Carol Gregson listens patiently to her #3 son, Kent, while she tries to wash asparagus for dinner on April 20.
On the menu was stroganoff, fried asparagus, salad, sweet knots, rice for the rice people, and noodles for the noodle people. Dessert was lemon pie.
“My #1 daughter had married a very amiable engineer who will do most anything for me if I make him a lemon pie,” wrote Carol Gregson in her second memoir, “Wet Socks,” published through Bloated Toe Enterprises and set to be released during a party at the Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls Thursday, May 2. Her first memoir, “Leaky Boots,” was published in 2003.
The amiable engineer, Rich Moss, wasn’t required to do anything for his lemon pie Saturday, April 20, just agree to have dinner with his wife Kris, mother-in-law, #3 son Kent and partner Daisy Kelley, me and my wife Dawn. It was an enjoyable evening with home-cooked food, Adirondack beer, boxed red wine and plenty of stories to fill the old farmhouse in Olmstedville.
Carol was an art teacher at the Johnsburg Central School, and she’s an artful storyteller with a witty sense of humor. Her illustrations and stories — collected over 87 years — fill this 228-page book, her second and final one.
“It started out as a cookbook, but then I got carried away,” Carol said to my wife as she thumbed through the pages.
The recipes for sweet knots, cranberry bread and Grandmother’s Chili Sauce are lumped into Section 5, “What’s Cookin’?” She also talks about making stroganoff in the “Take a Can of Mushroom Soup” essay and puts beef on a pedestal in “The Lowly Meatball.”
“Of course, since Greg died, there’s no more venison,” Carol wrote in the mushroom soup essay. “I don’t know why I haven’t raised any hunters, but beef is good, and stroganoff is always a good dish for sharing with friends.”
In the front of my book, Carol signed the title page and drew an illustration of herself holding a glass of wine and the word, “Cheers!” That’s a word authors use from time to time when we personalize a book to a friend we’d enjoy having a drink with. I’ve known Carol for years, swapping a few words here and there at the Adirondack Authors Night at Hoss’s Country Corner in Long Lake. I’d see her when peddling my “Adirondack Attic” books under the big, red tent.
Carol asked me to preview her book and write a testimonial for the back cover, a “blurb” as we officially call it in the publishing business. I was honored to be among other notables with my words on the back of “Wet Socks,” alongside my radio professor and mentor Dan Berggren, Crandall Public Library Folklife Center Director Todd DeGarmo, Blue Line Magazine founder Alice Wolf Gilborn and local author Bibi Wein.
Here was my blurb: “Plan A: Read ‘Leaky Boots.’ Plan B: Read ‘Wet Socks.’ Be prepared to enjoy Carol Gregson’s latest memoir. She’s an expert storyteller. ‘Wet Socks’ is classic Carol; she left me wanting more, much more. Now I have a hankering to hang out with Carol, share a box of red wine, a few stories, two bowls of stroganoff and a crust of bread. It’s that good.”
Unfortunately, there were too many testimonial writers using delicious food references in their blurbs. Carol’s powerful stories about cooking were so mesmerizing that we couldn’t help but get hungry after reading the book. Perhaps placing the recipes toward the front instead of the back of the book would have prevented this. Still, someone had to change their blurb, but it wasn’t Todd DeGarmo:
“I want to be like Carol Gregson when I grow up. In her new book, ‘Wet Socks,’ she whips up a generous serving of her life’s stories with the warmth, humor, and that twinkling spark Carol always sneaks in. It’s a bit like indulging in a creamy, comforting egg salad sandwich, with a good shot of mustard and horseradish to make you take notice.”
Wow, that was pretty good, Todd. The blurb itself made me hungry, although I’d swap out the egg and put in some chicken, but still, I liked it. Thanks for making it so good. I had to rewrite my blurb because of you:
“Be prepared to enjoy Carol Gregson’s latest memoir. With this book, she invites me into her living room, tells me the story of her life, and makes me feel at home with her honesty, charm and wit. She makes me laugh; that’s what I love most about Carol. She’s an expert storyteller and left me wanting more, much more. ”
Carol liked my first blurb enough to invite me to dinner for stroganoff, which I gladly accepted. And, as we sat in the living room after dinner staring at the fireplace where the front door used to be, she inscribed my book and referenced my rewrite for the back cover.
“Loved your blurb!” she wrote on the title page. “Thanks.”
When reviewing “Wet Socks,” I never saw Carol’s illustrations, as the chapters were each sent as Microsoft Word documents, so now I’m enjoying all the artwork and can see why she was a well-loved and well-respected art teacher.
I love the fact that she refers to her children by number. It’s starting to get too confusing, though, with all the grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I think they’d better come up with a new system. Sounds like a good time for a family meeting.
I’m looking forward to reading “Wet Socks” again now that I can feel the pages in my hands. Aside from the recipes and stories about her family, I was fascinated to follow Carol back to her early days — what she calls “Ancient History” — and learn about her Scandahoovian ancestors from Nebraska like Grandpa Paul Bunyan, her roots on the West Coast and her job in a Texas airplane factory during World War II. She eventually married a feller from Long Island and moved to the Adirondacks, where they ran a campground and raised a family of seven children.
“Anyone who does not consider motherhood a career has not raised children,” Carol writes in the “Resume” essay.
Now Carol keeps busy with her group of spinners, telling stories to crowds, and finding ways to move the boxes of books out of her dining room and into the hands of eager readers.
“I’m not looking for work anymore,” she writes. “I’m peddling books!”
The price is reasonable: $19.25. And it was a good year, too.