Friday, July 22, 2016

Tomatoes in the Attic

Ah, tomatoes!

It's that time of year--at last! Our tomatoes are later this year for some reason. Perhaps all the rain in June and early July slowed down pollination. We've been getting a few here and there, enough to keep us happy, but now the boom is on. Yellow, pink, black and red are filling up the table on the deck as Larry brings them in. He prefers picking before they're completely ripe; I like to leave them on the vine as long as possible but since he's doing the picking, I'm not complaining.

I have always loved tomatoes. Some years we plant as many as 14 varieties, but this year I think we're down to 7 or 8. My absolute favorites are the black varieties--Black Prince and Black Crim. This year I could only find black cherry tomato plants so that's what I bought, along with some Cherokee Purple that seem like black tomatoes to me. Next favorites are the big pinks and deep golden yellows. This isn't to say I don't like reds! But these others are pretty much only available to us in summer, so I really look forward to them.

Our house at 514 East Quarry St, later renumbered
as 8807 Quarry Road, in Manassas, VA. We were
hard on that old place! You can see the attic window
in this photo.
I remember when I was 11, I would sneak down to the garden and get a half dozen tomatoes at a time, hide them in my pockets or wherever I could, then go up into the attic before Mom caught me. It was a trick to get into the attic because there was no ladder and the ceilings in our house were 12 fet high. First I had to position the bedroom door just right. Then I would get my feet on the doorknobs. From there I could pull myself up to the top of the door, and from there stretch to reach the attic opening. I would get my hands on the sides of the opening, and pull myself up until I could get a foot on top of the door trim. I could lift the attic trapdoor with my head, and then pull/push myself up and inside to fall on the floor. Now as I read this, it seems impossible, but at that age I was agile and strong and it seemed easy once I figured it out.

Once inside the attic I would tiptoe carefully on the boards that spanned the rafters, being careful not to let my foot slip and go through the lath-and plaster ceiling of the room below. That would have disaster! I'd have been in bad trouble and even worse, I'd have given away my hiding place in the dark, unfinished, hot attic.

There were three secrets, I discovered, in the attic: First, if I stretched out on the floor in front of the half-circle window at the front of the house, there was a most delicious, steady breeze. It was cool there even on the hottest northern Virginia days.

Me, at about the age I was in this post.
I remember Mom trimmed my bangs, and as she tried
to even them up, they just got shorter and shorter!

Then there were the boxes and boxes of old books. These books had belonged to my grandparents and when they moved a lot of their things ended up in our house, and up in our attic. There I discovered Janice Holt Giles, an author I still enjoy re-reading. There were many other books, all best-sellers from the 1930's, 40's and 50's. I read all that summer, eating tomatoes or sometimes Concord grapes when those came ripe.

And the third secret: from that half-round arched window, I could just barely see, if I positioned myself right, the blue Bull Run Mountains. I would look at them as I read Giles' The Enduring Hills, imagining myself living in a cabin in the mountains. How little I knew then that that is exactly what would happen.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.



Oh I remembet those hot days and the taste of a tomato straight from the garden. A little viney taste even went a long way. I needed the salt shaker with the tomato! No attic for me but I had a walk in closet off my bedroom. It must have been put in after the house because it had big long windows that overlooked the back yard and orchard. It was my favorite place in the world. I remember sitting in there with my back to the wall looking outside and daydreaming. Oh those lazy days of summer when we were kids. Love the pic of the house and you as a little girl.

Granny Sue said...

Isn't it funny how a memory can come flooding back at the sight or smell of something? Tomatoes bring back so many memories for me. Maybe that's why they're such a favorite food. Your closet sounds like an ideal place for a girl to daydream. Such days those were.

Joy@aVintageGreen said...

The best memories. I just loved reading your post today. Nostalgia at its best.

Granny Sue said...

Thank you, Joy. My childhood wasn't idyllic, and if we all tell the truth probably few were so lucky as that. But mine was happy. There was a lot of worry in our house at different times, but I always felt loved and wanted. We were fortunate to live in a small town older neighborhood where it was safe and where, as on Cheers, everybody knew our names--and usually what we were up to!

Nance said...

I sure enjoyed this, Sue. Our house was small with eleven oder us, with no hidey holes so I grabbed a book, a snack and a blanket. I did my reading of Spencer's Mountain, Readers Digest Condensed books and Janice Holt Giles outdoors. I also re-read her still. PS: tomatoes are just starting to ripen in Iowa.

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