Summer Memories: Stacked Apple Salad and Blueberry Limeade
I can remember back to a time from my youth when the end of the school year was a cause for celebration, and for more reasons than the one first one that comes to mind. As soon as the bell rang to signal the end of classes, I would jump through the doors and run out to the school yard, laughing with my friends and talking about all the things we were going to do that summer. Together. As friends.
As soon as I left the yard for my short walk home, I would start daydreaming of all the other things I was going to do with my time off, besides the stuff that happens with your closest friends. I thought about summer camp and then, without pause, my annual trip outside the city to my grandparent's. That was the part of my vacation I loved the most and it was also the hardest part; waiting out the days on the calendar until it was time for my mom to drive me there was like pulling teeth.
My grandparent's grew up in a different era, with different circumstances. My grandma C never worked and never learned to drive. She relied on my grandfather for almost everything, except happiness. She was always happy and didn't need any encouragement or help in that department. They were different, but they made it work. At times they didn't seem compatible, yet the two of them always seemed happy.
My mom would pack my bags and load me in the front seat when the day finally arrived. We'd begin the drive and I would inevitably fall asleep ten minutes from our house. It was like clockwork. I always managed to wake up right when she pulled up the long driveway on the right side of the small brick house. My grapa would be outside on the swing, half asleep, and my grandma would be standing at the door with a smile that said welcome home. I loved that smile. And that woman.
The first night would be spent chatting her ear off and being spoiled. She made it seem like I was the most important person in the world, and during my vists it was exactly how I felt. I'd convince her at the end of the night to sleep on the ground with me by the screen door and I'd fall alseep in a blink with the crickets outside reminding me of my surroundings.
I would wake up that first morning and every morning of my stay with the aroma of french toast or eggs as my wake up call. My grandma would be at work doing what she loved best, making her family happy. The day was usually spent with her outside and the night was spent at the ball park with my grampa. It was the perfect balance really. She let me win at everything we did and let me believe my magic tricks really fooled her.
My grandpa volunteered at the ball park for over 25 years and I would always accompany him and chase balls throughout the night. Everyone knew him by name and because of that they knew me by name. Even as a kid. Even though I only visited for two weeks every year. We'd leave right after the game and when we'd pull up the driveway the headlights would shine a light on my grandma's face in her favourite chair by the front window. She looked happy to have us back again. From that chair she'd wave and welcome us back. And then she'd jump in the car and make my grampa take me to get something to eat.
She was a remarkably patient woman. She always let him do whatever he wanted but in return she had a few things she liked to do. Small things, but important things. She would have him drop us off at a nature trail on a weekend during the day so she could do one of the things she loved doing. She would also have him drop us at farmer's field nearby where we'd pick fresh berries and grab a small barrel of apples. I will always remember her kneeling down even though she was too old and in too much pain to do so. She did it for me. She did most things for me.
I remember walking down the long fields and finding a spot that looked just right. She always found the best spot, although looking back I think she stopped when she couldn't walk any farther. We'd grab the blueberries and try not to make a mess. I'm sure I squeezed them too hard and had the navy blue ink jump on my shirt. And I know I didn't care. I had a day out with my favourite person!
We would get back late in the afternoon and she would make me a batch of blueberry lemonade or limeade and we'd sit on the back deck and revel in the moments handed to us. She was the world's greatest cook because she made whatever we asked for. I always ended up with a navy blue line painted above my upper lip as proof of my day out with her.
I can't think of the last time I've gone berry picking. It's been much too long. I rely on my memories with my grandparent's and those wonderful summers spent together. I would do anything to have her back to take me one more time. One more day. And I'd love to see the look on my grampa's face sitting behind the steering wheel wondering where we went off to and when he got to go home again.
- 1 pint (2 1/2 cups) of fresh blueberries
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 8 large limes
- 1 lime, zest
- 1/8 cup vodka
- Keep aside 1/2 cups of blueberries for later.
- Lightly muddle the remaining berries and add to a small saucepan. Add sugar and water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Remove pan from the heat and strain through a fine sieve, discarding solids. Cover and refrigerate the syrup until later.
- When ready for a drink, completely fill with ice cubes in a tall rock glass. Add a few reserved berries. Mix juice from 1 lime with a pinch of zest and 1/4 cups of the blueberry syrup. Add an ounce of vodka, if you prefer, and pour over the ice. Stir.
- Add a lime wedge and serve. Serves 8 tall glasses.