Growing up my father always tried to make sure we had opportunity to go on a little vacation during the summer each year. We would take the two and a half hour trip “down the shore” to Wildwood, NJ in our light blue Volkswagen bus and spend another hour or two looking for a vacancy that would house eight children and two adults within our budget. We loved these trips and as kids, didn’t realize what a financial burden this probably was on our parents. Once again, I am grateful for the sacrifices they made to insure the good memories of our childhood.
One year the eight of us were outside playing with a basketball and some pimple balls (remember those?) on the driveway of the efficiency we rented. We were trying to stay out of Mom and Dad’s hair as they unloaded the van. It didn’t take long for the landlord to start complaining about the noise eight kids could make. I’m sure to her it sounded like twenty third graders at band practice being introduced to their instruments for the first time.
During that week she knocked on the door several times to make sure we “kept the noise down”. The minute the door closed the room was filled with giggles and laughter once again. I don’t think this woman ever had children and by the end of the week, if one of us would spot her coming in our direction we would alert the rest of the crew by yelling “Thump, Thump, here comes the Grump!” Our parents would laugh and at the same time quickly remind us of our manners.
For years we remembered that trip and “The Grump”. Looking back I think how lonely she must have been. Perhaps if she had gotten to know us she would have appreciated the constant noise we made, the background noise that quickly creates a deafening and lonely silence once a room is emptied of eight bright eyed chatterboxes. She must have liked us a little though as we continued to get Christmas cards from her for years after that vacation.
There were several years we went the other direction and headed North up to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania to spend a few cool mountain nights catching lightening bugs and warm days in the lake swimming. One thing for sure, growing up in a big family, we were never alone. Some years my father would rent a small John Boat and take us fishing on a lake. I don’t ever remember frying the fish for dinner but I am sure it didn’t get wasted. The only time I remember eating fish was on Friday’s during lent. Usually it was flounder or fish sticks and Mom would make tartar sauce from the little packet of relish that came in the bag.
The time with my father was short, Dad passed away in 1975 when I was ten years old and we only had the opportunity to take day trips after that. It was a great time to grow up, life was much simpler. Those memories are the ones that drive me to buy things like Marshmallow skewers. (so necessary, I know ) An image of us as children surrounding a campfire laughing and roasting marshmallows flashes in my head. There was always one of us that found the perfect stick and always one that couldn’t.
Fast forward approximately thirty-eight to forty years, (yes that’s a “4” and “0”). I am reminded of those vacations as my other half leaves for his fishing expedition with his brother and father. Fishing is a wonderful way to connect to your kids, Joe and his siblings fished their whole lives with their father and his friends. They taught him everything about the sport, most importantly how to just enjoy it. Joe and his brother are grown men and still have fun seeing who can catch the first 50 fish. By the way…NEVER under any circumstance allow your significant other to bring a case of beer on a fishing trip. It causes grown men to fish in their underwear…true story… (I’ll forego the picture here and let your mind create one for you) Those who have fisher husbands will agree with the following.
As adults, fishing is their way of reconnecting with their father when life doesn’t allow for frequent visits. We sometimes forget in this fast paced world that time is truly a gift. You can never relive a memory or un-ring a bell so it’s important to live in the moment before we have no chances left to spend it with those we love.
As Joe left the house that day for his adventure he promised me that when he returned we would have a fish fry…and we did.
It was perfect timing too, as I just recently changed over my kitchen to a seaside theme for the summer <see the Seaside Kitchen Theme tab on the home page of this blog>. We gathered a few of the people we love and spent the day breading and frying his catch (small pan fish like Perch and Rock Bass). We cut up potatoes for homemade french fries and whipped up some hushpuppies. My daughter and I both made different types of pasta salad and Jackie made a beautiful blueberry cobbler since blueberries are now coming into season where we live.
When Charly Girl, my granddaughter, is old enough I will teach her to make fresh lemonade for our fish fry’s and how to properly roast a marshmallow and although I have nice new marshmallow skewers I will help her find the “perfect stick” from the trees in my backyard.
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Jackie’s Smoked Mozzarella Pasta Salad
1/2 pound Gemelli Pasta
1 ball of smoked mozzarella cheese, diced
1 medium plum tomato, diced
2 oz baby spinach leaves (Earthbound Farm Organics)
3/4-1cup Newman’s Own Light Balsamic salad dressing
1 tsp Garlic Paste
Cook pasta per package instructions in salted boiling water. At the
bottom of the serving bowl, place the spinach leaves and the garlic
paste. When pasta is ready, scoop pasta out on top of spinach and
garlic with strainer spoon, letting some of the pasta water drain into
serving bowl. Toss pasta, spinach and garlic and set aside to cool.
Spinach should wilt, but not become over cooked. Once cooled to at
least room temperature add in diced mozzarella, tomato and salad dressing.
Toss until everything is coated in salad dressing. Let sit for at
least 1 hour prior to serving, this allows the smokey flavor to
combine with the other ingredients.