I was married once before. After nearly twenty-five years, the marriage ended. First Husband and I were both left with that bitter combination of regrets, guilt and sad-happy memories that inevitably accompany the failure of a long marriage. We were lucky, however. Thanks to the skills and kindness of a truly gifted mediator, we salvaged a friendship out of the shipwreck of our marriage.
So, when I look back on that time, I can thank First Husband for the many gifts he gave me. He nagged me to stop smoking, something I have blessed him for ever since. He gave me confidence in myself, enough to see me through Chemistry when I went back to college and then grad school during our marriage. He was tolerant of the various wildlife I brought home to rehabilitate. He even put up with dead birds bagged in the freezer when I took an Ornithology class that included a section of taxidermy and fruit flies germinating in the laundry room for a Genetics course. There are many more gifts I could list but one of the most important ones is that he made me into a maple syrup snob.
First Husband came from a family with roots in the deep countryside of Pennsylvania. As a child he spent summers on the farm and learned to love real maple syrup at the gargantuan breakfasts they served before the day's work of milking cows and raising crops began. When we moved from California to New York state, he was thrilled to be in the middle of the sugar bush, where the real stuff is harvested.
Each spring, we would drive down to a farm in the Southern Tier of New York in search of maple syrup for the coming year. Reduced and bottled, the sap keeps for a long time. We'd purchase upwards of 20 bottles each year, giving most as gifts but insuring that we had plenty for ourselves, as well. It was an enjoyable ritual, one we kept even as our shaky marriage was crumbling around us.
So, when we split up, we actually divided our stash of maple syrup; it's not in our separation agreement but we were both honorable about it. I brought eight quarts of Grade A Light Amber syrup with me when I moved back to California fourteen years ago.
It has kept beautifully all this time downstairs in the storage area that I call Deep Storage to distinguish it from Deep, Deep Storage, which is yet another level down under the house, where the trolls live. This jug is the second-to-last, and we finished it off on the Cornmeal Bacon Waffles that Second Husband (better known as My Beloved) and I enjoyed yesterday.
There is only one more jug to go, one more chance to pour out a little sweetness to mingle with the bittersweet memories of nearly 25 years that keep forever, like the syrup.
Labels: maple syrup