Several wars ago, America was different than it is today. America seemed a kinder and gentler place. I took my first steps at my grandparent's home in Merchantville, NJ. WWII forced my mother and her sister, who were both married, to return home while their husbands fought in the European theater and the other in the South Pacific. It was an economic necessity for the family to pull together and get through the world being at war.

As I grew up and the war finally waned, my father returned from Iwo Jima, Saipan, and Okinawa. My uncle had returned prematurely from the Battle of the Bulge on crutches and what was to be a lifelong limp. Yet, all seemed strangely bucolic to me. With my father's return, my parents moved down the street from my grandparents' home and set up housekeeping on their own. However, my grandparents' home remained the hub of the extended family. There I spent many a day walking on tree-lined Maple Avenue and played in the goldfish pond in the backyard, attempting to spearfish them.

However, what I most remember about those post-war years was being in the kitchen with my grandmother. I can still smell the flour, cinnamon, and the other exotic spices emanating from her kitchen a half-century ago; those aromas brought comfort to me. She would bake pies and cookies to my delight while being the chief cook for the Oakford clan.

My grandmother was one of those that children naturally hugged and enjoyed being hugged. I loved my grandmother, but she had a peculiar habit, which I thought then a most odd practice. She would save pieces of string by tying them together forming a huge ball. These balls of string were large to my small eyes, and I would have to use both hands to hold them. She must have had a collection of nearly a dozen of them in the pantry. I never saw her use any of the string that she collected, but I recall vividly watching her form them by tying small pieces, one to another.

When I would inquire about what I considered an anachronistic process, she would always say that she was saving them in case there was another war. At that age, I wasn't even clear what a war was and what the relationship was to the string. However, from her terse reply, I could tell that she thought that she might need her collection of pieces of string all rolled up in large balls.

Many years and wars later, I have reached the age of my grandmother when she hoarded string. It amuses me that I love to bake with flour, cinnamon, and other spices to this day, though I don't collect balls of string. In fact, I would be hard pressed to find any string in my house. However, when my granddaughter comes over to visit, we bake with many of the same ingredients that my grandmother once did back when Roosevelt and Truman were household names.

My granddaughter asks me a lot of questions about cooking and life, but the singular questionphoto of paper towels and TP that puzzles her is why I have so much toilet paper and paper towels. She has noticed that my pantry contains countless rolls of each-at any given time perhaps three or four dozens of each. I tell her that I am saving them in case there is another war. She isn't very clear on the notion or the necessity of war. Therefore, she writes off my idiosyncrasy as just something her Papa does that has no explanation.

It's sad that we haven't learned how to get along in our world without war. Why can't all children grow up smelling spices and being hugged by grandparents? Perhaps, sometime in the future, children will live in a world devoid of hoarding string and rolls of toilet paper. Until then, bake with them using flour, cinnamon, and exotic spices. It will provide for them warm memories and comfort.