As a dairy farmer, Grandpa Jimmy was always at work and always available. It didn't take much for a little girl to find him for dinner or a tractor ride. There was the slam of the screen door, a quick-step past the root cellar, and a jog through the farmyard to the place where the John Deere rumbled. His Army medic training often came in handy on the farm when an animal needed attention. Though his hands were thick as the fence rail, they were gentle with an injured animal.
I knew Memorial Day was different because Grandpa treated it that way. Instead of having to search him out, I counted on him planting himself behind the hot griddle where he flipped pancakes for our herd. My brothers and I bellied up to the bar to make our requests as Grandma, Mom and her sisters bustled around with their food assignments.
Within minutes, Grandpa had a brontosaurus poured freehand onto the skillet. He wiggled his caterpillar eyebrows to heighten the anticipation while he waited for the batter bubbles to pop. Using two fat spatulas, he turned the giant and I released my breath because it was perfect. In no time, we had dinosaurs, hearts, stars and horse-shaped pancakes on our plates. It was a lazy meal full of flavors that stick to your memory like maple syrup on little fingers.
After breakfast, we piled into cars with our cousins for a trip to the Draper Cemetery where Grandpa and Grandma arranged flowers on their parents’ graves in quiet respect. It was a place full of honor; red, white and blue; and peace.
This Memorial Day, it's Grandpa's turn for flowers and flags. We plan to honor his service to our country and our family with heart-shaped pancakes, homemade maple syrup and a quiet morning visit.
Memorial Day Maple Syrup
2 cups sugar
½ cup water
½ cup light corn syrup
¾ tablespoon maple flavoring
¼ tablespoon vanilla
In a medium-sized saucepan combine the sugar, water and light corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for five minutes. Remove from heat and add the maple and vanilla flavoring. Allow to cool slightly before serving.
Christina Dymock is the author of "Young Chefs" and "101 Things To Do With Popcorn." She blogs at TeachingYoungChefs.blogspot.com.