Stella Yando. It is not a name you hear every day, especially in Saratoga County. But, in Malone, in the 1970’s, it was a name to be reckoned with if you were having a party. And we were having a party.
It was the last Friday night of the Fair and looked to be very cold, down in the 50’s, maybe the 40’s. I had packed a sweatshirt or two before I left Albany a week earlier. Mitch had brought his ratty red hooded sweatshirt with him when he arrived the night before. We made a quick run down to the Fair on Thursday night to get some fried dough with maple cream and walnuts for my mom and grab a ride on the Ferris Wheel. The sky was cloudy, no stars were visible, even from the top of the wheel, but Malone spread out below us, small sparkling lights hidden in dark green, except for the well-lit, long asphalt strip that was Main Street (aka Route 11). We kissed at the top, we hadn’t seen each other in five days, and there would be no intimacy until Saturday night.
I had been cooking and cleaning for days at my parents’ house. The rehearsal dinner would be there on Friday night, even though the rehearsal was not to be until Saturday morning, at the Country Club. It would be my in-law’s first visit to Malone, a long drive and light years from Long Island. My brothers lived in Malone, two at my parents’ house. My sister lived nearby, but spent almost every waking moment at Mom and Dad’s. Most of the wedding party was from out of town, one of my matrons of honor, her husband, Mitch’s sister, and another bridesmaid were flying in that night to Montreal. I had serious misgivings about their ability to navigate the road from Dorval Airport to Malone. Brother Bob was enlisted to go find them if things went awry.
Friday morning was busy. Mom was making pies. I still had cheesecakes and macaroni and cheese to make. Mitch had to pick up his tuxedo at the Bridal Shoppe on Main Street, but first I put him to changing the linens on the beds in Jon’s and Bob’s rooms, in preparation for the arrival of assorted cousins and second cousins from Philadelphia. Mitch would be staying at the Gateway Motel with his mom, dad and sister. Bob, Jon and Billy would be bunking in the studio apartment attached to the garage.
My mom and I had lists and more lists of tasks, errands, recipes and menus. We would not have enough time to do everything ourselves. She wrapped her arthritic fingers around the arm of Mitchell, probably her second most favorite person in the world.
“Mitchell, I need you to run an errand.”
“Okay, Peg, anything for you.”
“I need you to drive out the Brainardsville Road to Stella Yando’s house and pick up the baked beans.”
He would have gone anywhere for my mother. The baked beans were just an added incentive; the man loved baked beans.
Off Mitch and Brother Bob went. I was mildly concerned about how long it would take; Brother Bob was known to wander off-course, sometimes to visit Cookie or Scott, sometimes to stop at the Snowy Owl for a beer. It took some time for them to return, a huge covered tray in Mitch’s hands, a huger smile lighting his handsome face. The sweet, spicy fragrance of the beans preceded them. We smelled them before we saw them.
We could tell they had already sampled Mrs. Yando’s prized recipe. Mitchell started singing: “Stella, Stella Yando, Queen of the Baked Bean Trail!” He giggled, Bob laughed.
Through the hectic hours of the afternoon and early evening, the arrival of friends and family, the dishing up, slicing and pouring, I would catch Mitchell, humming or singing his new tribute ballad.
The party was a success, a trip to the Fair after 10:00 got me a huge stuffed animal won by Henry, our law school friend, more fried dough and kisses on the carousel. The NYC travelers had yet to arrive when I went upstairs after 2:00 a.m. to sleep alone for the last time in my old bedroom.
But, Mitch saw them driving down Main Street as he headed up to the motel. He followed them back to my parents and served them the leftovers from the party, before he sheparded them back up Main Street to the Gateway. Blissfully unaware that there was a second party going on in the kitchen, I slept until 6:30 when my mom awakened me to go to 7:30 a.m. Mass at the Convent.
Later, after our rehearsal, during lunch at the Country Club, Jeff, my matron of honor’s husband, told me that they had gotten lost near someplace called Rouse’s Point and had almost turned around and gone back to Montreal.
“I’m glad we didn’t, though, for your sake. But, mostly because last night Mitch gave us these unbelievable baked beans!”
Mitch was grinning and then he began to softly sing,
“Stella, Stella Yando, Queen of the Baked Bean Trail.”