I wasn’t certain that my father would appreciate my recent post about our many trips into the back woods of Pennsylvania to conduct target practice on empty laundry detergent containers. After all, the last time I retold such a story, he dropped the piece of pizza he was eating onto a paper plate and said, “Nova, stop it.”
Evidently, he didn’t want to revisit a story in which he placed a loaded gun in the hands of any child, let alone one who would later prove herself to be incapable of operating a standard television remote.
“You’re scaring Gramma,” he added.
It should be noted that he did not in any way dispute my story. He did, in fact, once shoot the door of our jeep immediately after delivering a lecture on gun safety. One of us was bound to do it.
Turns out, he liked that post.
“Love the shooting blog,” he wrote on a birthday card that arrived last week.
And if that stamp of approval isn’t an open invitation to travel back to Pennsylvania and retell the story of the 2006 Honey Pot Cabbage Roll, then I don’t know what is.
Wait. A What?
What’s a Cabbage Roll, you ask? It’s a fundraising event dreamt up by the volunteer fire department in the town of Honey Pot, Pennsylvania. As the name implies, it involves rolling heads of cabbage down a hill that has been crudely outfitted with a tarp.
“We have to go!” I said, waving an article from the front page of our local paper at my mother and brother.
“You want to go to that?” she asked. “Why?!”
“What else is there to do?!” I asked.
My brother accepted the challenge.
“I need to buy sunglasses,” he said. “I’ll go if we buy sunglasses first. And if they have potato pancakes.”
I scoffed. We lived in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania – a two-stoplight town that has a dozen Catholic churches and at least as many businesses that sold only pizza – which is curious in its own right considering that most of the town’s residents are of Polish descent. Hence the slinging of cabbage for sport.
“There’s nowhere to buy sunglasses here,” I said. “They closed the K-Mart.”
I should know. I worked in that store the summer before and had the very best of times folding t-shirts and offering fashion advice to people who didn’t ask for it.
“Well I need sunglasses!” he said. “It’s so bright out!”
“You can go to the new Rite-Aid,” my mother said. “They probably have sunglasses.”
I had forgotten about the Rite-Aid. It had opened just a couple years before, having replaced a much smaller Rite-Aid that just so happened to be located next to the now-shuttered K-Mart. The store wasn’t exactly “new,” but it was generally understood by the residents of Nanticoke that we would continue to refer to it as such until a newer Rite-Aid was opened, which, coincidentally, would be never.
The new Rite-Aid. That’s where we went. For sunglasses.
“How about these?” my brother asked, modeling a thin wire-framed pair from the plastic carousel at the front of their store. They were too small for his face and already appeared bent.
“They’re great!” my mother and I both said, nodding vigorously.
We had cabbages to roll.
“I really like that they’re narrow,” I added.
When he turned around to pay for them, I mouthed “Terrible!” to my mother, who was left with little choice but to snort into a display of shampoo.
With a scene like that, it was understandable that the cashier gave us both a critical once over. I was wearing a $7 sundress paired with Wal-Mart flip-flops. I had skipped a bra on account of it being summer. My mother looked quite reasonable in a pair of khaki shorts.
“You must be going to the wedding,” she said.
It was an honest mistake. Our outfits were as suitable for celebrating a casual wedding as they were for throwing produce down a hill to help raise money for a fire truck.
“No, we’re going to the Cabbage Roll,” I replied.
“In Honey Pot?” she asked.
I nodded. As though our Valley could handle two competing cabbage rolls and a wedding in a single weekend.
The Main Event
To this day, I feel sorry for the couple who planned their nuptials on the same weekend as the Honey Pot Cabbage Roll. Because they really missed out on a good time.
There was food. There was soda. There was music. There was a tarp duct-taped to a small hill. And, yes, there were potato pancakes, which my brother was already lining up to buy.
“What time does this thing go until?” he asked the attendant.
“Hopefully not that long,” he answered. “I gotta get to the wedding.”
I looked around wildly, but there was no shampoo in which to snort. I just had to pretend that I was laughing at the absurdity of this event – a festival that honored an inexpensive vegetable that no one in attendance ever even grew. A Cabbage Roll!
By this point in life, I realized that most people don’t live near towns called Honey Pot or eat potato pancakes for lunch or try to nickel and dime their way to a new emergency response vehicle. I knew that most other cities hosted multiple weddings each weekend and almost none of them would be attended by guests who hours before had carted around vegetables on the back of an ATV.
But I didn’t yet know that so many people don’t understand the novelty of a new Rite-Aid or a fundraiser that didn’t serve alcohol. I wasn’t aware that some people spent hundreds of dollars on a single pair of sunglasses at stores like Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. And I certainly didn’t think I’d ever be one of them. Sometimes it’s hard to decide what’s more ridiculous: where I’m from or who I’ve become.
But this much I know: the potato pancake action in the former is not be missed.