There are fires all over Alaska. Though it didn’t rain much while we were there, the skies were overcast most of the time and it was cooler than usual. No sooner had we left than the sun came out and it got blazing hot. Temperatures reached 85 in Fairbanks. Yesterday Jerry and I got an email from our friend across the road telling us that there are fires along the Manley road making travel difficult. One of the fires is within a few miles of our house.
She wrote: There are 87 fires burning in Alaska and 2 of them are on the Elliot Hwy. The Eureka fire [that’s the close one] you can look up on the BLM fire map. It is over 10,000 acres. It came down the Kentucky Creek valley and roared across the highway at mile 130, blackening the highway and everything in its path. It came toward Scott’s and burned some on both sides of the road. The fire crews saved David Monson’s place at Alameda and Kentucky and saved the place at the Eureka airstrip. The big gravel pit across from Scott’s became a fire line and they back fired this morning trying to stop the fire before it got into the big timber on the Hutilana and took off for Manley. We had a thunder shower this afternoon and that helped. We are having a low pressure until tomorrow and that is helping also. The road was never officially closed but you traveled at your own risk and the flames and heat from Mile 84–87 were intense. That is the other fire on the Elliot. It crossed the road and is almost as big as the Eureka one. The Eureka fire also crossed the road at the top of Silverbow Hill. You will see a big difference when you return. No houses have been lost, they even saved the shacks in Woellert ville in Eureka!!
Meanwhile, down here in Puget Sound it has done nothing but rain for the last two weeks. Green is rampant. The rain has pummeled my big pot of delphiniums which had blossoms reaching up to the rain gutters by the front door. They have flopped over in a wet mass on the sidewalk. Poppies bloomed and their petals quickly turned into red goo. The peonies outgrew their support and are lying wet on the grass. And speaking of grass, we can see it growing. Today is supposed to be only partly cloudy — rain returns tonight — so Jerry is trying to seize the moment and mow the lawns.
I am tired. Two days after we arrived home from Alaska my sweet nephew, John, came from San Diego to go through the last of my mother’s possessions which have been stored for 4 years. His grandfather’s slide collection, probably more than 10,000 of them taken during his travels after he retired, were left to John. Then there was other miscellaneous stuff, the last few boxes that I just couldn’t face, to go through. We did it together, and John did all the physical work. Even so I found it exhausting.
The first box we looked into contained Christmas ornaments. They were all old and mostly ugly. I didn’t want to keep any of them, but it made my eyes run tears to throw them away. We tossed out boxes of papers. There were old bank statements, grocery lists, notes on classes she took, pictures of people we didn’t know and pictures of us we didn’t like. I felt as if I was throwing away her life.
There were many boxes of books. Lots of books on economics, some of which my mother and my step-father had written. We saved all of those, of course. There were libretti of all the operas I know of, plus a lot I never heard of. There were lots of plays and John kept those (he’s an actor) and there was some poetry and classics. I kept those that I didn’t already have. The rest we took to the book seller to see whether we could get a bit of cash.
We got a little. The second bookseller we visited, who took almost 3 boxes of the 8 boxes we offered, said, “As you can see, there isn’t much demand these days for used books.”
We delivered a huge microwave, 4 humidifiers and a footbath to the Goodwill.
She never threw anything away and she wrote everything down. I retrieved her recipe file, and here are a couple of bits from it.
Beef tenderloin in Claret
1 3-pound piece of beef ½ cup claret
Tenderloin, trimmed ½ cup beef consomme
Salt and pepper ½ teaspoon cornstarch
4 young onions ½ teaspoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons butter Brandy
Roast the tenderloin rubbed with salt and pepper at 300 degrees. Saute onions in butter, add claret and cook until reduced by half. Add the consomme mixed with the cornstarch and simmer until thickened. Add lemon juice and pour over fillet. Run under broiler until bubbling. Add 2 tablespoons of brandy at the table and light.
The recipe above was printed on a card. The next one was notes, written in Mother’s writing:
Rabbit Casserole (or stewed)
2 or 3 onions: Fry them (in bottom of pot in which it will be cooked). Cover with water; bring to boil. Dice 3 or 4 carrots and add with meat. Cook. About 20 minutes before cooked add 4 rashers of bacon cut small and chopped parsley and a little thyme. (Flour meat or thicken after. If it dries up a bit add milk. Milk is nice with it.)
Finally, there was in the file a card headed: Thanksgiving dinner — 1948
1. A 14 lb hen turkey was perfect — we had 4 meals off it afterwards
2. Breaded cauliflower
3. Whipped potatoes
4. Cranberry relish — Carroll preferred the cranberry sauce
5. A cup of cooked dressing = 2 cups of raw ingredients, so we made 28 cups of raw ingredients.
6. I used Crisco recipe for pie crust. One 9 inch pie served 8 people. I used Stokleys pumpkin custard which was excellent. Nannies recipe modified for quantities by Joy of Cooking.
7. Served mixed green salad as a separate course. Very nice.
8. Stuffed celery (cottage cheese and chives) creamed oysters on crackers as appetizers with tomato juice coctail.
I kept the recipe file. There is still a lot to be delivered to the church rummage sale. John left yesterday. We took him to Anthony’s for lunch before putting him on the airplane. He and I remembered the many times we had taken Mother there. It was a place she loved.
I still have boxes to go through of my parents’. Such a sad thing to have to do and so easy to put this off. I must try the beef tenderloin though.
interesting post. The fires sound overwhelming, as did the rain you experienced. Who will watch your flowers when you are gone? Will the deer and rabbits feast on them?
Your mother sounds like she was a very interesting person.
I think much of our stuff will be thrown out, too.
After consuming nearly two cups of stuffing and an unknown quantity of whipped potatoes, I’m sure that one-eighth of a pie would suffice for dessert.
It’s good to know John was there to help you sort through the memories.
It sounds like the rain was weeping with you during this process.
I am glad the fires are out for the time being. This weather is bringing me down, and I’ll be glad to get back to Hawaii.
My mother threw away almost everything she owned before she died. She had few possessions, not being a shopper or collector.
A poignant telling of going through your mother’s possessions – it does feel rather like throwing someone’s life away when you discard the things they saved.
Copied the for beef claret (thank you!) and hope those fires are out soon.
Those fires sound dreadful, it is difficult to imagine Alaska on fire like this.
The dear handwriting. I still can’t go through my mother’s letters to me without breaking down and she is dead nearly 40 years. She wrote like she talked, you see, I hear her voice.
Lovely recipes, so redolent of those times, I would make something like the beef in the married days but used burgundy. Simple is best.
Good for you for going through all the dear bits.
Thank you so much for taking the time to leave me a note through your fatigue. Those ugly ornaments are probably collectibles. 🙂 And thank you for donating all you could.
Lovely recipes. We can’t eat all the fats we used to use any more….but oh, those things sound so good. Good indeed….for you are sharing your mother with us.
That’s a treasure trove of slides — it must be fascinating to go through them and remember when …
I remember the great fires that rampaged down the Cote d’Azur in the ’80s and how close hey came to my parents’ house so I can imagine the terror instilled by these Alaskan fires.
Delving through and disposing of parental artifacts is always so difficult a task. So much of the material has no intrinsic worth, but all of it – even the bills – provides poignant evidence of a life lived. I have thousands of slides from my parents, dating from the mid ’50s and through to the early ’90s. I’ll never catalogue them all, but I shall never part with them either.
A very interesting post. I am sorry about the fires in Alaska but I am thinking that this is maybe nature’s way of regeneration? I may be talking nonsense, of course.
Your bitter-sweet memories are a delight. Retrieving and sorting boxes this long afterwards must bring back a lot of pleasant as well as sad stories.
Take care and look after yourself.
Just got back to reading you after a few weeks’ absence, Anne. You write so wonderfully about your travels, about your and Jerry’s relationship, about the passage of time. I felt I was with you every step of the way.
When we passed by Lummi on our way north you were in Alaska. Now we’re in Alaska and you’re on Lummi Island. I haven’t written on my blog because we don’t usually have wifi but am keeping our adventures on Word. Anyhow since we were in Wasilla and were wondering what to do next having spent a lot of time on the Kenai Peninsula I thought I’d check your blog.