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Green Eggs in Ellwood City

I am 10 and true summer starts after school lets out and my brothers and I do time at city camps like theater or tennis or swimming. Ma musters her patience and packs our suitcases, a big thermos of imitation lemonade and waxy paper cups which always seem to accumulate sand in their bottoms into our boxy white VW van. We head for the turnpike which will take us to our northerly destination. But there’s someplace we have to stop first. We kids in the backseat know what’s coming and excitedly whisper about what will be served.

Ellwood City

We roll into Ellwood City, Pennsylvania ~ Grandpa’s hometown. Aunt Lois (Pa’s Aunt Lois) now lives in their childhood home, an old white farmhouse on a long rambling road which winds past an occasional lonely tractor. Sometimes we hear low booms of the mining company’s exploding quarries and all the time we hear the insistent chirping of crickets. In the summertime everything smells thick and green and the atmosphere hangs deep between rustling trees and tall grasses. The Machine likes wading through the backyard, trying to catch garden snakes but I’m too scared. I sit on the front porch and think that it’s a mighty far walk to the neighbor’s house. Because it’s summer we go to sleep when the air is still an indigo-blue and the fireflies are just lighting up. It’s very quiet in the farm house and I have trouble sleeping because the blue and white quilts rest heavy on my legs. On the dresser behind the rocking chair I see a small hand-mirror that frightens me because once Aunt Lois said she uses it to check her breath to make sure she’s still alive. I wonder what she’s going to use tonight and hope I see her tomorrow.

In the morning I am relieved. Aunt Lois covers two adjoining tables with big doilies and seats us in creaky but sturdy wooden chairs. On the table we help ourselves to thick slices of homemade bread, freshly-jarred fruit preserves, sizzling bacon, tall glasses of chocolate milk and Aunt Lois’s signature green eggs which she cooks in her big cast iron skillet. Nobody knows how Aunt Lois gets her eggs so green or if it’s intentional but no one can deny that those eggs are the best we’ve ever had. We’ve tried to duplicate the recipe but all we get is marginal yellow-looking mash.

If we stay through the afternoon, Aunt Lois invites the neighborhood kids over and throws me an awkward birthday party and I get small but treasured gifts from scruffy people I’ll never see again. I say thank you and Ma re-packs our suitcases and makes a fresh batch of imitation lemonade. Aunt Lois kisses us on the foreheads. And then we’re on the road, continuing north, north, north.

Aunt Lois washes the skillet. In a few weeks time she’ll make her famous green eggs again for a new set of travelers.

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