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Jerk (not what you're thinking...)

This morning I’m dealing with a stiff neck, a bothersome splinter, and a few other issues.

I won’t list the other aches and pains, because that’s boring and because most of them are the result of a sledding expedition with my grandchildren. I understand why I won’t get much sympathy.

It’s been a few years since I’ve done much outside winter recreation. Not that I haven’t wanted to - the spirit was willing, but the body was incapable of folding into a sled-sized package. Times have changed, and I’m proud to say that my $22,000 knee survived yesterday, intact, and the rest of me almost intact. The only real injury I sustained was the look Number 5 gave me after a crash and burn that involved us both. He appeared to hold a grudge after several joint, midair pirouettes. I think he was a little unfair; I’m not convinced it was entirely my fault. To be honest, though, some of the details of the incident are a little sketchy.

We’re used to having most of the clan gather at our house for Sunday dinners. The pandemic has made that a little more complicated. We did all right with picnics and such when the weather was nice, or even tolerable, but now we’re in the middle of winter, in Minnesota. It’s been mild so far, but that’s only by our standards. Most of the world would still consider the climate life-threatening.

But, as the Norwegians say, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes. We’ve gone hiking in different state parks three weeks in a row, with me adding another layer of clothes each time. The group decision this week was to go sledding, which involved me wearing all the clothes I own, plus insulated boots.

We had a sunny day, not quite thawing and very little wind. In other words, the best we could expect in January. There was also warmth from an unexpected source.

Many years ago, my wife and I were youth counselors in our church and for ten years or so, we led work projects to Jamaica, fixing up churches, repairing hurricane damage – whatever the priority happened to be. Because we couldn’t help ourselves, we took our children along, even though they were quite young. On the initial trip, our son was nine. On our way cross country in a rented van we pulled over by an grill made of an old oil drum and he had his first taste of jerk chicken. He was immediately smitten. With a level of spice just barely south of painful and cooking equipment that would make a public health nurse faint, he thought it was the perfect food.

A few decades later, he’s a good cook himself. Over the weekend, he made Jamaican patties – pastry stuffed with meat filling that’s seasoned with Scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, and several other spices that grow only on the surface of the sun.

One taste and I was smitten. Even standing in an icy parking lot wearing mukluks, I flashed back to a different sunny day, standing under a banana tree drinking juice from a green coconut that had just been whacked open a machete. It warmed me right down to the tips of my icy toes.

A typical January Sunday would have seen us gathered around the dining room table playing a four-generation game of Uno. Instead, ten of us stood in melting slush, eating Jamaican food from a crock pot as the sun slipped towards the horizon.

Not at all typical, but pretty darn good.

Copyright. 2021 Brent Olson

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