Our neighbors are down the shore.
The mountain/lake diehards, our friends since we wheeled babies in their carriages, are celebrating the end of summer in the Poconos.
And my husband and I are pulling up to the local farm stand with the delight of kids rushing out to play in kindergarten.
We head for our favorite spot, the old table heaped with our own version of pirate’s booty. We dig in.
My husband does the final picking because he claims the better credentials — Vic grew up on a New Jersey farm and has those produce genes in his favor. After some deliberation, he presents them to me: six perfect, fresh, gorgeous ears of summer corn. Not much of a gift, you say? Then you don’t know corn and its capacity to delight the soul.
Corn is honest and simple food. Corn, you can trust. Some of my happiest childhood memories are wrapped around corn: where I was when I ate it, who was there with me and yes, how those crisp, steamy kernels burst into sweetness in my mouth. I can remember husking corn with my cousins on the porch of the seashore house we shared for years, and I can still summon up the triumphant feel of eager little hands stripping the husks from each ear.
It was all so foolishly wonderful, as innocent and sweet as the corn that had been picked when its tassels were moist and silky still. That remembering brings a lump to my throat. Decades later, I can still resurrect the smell of the seashore air and the feel of those stalks in my hands. Our family had an ongoing debate: it boiled down to white vs. yellow corn, and I’ll spare you the sound and fury of our battles except to say that my father and I were holdouts for yellow. I still think we were right.
When our own daughters were small, we introduced them to a treat that reached beyond candy or cupcakes or even ice cream — or so we told them.
Basic corn on the cob — fresh from the field and cooked as simply as possible in a huge pot that steamed up the kitchen windows — became a guarantee of instant gratification.
While there were plenty of things that disappointed them — less-than-loyal friends, bullies, teachers who were mean — corn never, ever did.
Jill, Amy and then Nancy revealed personality traits in the wonderfully diverse and telling ways they approached their corn.
Jill, the patient, contained sister, could linger over her prize, saving the best - the kernels around the middle of the cob - for last.
Amy, always a bit more impetuous, would dive in and devour.
And Nancy, the perfect blend of her sisters, was methodical only after a kamikaze start.
I was thinking of all this on the recent summer night when my husband and I sat at the kitchen table positively exulting in plump, ripe Jersey tomatoes and steaming ears of corn.
The colors - the textures - and yes, the glorious tastes seemed a remarkable gift on this stifling, summer night when the world was in its usual mess.
The silence between us was that absolutely comfortable kind. I think a good 10 minutes went by without a single word being spoken.
But I can tell you that two old-marrieds sat at that familiar kitchen table as twilight settled remembering that simple pleasures are sometimes the best ones of all.
We were temporarily free of work burdens, anxieties about this grandchild or that one, the drudgery of household chores, the relentless barrage of another anchorman reminding us that wars still rage and human beings still murder one another.
We silently celebrated nothing more - or less - than the pleasures of fresh corn and summer tomatoes, gladly eaten in a safe and cherished home.
In the distance, a dog barked and a child laughed. It was the final days of the good old summertime. And there was corn in our lives.
It was more than enough for us. ••