In the October 2019 issue of this magazine, I recounted memories as a youngster, of women influential in my life that had succumbed to breast cancer. It was only days after its publication that I learned that the monster raised its ugly head anew. She, a grown woman now, was one of our original “No-Cavity Kids” as a child, posted on a bulletin board after a faithful checkup, recorded by Polaroid®! Cancer, you can’t have Holly!
Holly is Paul and Kathy Thurgood’s girl; Ben is her grandfather. Ben was kind to look the other way in the 50s, when I dragged a tomato crate or two from their mass-storage behind what was the ghost of the Kaysville Canning Company to build a fort in his standing corn – land leased from my grandfather – which made Holly and me cousins-in-lease!
I adored those old crates. They served as a farm boy’s Legos®. I’ve shared my love for hitting rocks with slats stolen from their bottoms. For me, their richness was partly in their smell. For season after season, they had cradled the fruit of heaven…Syracuse vine-ripened tomatoes. The aromatics contained in Syracuse tomatoes were now part of a crate’s character. I remember laying in the shade with crates covering my head, absorbing tomato essence. Since the containers are no more, the memory of the essence drives yearnings that propel me in the spring to plant seed or stock in April or May, longing for what I know is possible in August and September; it fuels a longing based in truth, not a boyish wish. The memory of those containers keeps the essence alive for me during non-tomato months.
We all reside in Syracuse for essentially the same reason. I label it “The Syracuse Essence.” Some say they’re here because of openness, for the farmland, still existent yet diminishing. Some say it’s the respite of our neighborhoods away from heavy downtown traffic. Both of these are facts, but mistakenly equate “The Syracuse Essence” with Syracuse Containers.
These are only containers: our homes, farms, schools, churches, businesses, police and fire stations, museum, and community center. As a fly on the wall, may I reveal what I’ve witnessed since October, last within the walls of City Hall: it being just a container.
Holly serves as an admin professional. As her physician first explained the situation to her, I can only image what raced through her mind; staff was horrified. She was away from her desk for a short day or two but was back ready for battle. Holly’s desk was moved by peers, further back into the office to insulate her. Chemo, now finished, has robbed Holly of her beautiful hair, but not her charm. Each time I come to City Hall, I make it a point to stop by her door, to brighten her day, as I suppose. I go there to lift! I never leave that doorway without being lifted. She lifts and is filled with “The Essence of Syracuse”, the real reason we all live here. Thank you, Holly! Our prayers are with you.
From our container to yours—Have a wonderful Passover / Easter Season.
PS: Tomato lovers: It’s the Bicentennial Year–September 28, 1820 marks 200 years since Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson of Salem, New Jersey, sat down in the community square and ate a basket of vine-ripened tomatoes to prove they were not poisonous! He lived another 30 years!