As the dead of winter surrounded our valley, the doldrums of cabin fever began to overtake our home. The cold weather and wind chills created such a dome of arctic air that our parents decided to keep us inside until the weather cleared.
We bunked down in the toy room while my mother made apple crisp in the adjoining kitchen. The smell was enticing as baked cinnamon mixed with Macintosh apples rose throughout the house. Then from the front door we heard a rapping, and my brother, sister and I scurried from the toy room to the kitchen to see who would traverse the frigid air of the day to say hello.
Entering the kitchen in a mass, we quickly saw our grandmother, who was bundled tightly in a jacket and shawl wrapped securely over her head. Outside, a light squall brought scattered snow across the valley. She took her head cover off, knocking a few remaining melting flakes which clung to her scarf.
“I heard you guys were staying in today,” she said as she hung her coat in the closet. Sitting against the corner of the closet door, a cloth grocery bag held a number of items, including a game we often played with her. “I brought ‘Auctioneer’ with me and thought we could play a few rounds,” she said as she made her way to the kitchen table with her bag of goodies. Setting the game up, she pulled cheese puffs and potato chips from the bag along with cans of root beer and cherry and orange soda.
“It’s so cold outside today,” I said as I grabbed a handful of chips. My grandmother agreed and as she went to the fridge, she decided she wanted ice in her glass. As she placed the cubes into her cup, they spun around. As she watched the ice, her eyes glazed and from her usual pause a story came to mind.
Many years ago in Donbridge, a family of carpenters known as the Mapes lived near a deep gorge. They were highly skilled craftsmen and craftswomen. Their skills were sought through all New England. It was said that when the governor of New York needed a desk, the Mapes went straight to work and carved an elegant desk out of rare American chestnut which grew in the far reaches of the warm nooks of the valley. The desk was so unrivaled by all others with its unique scroll work and inlaid design that it became the centerpiece of the governor’s office.
Now the Mapes made use of the river that ran near their house and found a way to manipulate the waters so that part of the river would flow over the banks of the ravine near their house. This was done to turn a waterwheel which, in turn, powered their carpentry shop. The process worked well and for that reason, their shop was able to produce not only furniture but fixtures and finished building supplies.
When the Tanners, who owned the Donbridge Sawmill, went into the farming business, the Mapes purchased the mill and doubled their operations. Soon, the entire Hudson Valley placed orders with the Mapes and they became the most profitable business that Donbridge had ever seen. But despite their success, something happened to the Mapes that never could be fully explained.
On a winter’s night in January, a cold wind had pushed through the valley, along with a nor’easter which brought three days of snow. During the storm, the Mapes’ youngest twin children, Timothy and Meredith, decided to leave the house and head to the barn. While they walked, a fierce squall overtook the valley, blinding the children, and soon they were gone.
Mildred and Thomas Mapes, realizing their children were missing, searched the house and quickly saw the twins’ coats were missing. Thomas grabbed a torch and jacket and headed out the door of the house. Trudging through the drifts, he found their footprints half-filled in by the drifting snow. He traversed their waving paths step by step. After following their path for a time, he came to the edge of the ravine where the footprints ended near the man-made waterfall. The waterfall was so frozen solid that the ice was cobalt blue. Thomas shined his lantern out as far as he could and yelled for his children, but his voice was lost in the storm and silence wrapped the valley.
A day later, when the storm subsided, Mildred and Thomas gathered folks from the town, and they began taking footpaths to the bottom of the ravine. Members searched through caverns while all around the sheets of blue ice towered above from the frozen falls. When nearly all hope was lost, a young girl, Amelia Woodlock, who was standing at the edge of the ravine, looked down and saw blue spots in the white snow. Apparently, or so it was believed, the children had grabbed several ice shards from the waterfall and left them as markers for where they were going. Since the ice was blue, they stood out in the fresh snow. Amelia pointed and shouted to the crowd below who could now see the blue shards. They followed the path for several miles until the ice stopped near the boughs of a spruce tree. As the searchers lifted the branches, they found the twins huddled underneath waiting to be found.
Thomas and Mildred ran through the drifts to their children, falling at the feet of the twins. “Whose clever idea was it to use the blue ice to lead us to you?” Mildred asked with tears in her eyes. The two children shook their heads. Neither child had placed the ice upon the ground. Bewildered at their response, Thomas looked about and all he found was an unfamiliar leather pouch upon the ground with a few remaining ice shards in it.
When my grandmother finished her story, she sat down at the table and began the ‘Auctioneer’ game. As she dealt the cards, I reached over into her grocery bag and found a leather pouch. Reaching inside it, I pulled out a blue glass shard. My grandmother smiled at me and said, “You never know when a storm could blow in, but at least I know I will be found.” Placing the blue shard back in the bag, I smiled and helped myself to a fresh slice of apple crisp.
Mom’s Apple Crisp
Apple Mixture Ingredients
12 peeled and sliced Macintosh or Empire apples
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup flour
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of butter
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 tablespoons of water or more as needed
Pre-heat oven to 350˚. Mix apple mixture ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour mixture into a 9” x 12” cake pan. Combine all dry ingredients of topping in a separate bowl, then add butter and mix through with a fork to cut the butter in. Add water to the topping and stir until topping becomes clumpy. Add more water if necessary. Carefully add the topping over the apples. Place in the oven for 35 minutes (be careful not to overcook the topping). Remove from the oven and enjoy either warm or cold. Refrigerate for best keeping.