Vintage Patina

Fri, 12/05/2014 - 2:14pm

Several years ago I had a big dog who needed to be walked on a leash lest he get into mischief. In winter I like to burrow into my multi-layered night time apparel early, and inevitably I would fall asleep in my chair, book fallen to the floor, end of the movie unwatched, and in the early hours of the morning, two or so, I would awaken and pull a coat over the layers and go out with Mist.

It was the winter I realized there was often a time when the world is quiet, when it was so calm I could hear the tolling of the bell off the west side of the island.

Last night was rainy and windy but hardly a raging storm. Autumn is a different dog, a sweet creature who will go off in the north lot or down by the pond in the daytime but does not venture far from the house at night. She goes out dutifully, even happily never knowing when a deer — real or imagined — will be nearby. When she is finished, and bored with the lack of things to pursue, she whimpers outside the window.

It is all a matter of how it is spun, a dark, stormy night, a house out in the middle of nowhere, a noise bringing attention to a face outside the window, so close to the glass it is lighted by the lamp beside the chair.

It could have to it the Twilight Zone menace of the unexpected, those dark eyes peering into the room, or just the surprise of my beautiful golden girl, my Autumn, who has finally realized the wild rose has been cut, and she is tall enough to put her paws on the outer sill. She learned the trick last summer at a different window, one not blocked by vegetation, when I was leaning out of it to to talk to the neighbor.

Last night, the cement walk was dark with moisture when I opened the door and the dog came in wet. It was raining when I went to bed and I was surprised to awaken to that early hour time of quiet. The lights of the harbor were blurry through the damp windows but the rain had stopped and I knew the wind had died when I heard the surf, earlier muted, filling the night, flowing from the south and the east. It was oddly out of balance; everything felt off. Even Autumn was stirring; instead of soft golden retriever snoring I knew where she was by the clicking of her nails on the wooden floor.

When I cannot sleep I do not read or get up and do something constructive but stay there sorting through the inventory of the day, trying to find a reason when I think it is no more than the absence of the wind that has disturbed my night.

Dinner, I think, but that’s foolish, it was lovely Pad Thai, part of a small dinner gathering, a nice memory.

“Oh, I can help” I blithely offer the hostess, she in a new place with a different kitchen. I’m an hour early – who can go all the way back down the Neck once in town? – and there is butter to be creamed for cookies to accompany the food flown in before the dark day turned to a stormy night.

A rereading of the recipe in the tome open on the counter confirms it is a stick and a half — not a cup and a half — of butter that I need be smoothing into a new consistency before the other ingredients are added.

There are sugar and molasses to be measured and the cups I am handed are wonderful, a full cup, individual 3/4 and 2/3 measures but, I realize almost too late, no 1/2 and 1/4. There was a time I barely used such things, pouring leavening into the hollow of my palm, when a scored cup was a flour scoop. The spoons are on a ring, more than I have ever seen, and I think of my four hanging on their little hooks on the inside of a cupboard door.

“Do you sift flour?” I am asked and I reply in the affirmative, adding the sifter is very old, at least my mother’s, perhaps my grandmothers, I think made of tin, with a wooden knob on the crank. A newer one, a supposed replacement, was sleek and modern, all of metal, one my mother never liked, one I discarded after her death, going back to the older one which, of course, was still in the house.

The butter creamed I ask for the sifter. “Oh, I don’t have one, I was just asking.” I do not need it, this is a new place, the sugar is in a bag yet to be opened, it has not been sitting in a cupboard for a year, turning rock solid, as happens at my house.

My friend, who lives in a aerie that seems on level with the airport landing lights, is far more casual than I; the ingredients are well on their way to being dough before she thinks to look for a cookie sheet. There is time enough to call the other guests who will not be arriving until the appointed hour.

Later, after a bountiful feast and much good cheer, I go home and look for that sifter on eBay. It does take a while to find one like mine, with that turned wooden handle that I finally recall was missing from my mother’s new sifter that had only a strip of metal, bent into shape, nothing that would ever fit the hand that held it.

That it worked in a number of “decors” never crossed my mind when I pulled it from the darkness of the cupboard and set it on a just right size plate on the counter. It is used on occasion but primarily it sits, emanating, as one ad boasted, “lots of vintage patina.”