What do you have in your pocket?
By John Addyman
We were standing in line at the Fairville Fire Co. fish fry.
It’s a Wayne County tradition, this fish fry.
Fairville is halfway between Newark and Sodus on state Route 88, and the fire company pretty much dominates the landscape at the one large intersection.
Take a deep sigh and despite the speed limit being 35 mph, you’re through Fairville rather quickly.
The volunteers had to create a special large meeting room a few years back to accommodate all the people who wanted to enjoy the meal of beer-battered haddock, locally raised baked potato and coleslaw, applesauce, dinner rolls, and ice cream for dessert.
Also served up is something an awful lot of over-55 folks enjoy with the meal — chocolate milk. Coffee and tea and regular milk are also available.
It takes crews a week to put each meal together, with 50-some people on that crew serving more than 2,000 people a weekend. It’s a major fundraiser for the fire company and deservedly so — it’s a great meal, a great thing to do.
The lines start forming at 4 p.m. every Friday during Lent, and this year, the take-out line easily got to be 30 yards long. But it’s an easy, friendly wait. You see people you know and meet a lot of people you didn’t. The sit-down seating is family style at three very long tables.
My wife, son and I were waiting in line, and we had some newbies — four over-55 ladies — right behind us. I played host, and explained how things worked, how quickly you were seated, and how fast dinner arrived once you got a seat.
One woman noted that tables were spread with dishes of carrots, celery sticks and pickles.
“That so nice,” she said. “But I brought my own carrots.”
“You brought your own carrots?” I asked.
“I always have my own carrots with me,” she said, taking them out of her pocket to show me. They were nicely packaged in a plastic bag.
Although I’ve been around a long time, I never had a woman show me her carrots before.
“Our Wayne County carrots aren’t good enough?” I asked teasingly.
“I’m a vegan,” she explained. “I always have my carrots with me.”
Old times, old ways
Then I got to thinking about what I always have with me in my pockets. As soon as I thought that, I patted my pockets: My car keys and a handkerchief were safely resting in my jeans. Always. That handkerchief thing is going away, I understand. My son and grandsons never carry one.
We live in Newark, where a man walks around day and night with a thick pad of paper, taking notes. He seems like a nice guy, and I asked him once, “What are you writing down?”
He was standing on a street corner. I thought maybe he was counting traffic.
“Just notes about things,” he said.
“You go everywhere with those notes, don’t you?” I asked.
“Are you going to write a note about me as soon as I leave?”
I walked away and snuck a quick look back over my shoulder. He was busy writing.
My father-in-law, Ed, carried a little pocketknife with him everywhere. I think he had it in his tux the day I married his daughter.
It wasn’t a World War II issue knife, but could have been. “Pop-pop” could almost always fix something, wherever he was. He’d meet up with the thing that didn’t work, play with it a little, then out came the knife and its screwdrivers, little blade or corkscrew thing, and things would be fixed.
Tissue was my mother’s favorite thing. She had a knack of hiding tissue somewhere on her person — usually inside a sleeve — for every occasion. If we were somewhere and one of my sisters needed her nose blown, my mother would produce a tissue.
When she and my dad went to bridge club on Saturday night, she’d always bring me back a cookie wrapped in, of course, a tissue.
My wife’s grandmother always had a pack of peppermint Life Savers with her; my wife always has peppermint mints in her pockets, which she takes out of a glass jar on the kitchen counter whenever she goes out the door.
“I tried to keep tissue in my sleeves like Nana did,” my wife told me recently. “They always fell out. I’d leave a trail behind me.”
Those tissues. It wasn’t until much later in life that I wondered if my mom had ever used that cookie tissue for any other purpose before wrapping the cookies. And then I remembered lipstick. One early morning I found the little packet of tissue-wrapped cookies my mom had left for me, and it had lipstick on it.
Had she blotted her lipstick with the tissue and then wrapped my cookies in it?
No, I thought, she’d wrapped my cookies and closed them with a kiss.