Dictionary Day

It turns out that today is Dictionary Day (C'mon Google, how'd you miss it?).    This less-than-recent, but somewhat humorous, article from the Boston Globe makes a tongue-in-cheek plea for celebration if you'd like to read more about it. 

Noah Webster was born on October 16, 1758, and devoted a considerable amount of time and effort compiling An American Dictionary of the English Language.  According to Merriam-Webster, Mr. Webster learned 26 languages to put it together.  That's a language for every letter of the English alphabet.  I've barely mastered English.  Mr. Webster, my hat's off to you.

One of my all-time favorite dictionaries is the Oxford English Dictionary.  I learned to love the gigantic reference in college when I studied Dickens and Shakespeare.  It is fascinating how words, and the English language, has evolved.  I could probably lose hours flipping though it.

I consulted Webster this morning, as a matter of fact.  It occurred to me that we (the general population) discuss seasons as springtime, summertime, wintertime, and fall/autumn.  Does falltime even exist?  Thankfully, the dictionary was able to clear it up.  Falltime does exist, and even though spell check will tell you it's two words, Webster will tell you it's one...and that it means autumn.   

I would also like to thank Webster for being the first to document the word chowder.  Without him, I might be enjoying a bowl of clam soup on a falltime day like today, and it wouldn't be nearly as yummy as clam chowder in autumn.

Goin' to the Valley

Around this time, every year, my family would pile into our super-cool maroon Toyota MPV minivan and head to Grammie's house for the weekend.  Besides the prospect of filling our tummies with some yummy Lithuanian food derived from the kind of recipes that include lines like "stir it until it feels right," and spending time with my grandparents on both sides, the main purpose of the trip was to go to "The Valley." The Valley: a wonderful place that promised 50 lb bags of potatoes, bushels of onions, and hand picked pumpkins.  I really have no idea which "valley" we ended up in, other than it was somewhere within a 1 hour drive of Athol, Massachusetts.  I suppose I could ask my Dad, but I think it would take some of the mystique away from my memories.  I can still hear my grandmother: "we'ah goin' down The Valley."  Everyone just knew it.  The Valley.

The drive was usually full of bright orange and flaming red trees.  The sugar maples were brilliant if the weather cooperated.  Bright red barns, with their rutted and muddy drives, dotted the hilly landscape.  It seemed like every farm had a makeshift sign propped up outside listing their crops and prices.  It wasn't good enough to stop at just one farm for everything.  We'd visit at least three, and get potatoes and onions at each - enough for the winter, and then some.  Like good New Englanders and Lithuanians, we would pile our "root cellars" with enough potatoes to feed a small army.

Then, we would drive around until we found the best pumpkin patch.  Without fail, it would be on the muddiest, grimiest, dirtiest farm we passed.  My sister and I would spend a small eternity picking out a pile of pumpkins, one for each of us, for decorating.  By the time we were done, we'd be red-faced from the autumn breeze and covered in muck.  It was a little slice of heaven in The Valley.

We haven't 'gone down The Valley' in a long time.  I wonder if the small independent farmers are still there, selling their produce in rickety road-side stands or out of their giant red barns.  I wonder if people still pile their cars full of potatoes and onions.  I wonder if the pumpkins are still a muddy pick-your-own adventure.   The Valley I remember is a magical place.  After all these years, I sure hope it's stayed that way.