From what everyone tells me, my Grandpa Bernie’s slides have always been in their square white boxes. The boxes are nondescript, the kind you probably picture when you think of slide boxes, if you think of slide boxes at all. They are the ones that stack easily into garage corners and attics, that protect their contents from dust while becoming thick with it themselves. If these boxes are notable, it is only for their sheer number: my grandpa had thousands upon thousands upon thousands of slides. Some of them show old old images of relatives, from the days when he himself would have been just a boy. Some show my dad and my aunts and my uncle as kids. Some show surgeries he performed, or an ongoing stream of family trips, family houses, family dogs.
My favorite ones show a glimpse of my grandparents’ love story.
I’ll love you it begins, inked on the back of a soldier’s headshot. ‘Forever and a Day’ – Bernie. The picture and note are from 1944. Three years earlier, in 1941, my grandma – beautiful, independent, sharp-tongued and demanding – had given up on Bernie, deciding that the young would-be-doctor might be tall and handsome but he was also arrogant, and they butted heads too much. So she was out on a date with a different man, to see a concert on her college campus. But they stopped the music and turned on the lights and announced that Pearl Harbor had been bombed. Along with the entire crowd, Grandma stood up in shock. In my imaginings she gasped and clutched her heart and cried out I love him!, and ran to find Grandpa. But reality was more subtle. I realized she told me, that the only person I wanted to talk to about what had happened was Bernie. He was the smartest person I knew.
Grandma might have taken a while to figure out that she loved him, but what is clear from his photographs – abundantly and wonderfully clear – is that he was enamored of her, probably from the word go.
Through four-plus decades, he photographed her – in bathrobes, bathing suits, ball-gowns and bad moods, his camera trained on her more than on any other subject. Even the wide shots he loved to take of countries they visited often feature her in some way – standing by the pyramids in Egypt or near a mosque in Turkey, on the streets in Paris or by a boat along the riviera.
When he photographed their hotels he would put her front and center, and her face is by turns happy or hostile, depending perhaps on the weather or the altitude or where they were going for dinner.
My grandpa took pictures, and put slides in boxes, and the boxes moved with my grandparents to Minnesota, back to Ohio, then to the bigger house in Ohio, on the lake. From there the boxes went across the country, to the house on a cliff in La Jolla. In August 1978, my grandma wrote to my parents that they had found another new house, this one high on the hill in Palos Verdes, with views out to the sea.
My grandma wrote that they had space there for grandkids to run around, and that they might get two dogs for company. Their first grandchild (me) had just arrived, and they were hoping to put in a pool we could swim in together. My grandpa took pictures of the house, I’m sure of it, though I haven’t ever seen them. Shortly after they moved to that house, he was diagnosed with lymphoma.
After my grandpa died, my grandma went home to that house on the hill. She pulled out all her favorite photographs of him, put them in her bathtub, locked the bathroom door, sat down on the floor, and cried. I thought if I started to cry, she told me thirty years later, that I would never stop. The grief counselor at the hospital told me to try crying in a confined space. So I did. And after a while I looked around, and realized I had these pictures in the bathtub and I was sitting there sobbing and it was all sort of ridiculous. And so I stopped crying.
Eventually, all those boxes of slides would find their way to my Uncle Doug’s garage in San Diego. The youngest of Jeanette and Bernie’s four kids, he spent a year going through the tens of thousands of images, sorting them by date and location and subject. Then he scanned them, one by one, and put them in a vast digital archive organized by year. He handed out copies of the archive on memory sticks, when we all gathered together this summer to celebrate my grandma’s 90th birthday.
Jeanette and Bernie’s kids and grandkids and great grandkids are good at gatherings. We try to have one most every year. This year, as always, there was food and ping pong, beach-going and beer. There was vodka, too, and visits to the aquarium and the boardwalk and the playground. There was hide and seek, naps in the hammock, and my grandma, kicking everyone’s butt at the unlikeliest of games.
There was also ice cream, creamy-rich and thick with cherries and chocolate chips. We watched a slideshow of all the images Uncle Doug had so carefully curated, and then we watched grandma’s great grandkids, all golden in the sun, eating ice cream and radiating a love that stretches back, back through the decades – and forward, past the horizon.
** All above photographs shared courtesy of Doug Glass and the Glass Family Archives.
This is David’s French style vanilla ice cream, made with a rich egg custard. When it is just churned and still soft, we stir in juicy-ripe bing cherries, quartered and pitted, and miniature chunks of dark chocolate. If you like Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream (my grandma does) this might be made just for you.
Since this is a cooked custard that then gets chilled and then churned, it is best to allow yourself at least 24 hours lead time. We like to make our custard the night before we plan to have ice cream, then churn it the next day, leaving an hour or two post-churn for it to firm up just a bit more in the freezer.
This makes about two pints, with a bit extra, so by all means – if you have ice-cream-chunk haters (you know who you are) cut the cherry and chocolate amounts in half and leave a pint of straight vanilla with no mix-ins. (They can have their cherries on top, instead.) This is an absolutely excellent vanilla ice cream on its own.
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
Pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean
6 large egg yolks (you can use the whites to make meringues)
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup miniature dark chocolate chips
1 pint ripe Bing cherries, washed, pitted and quartered
Optional: stir quartered cherries with a tablespoon of vodka or kirsch and let rest ten minutes before using
Warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup of cream, and salt in a medium sauce pan. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the warm milk, then add the bean as well. Remove from heat. Cover and let steep at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Pour the remaining 1 cup cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer over top. In a separate bowl whisk the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly and evenly to prevent the yolks from scrambling in the heat. Scrape the entire mixture back into the saucepan.
Stir constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spoon or spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir. When the mixture thickens and coats your spatula (about 5-6 minutes) remove it from the heat immediately and pour it through the strainer, into the cold cream. Stir well, then put the large bowl into an ice bath (larger bowl, with cool water and ice cubes). Put the vanilla bean into the custard, add the vanilla extract, and stir until cooled.
Chill the custard overnight (you can leave the vanilla bean in the custard until ready to churn).
When the custard is thoroughly cooled, remove the vanilla bean and then churn according to the instructions for your ice cream maker (we have this one). Once it is done churning, while it is still soft, mix in the cherries and chocolate chips.
We like to then freeze for an hour before serving, so that it firms up enough for cones.