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The other day I picked up fresh tomatoes at the grocery store for our salad. The tomatoes were the best you’re going to find this time of year on the north shore – but they were no match for the tomatoes I used to grow in my garden.
I held the overly firm orb in my hand. Having just past the winter solstice, I sang a line from an old Guy Clark song called, Homegrown Tomatoes: “Plant 'em in the spring, eat 'em in the summer, all winter without 'em's a culinary bummer.” So true. Placing them in my basket, I thought they may not taste as good as homegrown, but the bright red tomato wedges against the dark green lettuce will look nice for Christmas dinner.
I often ponder another line from the same song: “Only two things that money can't buy, that's true love and homegrown tomatoes.” Again, so true. If you go to a farmer’s market in the summer and purchase locally grown tomatoes, they might be farm fresh tomatoes but they are not technically homegrown tomatoes because you didn’t grow them. Perhaps I am splitting hairs here, but that’s how I feel.
Just before dinner, I called out, “Who all wants tomatoes on their salad?” One by one came the replies; No thank you. None for me. I don’t like tomatoes, but thanks anyway. Not one person wanted them. I wasn’t going to cut a whole tomato just for my salad – I’ll save it for tacos later this week.
After dinner we gathered in the living room to open Christmas presents. I handed my wife the last package; it was a gift for the two of us that would also solve a household issue; annoying shuffling of the feet. (specifically, my feet)
Our floors are all hardwood, so we don’t wear shoes in the house. The kitchen and bathroom floors are ceramic tile which can be cold in the winter. We wear house slippers to keep our keep warm. I always tell guests coming to stay with us, “This is a slippers house – bring ‘em if you want ‘em.”
I’ve not found the right slippers for me. The problem is they tend to have hard rubber soles that slap against the floor when I walk. As the tops of new slippers stretch a little and become loose, I find myself dragging my soles across the floor to keep them from falling off my feet. This creates a shuffling noise that my wife finds more annoying than fingernails being dragged over a chalkboard. Ew!
When I was little, Mom would hand me a few tin cans; a coffee can and a couple of old cookie tins with metal lids. Each was filled with miscellaneous buttons. Mom never threw away a worn-out jacket or article of clothing without first removing the buttons and good, re-usable zippers. “Here, find me a few pairs of matching buttons.” She would say as she sat on the couch with her legs pulled up under her and her feet tucked in between the cushions.
Below her on the floor was a wicker basket with balls of yarn in various colors. Mom would carry on a conversation as her hands moved methodically. Strands coming from the basket were wrapped through and around her fingers to feed the tips of two long knitting needles. Sometimes she would be pulling different colors of yarn from multiple balls at the same time.
I would pour the buttons on the floor to look for matching pairs. “I need buttons with large holes this time.” She would say, while knitting away and I started poking through the little plastic discs.
Mom would knit sweaters, scarves, stocking hats and mittens – she could knit anything. Some things were one solid color and others were multiple colors with neat patterns and designs. When it was the right size, she’d remove the piece from her knitting needles. She’d thread the eye of a big needle with the same color yarn and start stitching the pieces together. “Hand me those two dark blue buttons.” She would say, then fasten them at the front of the foot opening. “Here, try on these slippers.” She handed them to me, “Can you find another big red button like that for me?” She said, while pointing to a button in the pile with her long knitting needle. I put the slippers on my feet and started looking through the pile. Another big red button should be easy to find.
My feet always felt nice and warm in a pair of mom’s homemade slippers and I don’t ever recall them making any shuffling noises when I walked. If a pair had holes in the toe, Mom would stitch them up. When a pair had holes worn in the heels, we cut the buttons off and put them back in the can. Then we threw the slippers away and Mom would make a new pair.
I did some looking online and smiled when I found hand-knit slippers for sale. I bought dark blue slippers for myself and a pair for Melissa in sage green yarn.
After she opened the package, I immediately put on my new slippers and pranced around the room. “Look! No slapping on the floor and no shuffling noises. They’re stealth, silent slippers.” I ran across the room then slid across the smooth oak floors like a kid sliding on the ice. Wheee!
I walked around more in the slippers. They were nice, but not quite as comfortable as Mom’s. Maybe they were made with a different yarn, I don’t know – they just weren’t the same.
I walked in my new slippers to the kitchen and opened the refrigerator to get a glass of eggnog. There sat that whole tomato. I smiled. There is a difference between someone else’s homegrown tomatoes and tomatoes you grow yourself. There is also a difference between hand knit slippers and homemade slippers that mom knitted for you.