Yesterday my granddaughter and I went on-line to order books. This was a first for her. Not a pleasure reader, she holds a fascination for ghosts and all creepy non living and less ripe creatures that go bump in the night. In order to encourage her to explore between the pages, I thought starting with reading material she at least has an interest in, in this case, boogie men, was the way to go. I suppose it’s better than a book on building a better bong.
Growing up I had a sizable library by the age of three. An ardent reader, with a love of literature, my grandfather passed his passion on to me. From Honeybunch (yup, old here) and the Bobbsey Twins, to Winnie, Piglet, the irrepressible Tigger and ever pessimistic Eeyore, I never tired of being read to. To this day I can remember the thrill I felt the first time I opened a book and realized I understood what was written there. That began my love affair with words. You will always find at least one book, bookmark poking out one end, on my night stand and I do a crossword puzzle every morning over coffee to dust off my brain for the day. For me this keeps the gears moving smoothly and the cobwebs, if not off, at least at bay.
When I lived in Wakefield, Massachusetts I took my little ones to the local library often. The Lucius Beebe Memorial Library was a massive brick building, surrounded by cherry trees, originally erected in 1927. Typical of old libraries, it had a reading room with a large open ceiling and stairwells leading up to a second floor landing.
There’s something about the musty dusty smell of an old library that I love. The book-lined shelves and hushed tones, the quiet readers bent over open books at community tables that together create an almost church like atmosphere. In turn, at night when the sun goes down an aging library can take on an eerie feel. Aisles twist back into dark corners, looming shelves hover overhead, and vaulted ceilings appear to have fingerlike shadows stretching across them. This eerie feeling is most likely what has prompted so many suspense and horror moviemakers to use libraries as backdrops.
Wakefield was first settled in 1638 under the name Lynn Village. Because the east coast was the logical settling place for people traveling across the Atlantic to the New World from Europe, it naturally has a fuller book of stories to tell then the west coast not settled until later down the road. As with many small towns in Massachusetts, Wakefield has left a chapter or two in history books and there are many historical buildings and areas of interest, most of which we explored during our time there.
My favorite among the beautiful old buildings was the First Parish Congregational Church established in 1644. Sitting on the shores of Lake Quannapowitt, the old stone church was the 23rd church established by the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and one of thirteen still holding services.
The first time I visited there, I was drawn to the graveyard, referred to as “the Old Burying Ground”. There are twenty-nine marked graves there dating back three hundred plus years. At the time they only marked the graves of the male landowners so many more bodies may lie beneath the ground than are accounted for on the surface. I attended the guided tour at dusk once there and you could have balanced an elephant on the hairs sticking out of the back of my neck. I won’t say that I firmly believe in hauntings, but I’ve seen things over my lifetime that I couldn’t find an explanation for, and I would venture a guess the things we know about our world are far more limited than those we do not. As with most areas of my life, I try to approach the unknown with an open mind. Unless there’s been a news bulletin since I woke up this morning, nobody’s come back to give us an update on what’s on the other side, so in my mind it’s a subject still open for discussion.
I spent the night in a house where lights turned on and off by themselves and one room, a strange side room with seemingly no connection to the rest of the house, was always cold even though you could feel heat flowing freely through the vent. When I lived in the Bay Area I had friends, logical left-brained engineers, who swore the ghost of a child, female, roamed the house appearing in the laundry room. Often they woke up to footsteps crossing the ceiling, and the door to the dryer, closed when they’d retired, standing open. On doing research on the house, built in the 1920’s, they found it had a tragic past with an unsolved murder occurring there. According to the reports, former owners had complained of strange noises emanating from the attic and seeing a child playing in the yard, only to find her gone when they went to investigate.
I do know that when darkness falls our imaginations go into overdrive. As a kid I can remember taking the trash out at night and then running like I had Freddie Krueger himself riding on my shirt tail until I reached the safety of my front door. Before going to sleep, my closet door had to be closed. Before turning off the lights my grandfather bent to check under the bed lest the alligators I imagined roaming there were restless and hungry for for a taste of small fingers and toes. Our imaginations are our best friends and our worst enemies. My other half always says when he’s away on a trip our electric bill doubles and airports register complaints that jets are being diverted towards our house because it looks like landing strip. Smile.
Following is one of my favorite Mexican night dinners.
Chicken Fajita Pitas with Pico de Gallo
Pico de Gallo
4 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
Juice of 2 limes
salt and black pepper to taste
4 Tbsp. cilantro, finely chopped
Mix all ingredients together in small mixing bowl. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
2 boneless chicken breast halves, cut into strips
1 pkg. McCormick Grill Mates Mojito Lime marinade
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 white onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
(or a mixture of yellow, orange and green peppers)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
4 pita pockets/halved
2 avocados, sliced
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup freshly shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Follow package directions and prepare marinade. Place chicken breast strips in large resealable bag and pour marinade over the top. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.
In medium skillet heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Add onions and peppers and saute until tender. Add garlic and continue cooking about 3 mins. until fragrant. Mix in 1/2 of the pico de gallo. Remove from heat and keep warm.
Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in large skillet. Add chicken and cook until juices run clear and chicken is nicely browned. Do not overcook as it will make the chicken tough. Squeeze juice of 1/2 lime over chicken. Remove from heat and keep warm.
Heat pita pockets in microwave on high for 12-15 seconds. Fill with chicken, onion/pepper mixture, cheese, pico de gallo, sour cream and sliced avocado. Serve with pico de gallo on the side. Serves 4.