The happiest memories of my childhood are centered around my regular summertime visits with my paternal grandparents, Grandpa and Granny. These were kind, loving and wise people well-into their older years by the time I was born. Even though they were older, they were spry and active well into their 80’s.
Every summer they would take my siblings and me on camping trips to various locations throughout central Oregon. We camped and hiked on trails near the Bohemian mines outside of Cottage Grove, went rock-hunting in the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forest near Prineville and spent weeks playing on the ocean beaches near Yachats. It was during one of these summer getaways that we visited Agate Beach near Lincoln City, Oregon. We weren’t especially successful at finding many agates, but that wasn’t the point – as kids we were excited to find any shells or shiny pieces of rock. I can still remember the happiness of those times – the warm sand beneath my bare feet, running and playing on the beach with the exuberance of childhood, and the delight at finding shells and rocks to collect. Granny always brought buckets for us to carry our “treasures” back to the campsite in; we would pick through and save our favorite once we got back. As I grew older the summertime visits ended; I was too busy picking berries for school clothes or working at the local Diary Queen once I was old enough for a work permit to spend my summers with my grandparents. I still visited them as often as I could, but the long, easy days of summer would never be the same as when I was a child, enveloped in their loving presence, running and playing in nature’s most beautiful surroundings. Eventually their time came and, within a year of each other, they passed away. While helping the family clean out their house, I found a jar with the shells we had collected that long ago summer at Agate Beach. The jar is labeled with Litehouse Foods Ranch Dressing and Dip decals, front and back. I’m not sure exactly when my grandmother put those shells into that jar, but I know it must have been a very long time ago. Ever since that day (now over 20 years ago) I have looked at that jar, and the shells contained within it, on my kitchen shelf, an ever-present reminder of the happiness and unconditional love I experienced while with my grandparents. The jar reminds me not only of that beach camping trip, but also of the many family gatherings where my Granny brought Litehouse dressings to share. She was ahead of her time in her commitment to whole foods and healthy eating – she cultivated a large garden and bought local foods fresh from local farmers. I can remember Litehouse dressings on our family table back to when I was young in the 1970’s, back to the days when they shared their summers with their grandchildren, showering us with attention, love and happy times. I will treasure that Litehouse jar and its contents the rest of my life as a reminder that there is nothing more important – or enduring – than the love of family. I intend to collect enough Litehouse Foods jars to keep childhood mementos of my children and their children for memory’s sake. I am certain they will treasure theirs as much as I do mine. In what ways do you reuse Litehouse jars? What memories do you associate with Litehouse jars?