Fate and Brandied Peaches

baysideresearch:

Many family memories came flooding back as I canned peaches today.

Originally posted on Freezer Full:

Yesterday, I bought a huge box of Blades Orchard peach seconds for $18 from at the farmer’s market, with the intention of making brandied peaches last night. But I ended up working all day and ran out of steam that evening while I unpacked jars, the pressure canner and other equipment I’d need for the project. I decided to wait until today.

It wasn’t until this morning that I realized what day it was. My Aunt Teri’s birthday. She was the inspiration for making the brandied peaches in the first place — she was famous for them. They were coveted gifts and a beloved side at family holiday meals. After eating the peaches, we often used the leftover juice in the jars for making bellinis. But the world has been without Teri’s brandied peaches since she died two years ago. I still miss her (and her brandied peaches) terribly.

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Wordless Wednesday: Halloween c. 1955

While scanning family photos, my aunt and I came across this Halloween class photo (my mom is in the back row, 6th from the left, wearing a bonnet and glasses; I think she’s either a pilgrim or a nurse). This would have been circa 1955. I find the masks to her left completely terrifying. Some of the costumes remind me of the Halloween scenes from the movie version of To Kill a Mockingbird.

The Hill: Amazing Tales and Discoveries

I had an amazing time today at the presentation about The Hill in Easton — I got to hear stories from current and former residents about the way African Americans developed this neighborhood from the late 18th-century to today. We took a walking tour and stopped into one of the churches that is at the neighborhood’s core. I also discovered that I had happened upon a real gem during a prior project that has value for the history of The Hill.

Below are some photos and tidbits from the day (click on the photos for larger versions):

Our tour started on Higgins Street, in front of these duplexes that pre-date indoor plumbing. A resident said that bathrooms eventually were built on to the back porches of houses.

Another view down Higgins Street, with the AME church steeple in the background.

The steeple of the church is topped with a pineapple, a Colonial symbol of welcome and hospitality.

The church dominates the view down South Lane.

The “Buffalo Soldier’s House.” Sgt. William Gardner never lived there, but his enlistment papers were found there. The house was owned by his brother.

View of the “Buffalo Soldier’s House” with one of The Hill’s AME church steeples in the background. Archaeologists from the University of Maryland will dig at this site this summer.

Barney Brooks, a descendant of one of the owners of the “Buffalo Solider’s House” is interviewed by a student from Morgan State University during today’s breakout session, where residents could tell their stories and have their documents scanned for posterity.

Habitat for Humanity will be renovating this house. Today, they were painting the boards over the windows and doors to make them look like real windows and doors in the interim, to keep the property from looking abandoned.

This is one of the oldest houses, especially brick structures, in The Hill neighborhood, dating to 1798.

The corner of Hanson and South Streets, with 3 c.-1870 brick homes. The neighborhood has traditionally been mixed-race. Columbia, Md., developer James Rouse (aka actor Edward Norton’s grandfather, for those outside of Maryland), grew up here. He got his ideas for creating a mixed-income, mixed-race community from his time spent in Easton.

Frederick Douglass once spoke at both AME churches in Easton. The rostrums at which he spoke survive to this day. Here is the rostrum at the Bethel AME Church on Hanson Street.

Now, for the coolest part of the day for me. In a talk about the “Buffalo Soldier’s House,” local historian Priscilla Morris mentioned two black women from The Hill, Ann Eliza Skinner Green Dodson and her sister, Temperance (whose son was the Buffalo Soldier, William Gardner). [4/2: Oops! I was a little confused during this presentation -- I was so excited when I realized I had the photo. Temperance's sister Ann was an early owner of the property known as the "Buffalo Soldier's House." The house passed to Temperance's son before it was sold to the Gardner family.] Morris mentioned that Temperance was a servant of the Hambleton family, who lived in the building that is now the Bartlett Pear Inn.

I realized I had a photo of Temperance.

When I did the history of the Bartlett Pear Inn, I came upon a stereograph image of the building (the top photo on the poster here) at the Historical Society of Talbot County. Pictured on the front porch are members of the Hambleton family. On the sidewalk, with two of the Hambleton children, is the Hambleton’s African American servant. Temperance.

No one at today’s meeting had seen the image before — I was able to show it to them on my phone. It was so exciting to share this rare piece of history with the group!

The Hill Project Presents: “A Stroll Down Memory Lane”

I hope those in the Easton area can attend this event on March 31 (click on the poster for a larger view):

I’m really looking forward to learning more about this area from the residents and to participate in the walking tour. I’ll post a follow-up blog post when the event is over!

Learn more about The Hill here and/or visit the Historic Easton web site.

“Missy! It Happened Again!” 9-11 Memories

Seen on the Mass. Ave. Bridge in Boston shortly after Sept. 11, 2001.

“Missy! It happened again! Another plane just hit the World Trade Center.” One of the students in the research group I worked for at MIT was on the phone with her husband, who was in Brooklyn, relaying to her the horrible things he was seeing on September 11, 2001.

The first time he called to tell her a plane hit the WTC, we couldn’t believe it. I wondered how it could even happen. Was it on purpose? The second time he called, we knew.

That morning was probably the strangest morning of my life. People gathered around the available TVs to watch the news coverage. After the Pentagon was hit as well, rumors swirled about other planes in the air, aiming for the White House, Capitol Hill (where dear friends of mine worked) and other places in my hometown of Washington, D.C.

You couldn’t get calls to go through to check on loved ones for the longest time. I didn’t have a cell phone yet. I tried and tried to reach my grandma, who lived in Alexandria, Va., not far from the Pentagon. She used to work at the Pentagon.

The Pentagon is where my grandparents met.

Hours after the attacks, I finally got through. She was very upset. Turns out, I didn’t know how upset. I thought she told me one of my aunts was there with her. I breathed a sigh of relief. At least she wasn’t alone. Turns out, my aunt was stuck in traffic trying to get there.

It was one of the last times I would talk with my grandma. She died the next month.

We had to wait weeks to bury her. She was to be buried at Arlington National Ceremony, but there was a backlog of funerals for the victims of the Pentagon attack.

I returned to the D.C. area for her memorial service soon after she died. We drove past the Pentagon on the way. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the gaping hole in the side of that massive building.

I remember the outpouring of goodwill from other countries after the attacks. The way people helped each other to recover. Sadly, much of those attitudes have been lost in the intervening years. I hope it doesn’t take such a tragedy before we see that caring and thoughtfulness again.