“Do I need to bring back anything from the States” asked Joost during his last trip to LA. “Two bags of Hershey kisses and a can of baking powder” was my reply.
I grew up on the best street ever. None of the houses were special, they were post war 1950’s 3 bedroom, 1 bath specials on large pieces of land. But the street and the people who lived on it were something special.
Anola street was slightly sloped with elm trees on both sides. Everyone had big front yards and porches. Our house was white with green trim, the lawn a thick Saint Augustine and there was a huge olive tree in the front that was great for climbing and hanging out. It also provided shade to our home during the heat of summer. It was “base” during games of tag and a provider of stains on the wood floor when its purple fruit fell during the summer.
Everyone knew each other back then and would spend the warm summer nights talking to each other over the fences and on the lawns. The neighbors made up an extended family, hosting each others kids for dinner and always there with the needed cup of sugar.
Across the street from us lived Mr. and Mrs. H. Their house was light blue and somewhat larger as they had expanded when their children were younger. When we moved in, their kids were on their way out to college and marriage. Mr H was a reader and lover of history and loved to talk to my mother about France. He had a weimaraner named Madchen which after my few German lessons, I now know to mean girl. Mrs H. worked at Hinshaws department store at a time where department stores were still glamorous. Every year for my mother’s birthday she would help us pick out a new pyjama or robe for my mom.
The H’s looked after us like grandparents. During the hot Whittier summers, they let us swim in their pool. After my mom went back to work, my brother and I rode our bikes to school which was about 3 miles away. When it rained, they would come pick us up so we wouldn’t have to ride our bikes in the rain. And then they spoiled us. For Halloween, there was always a special box from Sees just for us. For the Fourth of July, we were invited over and given sparklers and for Christmas there were the Peanut Butter Blossoms with Hershey kisses.
The cookies were something different for me. When my mom baked, she usually baked cookies that were more European. Mrs H’s cookies were pure peanut butter chocolate delight. For me, those cookies represent the meanig of Christmas. It’s the taking of time to think of others, to find a way to make them feel special which Mrs. H always did.
Tonight, Charlie and I made Peanut Butter Blossoms. They weren’t quite perfect as we don’t have brown sugar in Switzerland so I had to improvise mixing regular sugar with maple syrup but the taste was there. We shared them with our British neighbors and explained to them that they are an American specialty. As we sat down to eat a few, I thought back of my childhood and the H’s and how it is the small kindness in life that really make the difference.