaster of bread-goo floating in water…and a crying new wife.)

With your fingers place a small amount of bread crumb filling between each section (leaf) of the artichokes.

Place a plate or low steaming rack in a heavy Dutch oven and stand the artichokes on it. Add about 2 inches of water – just till the water reaches the bottom of the artichokes. *You will want to make sure the water does not go dry and you will probably have to add boiling water during cooking.

Drizzle olive oil on each artichoke and steam them for about 45 minutes.

Test for doneness by gently tugging at one of the leaves. (Make sure the Dutch oven does not get dry!)

Serve the artichokes in individual bowls with olive oil, providing an empty bowl for leaves.

Artichokes can also be cooled and cut in wedges to serve as an appetizer or antipasto.

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Chapter Seven – “A Novel Adventure” by Jane Jardscg

Sarah woke with a start. She lay in the semi-darkness of the motel room wondering what had wakened her. It hadn’t been a nightmare this time – she was all too familiar with the pounding heart and the cold gripping fear that always came when she woke from those dreams. No, this was actually a gentle comforting waking, and Sarah breathed a happy little sigh. She was no closer to answers than she had been the day before, but she was filled with an unusual peace.

She thought about her evening with Uncle Will and the solid goodness he had exuded. Sitting across from her in Holly’s Diner he had reached over and taken her hand. “Sarah,” he had said, “It’s no coincidence that we’re both here at the same time. I believe the good Lord wants us to team up and get through this together, and really find some answers we both need. But we’re going to make sure we pray about every step we take, okay?” With that he had solemnly begun a simple prayer, asking for God’s guidance and direction and ending with a prayer for ‘peace that passeth understanding.’ Sarah smiled into the darkness, thinking of Uncle Will’s quaint King James phraseology. “That must be what I feel though,” she reflected, “the peace that passeth understanding. I sure don’t understand why I’d feel peace with my whole world turned upside down and that witch living in grandma’s house!”

She reached over and flipped on the bedside lamp, and once again picked up the small black bible. She hardly even knew where to start. She turned the pages at random, finally tossing the book aside in frustration.

She snapped the light off once more and stared at the opposite wall where a blinking neon light shining through the mini-blinds made a striped pattern brighten and grow dim. Bright and dim. Bright and dim. Like a pulse. She could faintly hear music coming from the cocktail lounge across the parking lot and it occurred to her that she might take a walk over and have a drink. Maybe that would help her sleep. But she remained motionless. It really was nice to just lie here and be still. Be still. And from somewhere deep in her memory Sarah remembered the words “Be still, and know that I am God.” Be still….

And the next thing Sarah knew the blinking light was glorious brightness forcing its way through the cracks of the blinds. She was awake and completely rested as she crossed the room to open the blinds and welcome the day. She looked at the alarm clock – 8:35! She and Will had arranged to meet back at Holly’s at nine o’clock. She’d better get moving!

Twenty minutes later, dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt, Sarah stood at the bathroom mirror putting on some lipstick when a small red flashing light on the bedside telephone caught her eye. She had a message! The phone must have rung while she was in the shower. It was probably Uncle Will wondering where she was.

But the voice was not Will Barton’s. “Hello, Sarah. It’s Jon. I know you said you needed some space, but I miss you, Honey, and I…well I can’t really talk about it on this machine, but I…something has happened and I want to talk about it with you. I’ll call you after awhile. Or you can call me…”

What in the world? That was not like Jonathan. Besides she hadn’t told him where she’d be staying. She hadn’t even known where she’d be staying, she thought ruefully. But in a small town like Hillbrook it was a simple matter to call the one or two motels and inquire. She wondered what would have been important enough for Jonathan to set aside his normal reserve and call looking for her after she’d made it clear that she wanted time alone. Well she couldn’t think about it now. She was late already. She stood indecisively for a moment, and then quickly dialed Jonathan’s number. The faraway ring sounded once, twice… Sarah pushed the button down with her finger, replaced the receiver and hurried out to her car.

Uncle Will grinned broadly, as he waved Sarah into the booth, brushing aside her breathless apology for her tardiness. “I’ve already ordered, and here’s Lucy with your coffee.” He paused as the pretty young waitress set a cup of steaming coffee in front of Sarah, “We’re having pancakes with blackberry syrup…. Remember?”

“Oh Uncle Will! I do remember. We used to have blackberry pancakes all the time when I lived with you.” Sarah felt sharp tears prick at her eyes. This man was so very dear! “Aunt Leona never would have any because she was always on a diet, and you said it was okay ‘cause you could eat enough for both of you!”

They laughed together and Will shook his head. “Poor Leona. She kept such a tight rein on herself. I always tried to get her to lighten up a little but…” Will stopped suddenly, as if realizing that nothing would be gained by being critical of his absent wife.

Between bites of pancakes dripping with butter and blackberry syrup, Will filled Sarah in on the course his life had taken over the last few years. “After your Aunt Leona left I just about went crazy,” he admitted, “I couldn’t work. I could hardly think straight. Fortunately I had quite a few articles I’d written and filed away, so the syndicate used those, and they really cut me a lot of slack. They even republished some of my earlier columns… I kept hoping she’d come back. I prayed she’d come back. But then when the divorce papers were served to me I knew it was for real. She didn’t want anything, Sarah. She just wanted to be free to do her art. Maybe I should have split our community property with her, sent it to her in care of her lawyer or something…but I was mad – you know, honey? I didn’t even know where she was! So I got the money and she got her freedom. Then I got back to work, and I have to say the Lord has really blessed me. The syndication is over two hundred now and they’ve published a book of my articles that’s actually selling pretty well.”

Sarah remembered how excited they’d been when Uncle Will’s syndicated column had reached 50. “Wow, that’s great, Uncle Will! Maybe you’ll be as famous as Will Rogers someday! I always said you reminded me of him!”

“Well, the Lord’s blessed me, that’s for sure.” He affirmed, “But I’d give it all up and be poor again if I could go back to what Leona and I had in those early years – ” He broke off suddenly, staring out the window. “Well I’ll be…” he stared out the window as a heavy set woman disappeared into the bank just across the street. “Come on, Honey. I think we’re onto something.”

Setting a twenty dollar bill on the table, Will took Sarah’s elbow and guided her to his car. “Here, why don’t you put this on,” he handed her a baseball cap from the rear seat, “and do you have some sunglasses?”

Sarah giggled. “I feel like a spy, Uncle Will! What’s going on?” Will grinned as he sat low in the driver’s seat, the engine now running, the car poised to pull out of the driveway.

“Ve vill follow ze suspect,” he intoned as Agnes emerged from the bank and got back into her car.

They continued the lighthearted chatter and silliness as they drove down the highway, staying a discreet behind Agnes’ big touring car. “There’s the old swimming hole.” Will pointed off the right of the highway.

“Oh yeah…Grandma never wanted me to come down here when I lived with her,” Sarah remembered, “but Aunt Leona said she and her friends came here all the time during the summer. They called it their swimming hole but I think it was really their gossip hole.” She laughed. “It didn’t sound like they swam very much. Aunt Leona said it was a certain group of girls from the town and some from farther out in the country – they all got together and talked and played down here in their secret place. And most of the girls would sit on their little handmade quilts. Aunt Leona said quilting wasn’t her strong point, but she said my mother loved to quilt. Mother was a real homebody. Aunt Leona said she did everything well.”

Sarah knew she was babbling, but she continued. “My mother didn’t come down here as often as Aunt Leona, I guess, but she did come sometimes. Aunt Leona said they all liked it when mother came ‘cause she watched all the smaller kids – told them about nature and bible stories and just showed them interesting little things. She must have been an angel!” Sarah stopped short, tears stinging her green eyes.

Will chuckled. “An angel. Yep – I guess that’s what young Michael Kent thought too when he decided that rafting down the river was a good pastime for a summer afternoon! I had my first job at the Texaco station down there by the bridge where the river narrows. That’s where Mike always pulled his canoe out. I was new here in Hillbrook, and he was one of the first kids I met. That was the same summer young Cammie Fitzgerald drowned and – ”

“Wait a minute!” Sarah interrupted, “Fitzgerald? I knew that Cammie girl drowned down here. That’s why Grandma didn’t like me to come down and play by the river. But I don’t think I ever knew her last name was Fitzgerald. It was the Fitzgerald Foundation that funded Aunt Leona’s drama scholarship. Any connection?”

“Oh yes. Geoffrey Fitzgerald was a great patron of the arts. Every year he gave one of the graduating seniors a full scholarship to a fine arts college. It was a memorial to his daughter, Cammie.

“She was several years older than Leona, I think, and very active in drama at the high school and even back when she was junior high. It was her daddy that got the Festival Theatre folk to open up auditions so the junior high students could try out. That little Cammie gal sure didn’t like it though when Leona got the lead part in “Hamlet” when she was only twelve. I guess that was the first time Cammie ever tried out and didn’t get the lead. After that Leona always got the leads, all through high school.

“You know she almost had to give up that Ophelia part…I guess she’d already committed to a full time babysitting job that summer before she was chosen for that part in the play. She said her mom was going to make her keep that commitment and then Agnes took the babysitting job to help her out. Leona just about worshipped old Agnes for that!” Uncle Will smiled ruefully. “She said if Agnes hadn’t helped her out like that, her acting career would have ended before it began.” He shook his head sadly, “I don’t know that that wouldn’t have been better all then way around.”

Sarah reached over to give her uncle’s hand a shy little squeeze. They drove in silence for some miles, enjoying the rural beauty of the countryside around Hillbrook Township. Gazing sidelong at Uncle Will’s face, Sarah could easily guess his painful train of thought. In a wave of courageous charity she encouraged him to speak. “Tell me about how she was, Uncle Will. Aunt Leona, I mean.”

“Well, of course the first time I saw your Aunt was that summer the Festival Theatre began their outdoor Shakespeare plays. We’ve were talking about it back there. Leona was a most striking “Ophelia.” Such a transformation took place in that girl when she stepped on the stage.

“All the world’s as stage.” murmured Sarah.

Uncle Will glanced at her quickly and smiled. “I’m afraid I was a bit like Prince Hamlet myself in those early days, Sarah! I remember I wrote her a most extravagant love letter, bidding her to ‘doubt that the stars were fire and to doubt that the sun did move, to doubt truth to be a liar, but never to doubt my love!’” I made it my business to read up on what she was interested in, but that Shakespeare stuff was sure a bit to bite off for a fifteen year old kid! We were only kids. She was only twelve but she knew just what she wanted, and I was only fifteen. But I knew I wanted her!”

Sarah stared uncomfortably out the window, wishing she hadn’t allowed the conversation down this path, but Will continued as if lost in the memory. “I followed her to New York 6 years later when she went to Steadwyk Acadamy. I enrolled at the State College and spent time with her when she had time to give me. Then Lois and Mike were killed and Agnes left so suddenly for Europe.

“You know, I believe she’s going to the airport!” Sarah interrupted suddenly.

“I think you’re right,” confirmed Will as they followed the car now leaving the main road. “What do you make of that?” They pulled the car to the side of the road and watched silently as Agnes pulled her car into the lot marked “long term parking.”


While Walking…Hailey

Hailey waited on the sidewalk in front of her house. She lived – or lives – in one of the low income duplexes I pass on my morning walk. It had become her habit to watch for Simon and me, and then join us for the few blocks to the place where she turned a different way to catch her school bus.

She loved Simon and laughed loudly as he jumped up and down, tugging and capering on his leash. “He’s a puppy,” I explained, “that’s why he jumps up and down like that.”

“He’s a puppy?” Hailey stared at the 65 pound mass of black fur.

“Yes, he turned one in December,” I assured her.

Hailey looked thoughtful. “I believe that,” she finally said, “because I’m big for my age. I’m big and I’m only nine. Simon’s big and he’s only a puppy and I’m big but I’m only a little girl.”

Hailey is big for her age. She’s several inches shorter than I am and weighs at least 200 pounds. She’s also young for her age.

We never talk about anything too profound. Sometimes she tells me what she saw on television, but mostly we just laugh at Simon’s antics.

One day she surprised me though. “What would you wish if you could have anything you wanted?”

I was caught off guard. “Well, I think I would wish that everyone I know and love could know how much Jesus loves them,” I finally said carefully.

Hailey looked at me a little perplexed. Then she stopped and opened her back pack. She took out a bright plastic toy with some kind of spinner. I was so nonplussed that I didn’t even take a good look at the toy.

She gave the spinner a spin and then peered into a little window on the front of the toy. She held it up for me to see. There was a picture of Shrek and the window had a conversation bubble that was apparently activated by the spinner. The words in the conversation bubble were, “I don’t think so.” Hailey looked sad.

(Shades of our old fortune-telling eight-ball! But wisdom from Shrek – give me a break!)

“What would you really wish for?” Hailey persisted. “Would you like to have a lot of money?”

“No, I have enough money,” I was feeling something almost like bewildered panic and lost opportunity. There wasn’t enough time to have the conversation I really wanted to have with this little girl.

“I guess I’d wish that my children would grow up and marry people who love Jesus.” It was a lame answer, but it was honest.

She turned the toy over to the other side and flipped the spinner again. Smiling, she held it up for me to see. This time it was Fiona’s picture, and the little conversation bubble said, “There’s a good chance of it.”

“So what would you wish for?” I asked Hailey.

“I’d wish the kids wouldn’t make fun of me.” She said matter-of-factly.

My mind was in a whirl and I groped for some comforting or encouraging words to say, but we were at the place where Hailey had to leave us to catch her school bus.

“Bye,” she smiled at me. “Bye Simon!” With a wave she ran across the street.

That was the last time I saw Hailey. I don’t know if her family moved, or if her parents cautioned her about walking and talking with strangers. But every time I pass the duplexes I think about her, and pray that she will find out how much Jesus loves her.

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Chapter Six – “A Novel Adventure” by Jane Jardscg

“Uncle Will!” Sarah cried. “I can’t believe it’s you! After all these years. You’re here too!” Tears flooded her eyes and softly cascaded down her cheeks.

“My goodness, girl, you’re the spittin’ image of your mother! I would have known you anywhere! Those enchanting green eyes run rampant in the Tucker women. And I guess I know firsthand the charms you Tucker women possess!”

“Well, Uncle Will, I’ve definitely got Tucker blood, but I’d like to believe that I’ve got some of my father’s looks and traits too. I guess you can understand, after being married to my Aunt Leona for so many years, how I dread any inherited traits from that Tucker woman!” Sarah was busy trying to wipe her tears away with the back of her hand. She smiled as she did so, because she was beginning to feel that now was the perfect time for repairing broken family ties. Surely her uncle wouldn’t be hugging her if he held anything against her.

“Hey, let’s sit down! I’m hungry as an ox! We can catch up as we eat.” Sarah’s Uncle Will maneuvered the two of them back to the table he had been sitting at. “I’ve already ordered. Here, let’s get a menu for you.” He waved to the waitress, who seemed to be on quite familiar terms with her uncle. “Sue, could you bring a menu for my niece, Sarah – Sarah Kent.” After the waitress exchanged pleasantries with Sarah and took her order, the two long lost relatives looked at each other and began to speak simultaneously. “I’m sorry. You go first.” The always polite uncle offered.

“Well I really don’t know where to start,” Sarah hesitated, “I’m at a point of my life where I need some answers. I really need to know who I am and why my life ended up being such a roller coaster ride. I came back here to Hillbrook to search. Search for grandma and my father’s family. I’ve got to make some sense out of my life, Uncle Will. I need to know who I am and who I want to be. I hate to be melodramatic, and hopefully I don’t sound like some lost soul to you…”

As her uncle sincerely shook his head, Sarah continued. “I drove out to Grandma Rose’s old farmhouse. I don’t know what I expected, but I was horrified when I saw Agnes come to the door. I never thought in a million years that she would be living in Grandma’s house! Of all people! Agnes. I know now that she was the cause of so much pain and wrongdoing. Why is she there?”

“That’s a long story,” began Will, “Apparently, when your grandmother moved away she left her house and property with a neighbor to manage. She told him she would return in a few years and he could keep whatever rental money the place brought in. In return, he would make sure it was properly maintained and let out. Your grandmother never told anyone where she was going and no one was ever able to find her whereabouts after the neighbor died. The property was turned over to the courts, and your Aunt Leona was given the deed to it after the seven year waiting period. Now this all happened while you were living with us. I think your grandmother was so heartsick after Leona took you away that she just went away herself. Well then, since she was never heard from or found during those seven years, the house was Leona’s to do with as she pleased. So of course Agnes moved in. Gossip has it that Leona gave it to her, but I happen to know that’s not true.”

Her Uncle Will paused briefly while he decided whether or not he wanted to explain his feelings. He took a deep breath and continued. I was a little hopeful that Leona might move back to Hillbrook and live in the old home place. I don’t know if you can understand this, Sarah, but I still love Leona. Even with all her selfishness and lack of integrity, I love that woman. I made a commitment to love and care for her through good times and hard times. I meant that.” After a long pause he added, “I don’t believe she would have ever turned against me if it hadn’t been for Agnes’ meddling. Agnes seemed to have some hold on your Aunt Leona, Sarah. Somehow I think it has something to do with something that happened when they were kids. Still, I love her.”

“I’m sorry, Uncle,” Sarah interrupted, “but I can’t understand that. I never want to see my aunt Leona again. This morning when I was standing there in front of the farmhouse, I realized how much my grandmother meant to me. Aunt Leona, through her constant slanders, turned my heart against Grandma Rose. For too, too many years I believed the lies that Leona and Agnes fed me about my grandmother. What would Grandma think about the way I turned out? It was Sarah’s turn for a silent pause. Her facial expression revealed to her uncle that she was hurting and struggling against painful memories that he could only guess at.

“Here, I am thirty-one years old,” thought Sarah, “What kind of person have I become, Grandma? I’m afraid you’d be awfully unhappy with the wildness of my life. I’m like that morning glory vine you talked about. I guess you’d say I needed some cutting and pruning to put my life back on the right.”

Uncle Will brought Sarah back to the present. “You know, darlin’, I never once thought you meant those hateful words you said to me that day I was forced to leave.”

“Oh Uncle, I was tricked into saying those things. Agnes convinced me that you and Leona would get back together if I made you feel sorry for taking sides with me. I was a pawn in her hand! She knew just how to manipulate all of us. I didn’t mean a word I said to you that awful day. You can’t imagine how many times I have wished I could take those words back. I was afraid you’d never understand or forgive me for them.

Her uncle’s face slowly spread into a warm smile. I felt like a father to you for those few short years we lived together. I knew how you were being torn apart after you were taken from your grandmother when you were nine. You must have heard your aunt and I quarrel about who you were best off with. I pleaded with her to send you back to Rose…only problem was, by then we couldn’t find her. And I loved you.”

“You were a father to me, the only one I ever knew.” Sarah was beaming at the man across the table in a way that felt so right. The feeling this provoked in Will was one that all men are born to desire – he had wanted to protect and nurture her when she was young, and now, even though she had matured into a woman, he still wanted to protect and defend her. He had never had children of his own and yet God had provided this little girl for him to love and father.

“You and Grandma were the only ones I knew, without a doubt, truly loved me. With both of you I felt safe and secure.” Sarah’s tears began to flow once again. This time, however, she didn’t think she’d ever be able to stop them.

Her uncle slid into the seat next to her and put his arm around her. “It’s okay, honey. It’s going to be okay.”


Back in the motel room, Sarah changed into the nightgown she had packed. She was exhausted! Emotionally drained. Who would have known it was going to be such a day?! After many minutes of splashing cold water onto her tear stained face, she tiredly made her way to the motel bed and crawled under the covers. She shivered from the coldness and the strangeness of the sheets that she drew up over her. She lay there going over the events of the day. The peace she had hoped to capture by coming back to Hillbrook still eluded her, but the accidental reuniting with her uncle was the beginning of a healing process. And the healing felt good.

Still she couldn’t accept the fact that Will loved Leona after all she had put him through. What had he said? “I made a commitment to love and care for her.” A commitment…what did that really mean? Would Jonathan keep such a commitment if she turned out to be an unlovable wife? She might not even know how to be a good wife.

So many questions still to be answered. On the top of the list in Sarah’s heart was ‘Where did you go, Grandma?’

She rose from the bed and dug through her suitcase, retrieved the small black bible, and promised herself that she’d start reading it tomorrow. Surely some of Grandma’s love had originated from this book. Who knows what she might gain from the book that her grandmother seemed to build her life on. It was worth a try. As she drifted off to sleep she was repeating softly in her mind, “I need you, Grandma…I need you…”

To be continued…

If you’re new to “Paladini Potpie” or haven’t visited in awhile you might want to read about Jane Jardscg and how this Novel Adventure came to be.

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Summertime Cucumber Salad

Our first little cucumber is close to being ready to be picked from the garden – (I have no bitterness or jealousy over the fact that I’ve already been given three huge cukes from David and Amanda’s garden. Nope…no jealousy at all…) – and in the meantime I was thrilled to see them for fourteen cents each at the grocery store yesterday. Fourteen Cents! Wheeee!

All these facts tell me it must be time to make my soon-to-be-world-famous Summertime Cucumber Salad. (Especially since my friend Kathy gave me a glorious big red onion from her garden the other day.)

This is a salad that always gets applause, and which always brings me recipe requests. It’s kind of embarrassing since there is not much of a recipe. We have an ongoing bowl of this in the fridge all summer long and I’m happy to share the recipe. It’s cool and crispy and delicious, and you can make it in way less than 10 minutes..

Summertime Cucumber Salad

Four or five cucumbers, peeled and sliced
One large red onion, thinly sliced
One packet of Good Seasons Salad Dressing mix, prepared according to directions.
(or a bottle of your favourite Italian Salad Dressing would probably work as well)

Alternate layers of red onion and cucumber slices in a leak-proof Tupperware-type container.

Pour salad dressing on top. Refrigerate at least a couple of hours. You will want to flip the container every few hours or every few days to make sure all the onion and cucumber slices are evenly coated and well marinaded.

What could be easier? Try it! I guarantee you’ll get rave reviews.

And here is a somewhat similar recipe that’s just as popular, although it’s probably not as Summerish as the cucumber-onion salad.

Easy Three Bean Salad

1 can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 can of green beans, drained.

Toss the beans together and cover with prepared Good Seasons Salad Dressing Mix. You can keep it it a big jar for weeks and weeks.


*One more little hint from the Paladini kitchen – if you buy those marinated artichoke hearts that come in oil, you can save the oil and use it to make the Salad Dressing. (And if you are a fan of the artichokes themselves, feel free to cut some up and add them to either of these salads.)

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Chapter Five – “A Novel Adventure” by Jane Jardscg

Sarah hated conflict. She always had. Yet here she was face to face with Agnes, the woman who had altered the course of her childhood. The woman whose lies and deception had caused her to be abruptly uprooted from her loving happy home with Grandma Rose. There had even been whispered rumors that her manipulations may have even led to the death of Sarah’s young parents.
She couldn’t say for sure how long she had been standing there, her mouth open, her mind racing. Sarah had traveled to her childhood home for one reason only – to find healing, and with that healing to find peace. She had hoped that by returning to this cherished farmhouse she could find the answers for which her heart so desperately longed.

She had brought her long forgotten birthday bible with her. The one Grandma had so lovingly given her that last year they were together. Sarah had hoped that perhaps by sitting once more in Grandma’s wing chair and reading her own version of Grandma’s softly worn black leather bible, she could uncover the secret to the peace that had pervaded her grandmother’s difficult life.

It had only been two short weeks since Jonathan had asked her to marry him. The question had come as no surprise to her. They had been friends for so long, their lives becoming ever more entwined. But the weight of the commitment had staggered her. Her hesitations drove them apart, and she spent days avoiding him. Sarah recalled the hurt and confusion in his eyes, and the memory broke her heart again. She had no reassuring explanations to offer him, just the desperate plea, “Jonathan, I need to go home.”

But where was her home? Until now Sarah had thought it was here at Grandma’s farmhouse…her heart had brought her here, her prayers had brought her here. But now, standing before her was Agnes…

Sarah shrank back, away from the door, away from Agnes, away from the painful memories. She stepped back and ran across the verandah and down the wooden steps. She could hear the hollow pounding of her heart. Tears began streaming down her cheeks and sobs choked the air from her throat. She reached the car, fumbled for the keys, started the engine, and bumped down the long driveway in a cloud of dust. Squinting through her tears, Sarah stared into the rear view window at Grandma’s porch, only to see Agnes standing where Grandma had once stood.

She looked away and continued down the long dusty road. The road she had ventured on just this morning, so eager, so full of hope and expectations. Her shoulders drooped with disappointment and her heart hurt with the pain of the long forgotten memories Agnes’ face had awakened.

Sarah did not have the energy or the understanding to begin the long journey back, so she decided to drive though town and find a place to stay. At any other time she would have paused to become reacquainted with the small town, relishing its old-fashioned appeal. But not today. The experience of the morning clouded her eyes and dulled her senses. She remembered seeing a “motel” sign earlier that morning. Sarah was relieved to see the “NO” remained unlit beside the red “VACANCY” announcement.

Pulling up to the guest entrance, she left the car running and numbly went to check in. Once inside the room she threw herself on the bed and escaped into the vacancy of sleep.

Later, awakening to a darkened room and a lonely feeling in her heart, Sarah became aware of the emptiness of her stomach. She sat up, determined to break out of the darkness and despair.

Driving down the quiet, softly lit streets, she found an appealing diner in the older, familiar part of town. Sarah entered the diner and waited to be seated. It was then that she saw him.

At first she wasn’t sure – it had been so long and his head was turned slightly away from her view. Then she saw his beloved profile and she knew. Her heart pounded and her cheeks flushed. She was not ready, not now, not yet. She looked down, but it was too late. He had already turned and their eyes had met. He stood and smiled and she moved toward him. He opened his arms and she walked in. It all came flooding back – so many memories, so much feeling. His tenderness overwhelmed her.

As his warmth and strength enveloped her, Sarah knew it was here that she belonged. It was here she felt at home.

To be continued…

If you’re new to “Paladini Potpie” or haven’t visited in awhile you might want to read about Jane Jardscg and how this Novel Adventure came to be.


Summertime Adventures

Summertime! Here in California, some of us were beginning to doubt if it would really come this year. Yesterday I was visiting with my little neighbor kids, riding their scooters up and down the sidewalk. They’re glad school is out, but already expressing slight boredom.

I’m sure I probably got bored sometimes in the summer when I was a kid, but as I look back, all I remember is a long stretch of wonderful golden days. Playing and hiking in the woods near our house…swimming in the creek at Pin Hook Bridge…sitting in the hayloft of the barn across the road, eating fresh drippy tomatoes and reading and reading and reading.

Most of my childhood summer adventures were free, but I think it cost a quarter to get into the swimming pool at Coney Island, outside of Cincinnati Ohio. Every Friday my brother and sister and I walked about a mile to our country school, and rode a school bus to the Coney Island Swimming Pool. (To this very day I can’t smell Coppertone suntan lotion without being transported back to the Coney Island swimming pool.) Standing in line, hugging our towels and waiting to pay our quarter, we always saw two signs painted on the wall. One of them billed Coney Island’s “Sunlite Pool” as The largest recirculating pool in the world. The other told us, “You don’t stop playing because you get old. You get old because you stop playing.”

I’ve never forgotten those two signs; they’re inherent in the Coppertone smell. And as I grew up I determined to never stop playing. Who wants to get old?

Billie Holiday sang about “Summertime…when the livin’ is easy” and when I was a young mom I decided to make sure the livin’ would be easy in the summertime! There would still be chores, and there would still be lots of “required reading”, but we would cut ourselves a lot of slack and plan for as much fun as we could stuff into a summer! I wanted my kids to look back on their summers as a long string of golden days, like I do.

And I think it worked. A few days ago I was talking with Matthew, who is now 34. “Remember how we used to go to Turlock Lake every week in the summer?” he asked me. “And we always stopped at the frostee place on the way home.” Of course I remembered! Dozens and dozens and dozens of drives out the country highway to the lake – a happy blur. Not a long drive. Not a lot of money. But the memories are etched in Matthew’s heart with bright clarity.

“And remember we used to ride the bikes out to see the donkey?” He continued to reminisce, “We took carrots and he always came over to the fence to see us.” He even remembered that we named the donkey, Balaam, after the prophet who met a donkey.

I think it’s important to have traditions – happy memories of continuity. But summertime is also a good time to do small spontaneous silly things – those kinds of things you always say, “We should do that sometime…”

For example, driving north on highway 99 we always saw a footbridge arching across the freeway, and the kids always said it would be fun to walk across it and look down at the traffic. We’ll do that someday, we always told each other. Finally we decided to make a list of all those we-should-do-that-someday things, and do them in the summer…“when the livin’ is easy.”

And we did.

We drove nine or ten miles north to park the car and walk slowly across the footbridge. We stopped and looked down at the cars. Then back again, and home. Such a small thing, but it’s one of the summertime adventures we always remember.

Another time, when Monica was stroller age, construction had just been completed on a big multi-story parking garage downtown. The construction was finished but it was not open yet. Matthew sighed with delight, “Wouldn’t it be BAD to ride a skateboard all the way from the top of that?” Wow, that sounded like a great summertime adventure! So I pushed Monica in her stroller and Matthew and his little friend brought their skateboards and we walked to the top of the parking garage and ran and rolled all the way down!

A few years later when Monica was older and David had joined the family, one of them had the idea of digging a pool in our back yard. We decided that was one spontaneous idea we couldn’t really go along with. But John came up with a brilliant alternative! He lined the bed of his truck with plastic sheeting and filled it with water and before long it was also filled with kids!

I don’t remember what kind of checklist we made for our spontaneous summertime adventures. I don’t think it was too fancy, but it did the job of prompting our memories. Our friend Alison has fine-tuned the summertime adventure list, though.

Alison is one of John’s colleagues – a brilliant, hard-working, professional woman – and one of the most delightful hands-on mommies I have ever seen. I saw recently that she made her own variation of a Summertime Adventure List, and I complimented her on her creativity. She told me how much her kids like to get involved in planning the list. And then they enjoy doing the things. But she said they have almost as much fun checking them off the list afterwards!

And so, tomorrow is the official first day of summer. Enjoy it! Think about traditions and adventures and spontaneity…and long golden days of fun.