There was one small saucepan we used because with it, we knew just the right amount that went in everything. When it was time to make bread, which was an every other day occasion, we would measure the milk to be warmed to the inner rim. The same pan could be used for boiling water for a quick cup of tea. It was perfect for boiling the raisins I used in hermits. The pan was often found on the stove or in the sink. Discolored a golden brown on the exterior, it was stainless steel on the interior and had a short black handle.

I would cook hermits to take down Back Street to the Myers. I’d boil the raisins to plump them up while I combined the rest of the ingredients. The batter would be a little stiff, until the raisins were added. They added moisture to the batter and a shiny coating to the top. The hermits came out as a cake-like, cinnamon- and nutmeg-flavored square. Pat and Inza were always grateful to have a sample.

Pat and Inza were an older couple, older than my grandparents at the time so I counted them as “really old.” My sister Sarah and I were often elected to help with chores that needed to be done for Pat and Inza. This is why I remember being at their house the most.

The Myers were in their late 80s and needed their yard cleared through the seasons. Sarah and I had the most fun in big snowstorms. Pat and Inza didn’t have much for a driveway, but they always insisted we only shovel enough for the car to be in off the street. The car was always parked in the barn. Sarah and I didn’t see much point in clearing only part of the way so we divided the yard and got to clearing.

Pat and Inza lived two houses from the top of Back Street, on the right. The Kennards were across the driveway in the old corner schoolhouse. In a good winter storm, Sarah and I would have fun watching others spin their tires and fishtail up and down the hill before the plows came through. Bill, the Kennards’ son, wasn’t much older than Sarah but was always anxious to see how far he could get in their old Lincoln. It usually wasn’t much farther than the driveway.

The south windows of the Myers’ house looked out over the driveway. We imagined Pat or Inza peeking from behind the curtain to measure our progress as we shoveled and scooped the snow.

Sarah and I usually shoveled as much as we could get away with before Pat came out the front door disgusted, smiling and insisting we stop, saying that we must be getting tired and they didn’t want to get caught for breaking any of those child labor laws. I never imagined anyone in town reporting them for two girls shoveling snow. We would either say there wasn’t much more to do, or go inside for a break and a hot cup of cocoa. This was also our challenge when we shoveled, to have it completed before Pat came out.

Pat was nearly blind but wore glasses. It was most interesting when he would pay us for work. Two or three dollars was the most we ever got but he would give us a history lesson or trivia question he must have been thinking about as he peeked out the curtain watching the progress we were making throwing the snow.

Coining questions

The questions often were about the president on the coin he was paying us with. He was a big fan of the Kennedys and Abe Lincoln, but not much for George Washington, if I remember correctly. With his aged, working hands he’d hold the coins and run the edging on the tip of his index finger to tell what he had taken from his pocket. Sarah and I were often amazed at how accurate he was and imagined he could see better than we thought. We’d go home, close our eyes and try to do the same thing. We could guess pennies but we weren’t nearly as accurate as Pat with the rest.

Pat passed away when I was a teenager. Inza was left on her own. Their daughter Therna came from Virginia to live with Inza. She adjusted to the climate change the best she could, especially the dead of winter in New England.

Therna would take a morning walk, puffing on a cigarette as she came up over Back Street, no matter the weather. Therna took over the upkeep duties around the house also. Occasionally, she’d call on Em and me for help but mostly she handled it herself. After Pat passed, I did make a batch of hermits for Inza and Therna. They smiled and were as grateful for the treat as Pat and Inza had been.

Hannah Hinckley is a writer, veterinary technician, whitewater guide and Pampered Chef kitchen consultant. She lives in Winthrop and may be reached by e-mail at [email protected]

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