Kim was putting butter on a cracker and shaking her head. It caught my attention because Kim almost never uses butter. We’d picked up a two pound roll of butter at an Amish stand at the Farmers’ Market.
“Elena would have loved this,” she said.
And it’s true. Elena loved butter on pretty much everything. She loved it when we stopped at the bread store and picked up a baguette. I loved the baguette when it was fresh. Soft in the middle and crisp on the outside. She would tear off a piece of bread and join me. But her favorite time was toasted slices in the morning covered in butter.
She pronounced Challah with an prolonged “Ch” sound like she was getting ready to spit. “Are you going to the bread store?” she’d ask. If we said yes she’d always say “can you pick up some Chhhhhhhallah?” She knew they only had Challah on Fridays but she also knew that if she asked we would remember to order it for Friday.
I hadn’t meant to buy butter at the market. It was one of those “one thing leads to another” purchases. The mushroom guy had some really nice looking mushrooms and the stall across the way had some shallots. That said “risotto” to me. I wasn’t sure I had the right sort of rice, but I knew I didn’t have enough butter.
A woman asked me how many shallots I wanted.
“A handful, please,” I said.
She put a handful in a bag, weighed them and said “ninety-five cents, please.”
I gave her a dollar, and when she started fishing for change I said “that’s o.k.”
She shrugged. Another woman, the owner of the stall, came around the counter and handed me another shallot. “That’s o.k.” I said. She still held it out. I smiled and took it. “Thanks.”
I looked at the sign behind her. Snake Hill Farms. I turned to Kim and asked, “didn’t you go on a field trip with Elena’s class to Snake Hill?”
She nodded. The owner wanted to know more. “Who’s class was it?” she asked.
Kim thought a moment and said, “Mr. Raymont’s from Boulevard School in Shaker.”
The woman smiled. We talked about the field trip and about another Boulevard teacher, Mrs. Rimidio who was exhibiting her art work on the other side of the market. The owner looked at Maggie and asked if she’d been to Snake Hill.
Maggie said “no, my class didn’t go.”
“Well,” said the woman, “I have a present for the little girl who did go. Have her come to my stall and I’ll give her a little container of Maple syrup.”
We let it pass and talked about other things. The woman brought up Elena two more times. She was being nice. She had a present for her. Finally, I don’t know why, I quietly told her that Elena had died in February.
She remembered reading about it. She remembered many of the details even. She offered us the syrup anyways and we thanked her but refused. We talked about this and that. She asked what I was going to do with the shallots and I told her. I asked if anyone sold butter at the market and she pointed out the Amish stall across the way. “Buy their cream,” she said. “You can make it into butter.”
I smiled. I’d love to. Kim rolled her eyes. The man who sold us tomatoes had just told us to get a vacuum sealer to use on the peppers that would be coming in the next couple of weeks. I was feeling at home here.
The woman caught the look on Kim’s face and said “they sell butter too.” I had caught the same look and agreed that that would be best.
As we said goodbye and started to leave, the woman handed us a little container of syrup.
“It’s not why I told you,” I said.
“I know,” she said. “I’d just like to give it to her. Posthumously.”