Monday, January 28, 2013

Whisking up memories

My brother texted me the other day to see if I would be interested in writing a story for his 6th grad class who is reading a book about collecting things. He said I could write about any kind of collection. I said, Challenge Accepted! And then I wrote this story:

Whisking up memories

Rhombi Diamond
was exhausted and famished when she ambled into Crazy Carmen’s Hawaiian Bake Shop behind her parents and her little brother, Hex. They’d just come from the most amazing beach she’d ever visited, with shimmering course black sand that blanketed the shore between the highway and a stretch of tide pools containing innumerable aquatic wonders: majestic sea turtles idling in tiny ponds of ocean water as they waited for the tide to whisk them back out to sea, brightly colored sea anemones with dozens of flowing arms swaying with the tide, skittish black crabs scuttling around the rocks to avoid the people and waves that chased after them and hundreds of tiny fish darting this way and that in the shallow pools. Rhombi and Hex spent hours crawling along the rocks watching and taking pictures of the amazing critters they saw in the tide pools.

About the time they felt like they’d seen all that there was to see in the tidal pools, their parents called them over for a snack of deliciously fresh pineapple, macadamia nuts and coconut water that they’d bought earlier that day from a farmers market. After they’d eaten, Rhombi’s father surprised her with snorkeling gear and Mrs. Diamond presented Hex with a brand new beach bucket and shovel. Hex immediately complained that he’d rather go snorkeling with Mr. Diamond and Rhombi, but he was only 6 and had just started swimming lessons that year, so when his mother explained that the water was much deeper than even the “deep end” of the pool near their house, he was happy enough to stay on the beach and build a sandcastle with Mrs. Diamond.

Meanwhile, Mr. Diamond gave Rhombi a quick lesson on how to use the snorkel to breath, telling her to just inhale and exhale through her mouth and not her nose while she swam; he also told her that there was coral under the water but that she was not to touch it or stand on it because the coral was alive and could be hurt if she put too much weight on it or broke pieces off. Then he tightened her diving mask so she wouldn’t get water into it and helped Rhombi carefully climb from the edge of the rocks that formed the tide pool into the deep, warm ocean water.

Rhombi had thought that nothing could be more amazing than the creature she’d seen in the tide pools earlier, but as soon as she put her face in the water, with her vision unobscured inside of her diving mask, she felt like she was suddenly in another world. Vibrant yellow coral that had been hidden by the foamy ocean waves now sprung into view jutting up from the ocean floor. Bright blue, yellow and orange striped fish swam all about her and meandered around the coral reef below. Swimming along the surface of the water, Rhombi felt like she was part of the ocean itself. Beautiful blue green waves rolled towards shore and gently tugged at her as she glided over them and with her face under water she could hear nothing but the solitary sound of her own breath being drawn in through her snorkel (which she thought, sounded almost like Darth Vader from Star Wars) and through her mask she could see nothing but the watery world all around her. It was like nothing but the ocean and its wondrous creatures existed.

She followed close by her father’s side as they explored the coral reef and she enjoyed the freedom of swimming along in the vast ocean, but when the waves began to pull harder and the tide started to roll in over the top of the tidal pools, Mr. Diamond told Rhombi it was time to head back to the beach.

As her father helped her out of the water, Rhombi begged to be allowed to take just a tiny bit of coral or a small hermit crab home with her to remember the trip, but her father explained that the hermit crabs and the coral would not survive long away from the ocean water adding: “besides if everyone took a hermit crab or some coral when they came to that beach there would be no critters in the tide pools and no coral reef left for anyone to enjoy”.
“Ok, I guess that makes sense.” Rhombi begrudgingly agreed.

It had been an exciting day, but when they pulled into the parking lot of Crazy Carmen’s around 2:00 PM, it had also been hours since their snack on the beach, so when they stepped inside, Rhombi’s eyes lit up almost as wide as the cookies she saw in the bakery display case. Mrs. Diamond told Rhombi and Hex that they could each pick out one dessert to have with their lunch. Hex wanted a Hershey’s candy bar, but Rhombi wanted to try something more unique since she’d never been to Hawaii before, so she picked out a “Hawaiian Oatmeal Macadamia nut cookie”.

The moment she sank her teeth into the warm soft cookie she felt like she was back on the beach again. The taste of the sweet pineapple, creamy coconut and buttery macadamia nuts leapt from her mouth to her memory transporting her back in time a few hours to earlier when she’d enjoyed a snack with her family before snorkeling for the first time. Suddenly Rhombi had an idea, “Mom”, she asked, “can you see if you can get this cookie recipe, I want to make these when we get home, so I can remember how much fun I had today whenever I eat these cookies.”
“That’s a great idea Rhombi! After lunch, I’ll see if I can do to coax the secret ingredients out of somebody” Mrs. Diamond said with a wink.

After lunch while Rhombi, Hex and Mr. Diamond headed back to their rental car, Mrs. Diamond lingered at the bakery counter talking to Crazy Carmen herself. Five minutes later she returned to the car triumphantly waiving a small white index card. “Your secret recipe my dear” She chirped as she handed the card to a beaming Rhombi.

The day after her family returned home from vacation, Rhombi, Hex and their mother baked a batch of the Hawaiian Otameal Cookies from Crazy Carmen’s recipe, and they all agreed that they could almost taste the memories. Every vacation after that, Rhombi made it a point to find the cookie that tasted the most like the place she’d visited and get the recipe from the baker who’d made it. Then when she got home, she would paste the recipe in a scrap book along with a picture or two from the trip, so she could pull out her cookie cook book and be whisked back to the exciting places she’d been whenever she wanted.

The more amazing places she went, the more delicious recipes filled her book. She had chewy cinnaminy
Maple snicker doodle cookies that reminded her of a family trip to Vermont where they’d watch the leaves turn vibrant shades of orange and red one fall. There was a recipe in her book for gooey peanut-buttery Ohio buckeyes for when she wanted to reminisce about waterskiing with her cousins in a lake near Cleveland one summer. There was a page dedicated to the crumbly salty-sweet ‘Sandies” that brought back memories of the warm sandy beaches and endless pecan orchards she’d visited in South Carolina and dozens more delectable recipes from her other unforgettable vacations, but though her book expanded and grew through Rhombi’s life, no matter how many places she went and how many cookies she tasted, her absolute favorite always remained the recipe she’d pasted onto the first page of her cookie cook book under a picture of her family’s house: “Mom’s chocolate chip cookies”. 

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