I love listening to Kelly Corrigan’s podcast. For the last while she has a short post each Sunday morning entitled “Thanks for Being Here” in which she reads a tribute submitted about someone’s loved one.
I’m sure that was part of the swirl that prompted me to process my Uncle’s illness and death in this way.
“There are two types of people in the world,” my cousin spoke into the mic, his lips twitching with a grin. We were all wondering what direction this wedding toast would take. “There are Carters, and then there are those who wish to be Carters. Welcome to the family.”
Ah yes, many a truth are said in jest. It has always felt to me like our family has been on the edge of the cousin dynamic. We’re not the only cousins that lived at distance, but for a significant part of my childhood we did live across the border from my grandparents.
This feeling may also be related to my place in the cousin birth order, as I’m squarely in the middle of the crew of nineteen. Never quite at the right stage to fit in with the older ones, not wanting to be grouped with my little sisters and the younger ones.
And it may also be that I always knew it was a very special thing to be a Carter.
Dan & Kathy’s farm was a place I was always eager to visit. Not just because they had a pond and snowmobiles and the latest games, but because of the warmth and joy that their family exudes. My Uncle Dan and Aunt Kathy created a loving home that was filled with comroderry and laughter.
While I still can’t hear the Spin Doctors “Two Princes” without thinking of the time when my heartbroken cousin listened to the song on repeat at top volume, the drum beat thrumming the kitchen floor as we visited, the vibe of all of my Carter memories is one of good humor.
My Uncle Dan loved to joke and tease. He had a way of using humor to diffuse tension and to bond people together. I can picture my Aunt Kathy standing along the kitchen counter, and he’d say something that would elicit a sharp “Daniel!” perhaps punctuated with a snap of the tea towel. Or the way he would be sitting at the head of the table, leg draped over the armrest, chuckling “Oh, Katie!” Whenever my Aunt got riled up.
And, he’s always been a good sport, taking as much guff as he gave out.
He’s also a gentle and faithful man who tended the land, his herd, and his family. He always took time to care about the things happening for others, engaging in thoughtful conversation, and (in my memory) always making time for a coffee.
And it may be the Carter family coffeebreak tradition that I hold most dear of my Uncle Danny gifts. The way the family would show up whenever guests came by, gathering around the table, never (seemingly) hurried. The wide ranging conversation punctuated with lots of laughter.
It’s no wonder that I was drawn to a partner who grew up on a farm and values gathering around the table; who enjoys a good cup of coffee, has a great sense of humor and enjoys complicated board games. Perhaps it’s no wonder that in coming home again, I keep trying to create that hospitable space I experience with the Carters.
For some milestone birthday (and it may be the one I myself am nearing), my Uncle Dan received his favorite chocolate bars in an amount equivalent to the number of years he turned. The confection of choice was a Skor bar (which are difficult to find stateside), but this homemade candy (recipe below) is a reasonable approximation.
The world will be a dimmer place without Uncle Danny’s presence. But I know his legacy of kindness, generosity of spirit and good humor live on in all of those who are privileged enough to know or to be a Carter.
Homemade “Skor” Bars
- 1 ½ sleeves of saltine crackers
- ½ c. butter
- 1 c. brown sugar
- 6 Hershey chocolate bars (or 2 c. chocolate chips)
- Preheat the oven to 350F
- On a greased jellyroll pan, spread saltines in an even layer getting as close to the edge as possible.
- In a saucepan, melt the butter and combine with the brown sugar, bringing to a boil.
- Pour boiling mixture evenly over the cracker base.
- Bake at 350 for 5 minutes.
- Immediately after removing the pan from the oven, lay chocolate bars across the top. As the chocolate melts, use a knife to spread in an even layer.
- When completely cooled, break into pieces. Store in an airtight container.