My family visited over a recent Easter. We gathered a balloon bouquet, added our greetings, and sent them off the top of a mountain to our dear, though no longer near, loved ones.
Tag Archives: family
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“Weekly Photo Challenge: Green.” (Brought to you by your friendly blog host, WordPress) By my Royal Decree (and unofficial sanction of my loyal subjects) I bestow upon you: MAD QUEEN GREEN:
This past President’s Day weekend found us in Savannah, Georgia, that storied Garden of Good & Evil.
How can you not like a town where you can get a Bourbon Pecan Pie martini to go (a “traveler”), or, for that matter, any drink that way? Just pour those last few ounces into a paper cup and walk (no driving) away. So civilized. Savannah is lovely in other ways as well. The city is well endowed with shaded green parks accessorized with monuments, benches, walking tours, and blooming niceties, and most parks are looked upon by noble and sentimental antebellum homes. It is a place with one foot in the past and the other carrying forward the edgy generation attending the Savannah College of Art & Design. The three-day weekend refreshed my style sense (boots with everything, happily casual scarves, abundant shiny bling) and administered a rainbow shot in my visual arm as my color-starved eyes gobbled houses clad in teal and pink, a bicycling woman of a certain age all a-purple, and the art gallery in the City Market bulging with primary, secondary and every other color in between.
We bypassed the restaurant of the (in)famous diabetic cook, Paula Deen. My knowledge of celebrity cooks could be transcribed onto a 1″ x 1″ Post-it note, and we are as goats when it comes to eating. We did, however, partake of a local and tourist experience by eating at Mrs. Wilkes’ Boarding House. Meals here are served family style, which means you are seated at table with an assortment of strangers, passing bowls and platters to each other, everyone eating what’s placed in front of them. For this privilege, I waited in line 3 hours with Karen from Minnesota, Paula from Kentucky, and 100 or so other folks. I’ve never waited that long to partake of any restaurant, and I probably won’t do it again. But I learned something while standing in line with and eating elbow to elbow with strangers.
I’ve been wondering about our national obsession with eating, and how in this era labeled “depression” or “recession,” restaurants are still going strong. The answer is not solely the food, though despite being a grateful omnivore I do understand that if the food is terrible the restaurant will likely fail. But how much better than the last great meal eaten can the next great meal be? Perhaps the answer to why we continue to eat at restaurants, why we stand in line 3 hours for a seat in one we’ve heard mentioned in passing, is the possibility of a special experience, and the chance to share that experience with someone. Dining out can provide so much more than a medium grilled pork chop served by polite waitstaff on a gleaming white plate flanked by a linen napkin. After 3 hours in line with Paula Kentucky and Karen Minnesota, I knew Paula was kind to her administrative assistant, mindful of her special-needs daughter at home, still called her own father “daddy” in Southern fashion, and wouldn’t get that autographed Paula Deen cookbook because she was hesitant about walking to the book-signing alone, and that Karen was close to her military brother, fascinated by seeing hair colors other than blonde, would be traveling soon to Germany instead of Ecuador, and would be single for some time to come because the force of her personality would allow no compromise and her tongue no mercy. After two hours, our camaraderie was well enough established that we warbled together the happy birthday song for Marla who was behind us in line (and we were not the least disturbed on learning her name was actually Darlene; we simply regaled her again.)
This was the experience of a fried chicken platter, bowls of rice, cabbage, mashed potatoes, gravy, rutabagas and a jumble of other traditional Southern foods handed swiftly among not-quite strangers , an iPad appearing briefly for a photo, the drift of conversation from the next table in a snug, slightly overheated dining room. This was the experience of seeing the disbelief on the server’s face at the fact that someone (I plead guilty, being held hostage by the cabbage) could have passed up banana pudding dessert. And this was the experience of the same server demanding the attention of all in the dining room to instruct us to carry our plates, boarding house style, to the kitchen when we were finished. This was the experience of being expected to interact like a family at a dinner table, right down to taking responsibility for helping clean up afterward. This is why, when people are scattered and running and rushed, we make time to eat together at a restaurant, that substitute for the family table in today’s world. I’ve had better food, but not more memorable food. I may not see or sing with Karen or Paula again, but for a few hours they were my family, and they will always be part of my memory family. This was indeed the experience of comfort food.
Things I’ve heard this year:
God bless you.
So you’ve got a Baltimore map, right?
You’ll meet people.
Love you, sis.
What time are we leaving?
I’d hate to see you do that.
That might be what you do in the city, Linda, but we don’t do that here in the country.
We’re Christians, so we don’t worry about that.
If you need a church, I’ve got one.
Hay! Hay! Hay!
I’m sorry about your life.
You’ve got to understand, Linda. . .
Have you seen my shorts?
Do you miss Houston?
Do you need help?
You have to establish a presence.
You might not want to (or be able to) tell your story in, say, 1,100 words.
We shoot them and bury them off the property.
There’s a mouse in the garage.
It’s a rat in the garage.
You are too funny, I really do miss you.
You’re a good writer, and you have a nice eye for detail.
Why does everything have to be so difficult?
There’s a bear!
Did you know you have HD?
Hi, Aunt Linda.
Debit or credit?
Avert your eyes, boys, ‘cause the waters is mighty cold.
Are you finding it hard to meet people in this neighborhood?
We miss the diversity.
Things I’ve said this year:
Thanks very much.
So, I guess that’s it for now.
Can you make that with skim milk, please?
I just want to be happy, here, in this moment.
I don’t really Christmas shop.
I’ll get milk.
Can you cook meth?
That does look better.
No, that’s okay.
What do you do in the country?
I will not be drugged.
No, I’m not going back.
That seems harsh.
Do we have to pray?
Let’s not go there.
It’s not about the weather.
It’s just a job.
Nobody’s going to look after you but you.
I don’t think of myself as a writer.
Can we stay with you?
There’s an exploded mouse in the garage.
Don’t run over the snake in the driveway.
It’s not about the money.
I love beer.
How cool is that?
I’m leaving. Bye.
They pay me way too much money.
I write a blog.
I spend 90% of my time alone.
n (Mathematics & Measurements/Units) thirteen
[from the bakers’ former practice of giving thirteen rolls where twelve were requested, to protect themselves against accusations of giving light weight]
The current trend seems to be toward publishing lists – 10 things women wish men knew ( toilet lids down, use napkins, no means no, never enough shoes, no empty jars in the fridge, yes I cry, no you can’t fix everything, finish what you start, 20 years is long enough to wear a free tee shirt, sometimes the box is better than what’s inside); 50 best places to retire this week (there’s so much more to it than cost of living, weather, and population count so laughably emphasized in those worthless articles) ; 7 deadly sins (as listed at www.deadlysins.com: anger, gluttony, sloth, envy, lust, pride, greed – how many evil badges have you earned? Collect all 7!).
I’ve compiled my own baker’s dozen list of what I’ve come to appreciate much more over the past year, in completely random order. Here we go:
TED.com – I have a link to this on my blog. Go there. Watch a lecture. Think about the presentations. Listen to the understated Ric Elias talk about a life-changing airplane trip, check out what Jill Bolte Taylor brings on stage, experience the wistfulness of wishing you’d known Ben Dunlap’s friend. Broaden a horizon, maybe your own.
CSA – Community supported agriculture. In wide-eyed, city-dweller wonder and ignorance, I signed up to receive an assigned share of locally-grown produce. Every other week I show up at a parking lot with my bag and weigh potatoes, arugula, oyster mushrooms and many other foods I would never purchase in a grocery store because I don’t know what they are. It’s a very Dickensian experience, particularly when holding up my plastic container for the farm person to fill with apple cider from a blue 55 gallon drum. I am now addicted to lettuce and realize kale can actually be eaten; you can do more with rhubarb than make pie; watermelon contributes to a tasty chutney. And mushy cantaloupe blends well with Skyy Citrus Vodka.
BEER – What a heady love affair I’m in. I want to sample every last brew from every micro and craft brewery in the United States (except maybe Clown Shoes, based on a near experience and general clown loathing). And I want to try them all by the end of the week, which I guess is a bit unrealistic (though still a noble goal).
ROBERT EARL KEEN – Why did it take one of the most heart-breaking times of my life to wrap his music around myself like hot caramel around an apple? I know every word of “Merry Christmas from the Family.” If you haven’t heard his newest release “Ready for Confetti,” stop, do not pass go, do not collect $200 until you listen to it.
LEATHER – Somebody should have dope-slapped me years ago on this one. I still harbor an aversion to our leather couch, but I have no such problem with my new leather jacket, and those absolutely necessary black leather boots I had to have to wear with that (unnecessary though shivery-comforty) jacket. There’s a safe feeling, but a bold one, too, when wearing leather. Accept no imitations. Thank you, Ebay. Sorry, Elsie.
YOU TUBE – I could not have survived the last year without YouTube. From 50 States of Confusion to Rodrigo y Gabriela to Nora the Cat to Steve Jobs to Felonius Monk to Eric Whitacre, I’m rounding out and enhancing my heretofore shockingly circumspect and limited education. I’ve learned how to fold tee shirts and tents, seen that a smartphone might outsmart me, heard that more people answered “a joint” than “the church collection basket” when asked to name something that gets passed around, and discovered I can do a decent Bruce Springsteen imitation to Mike’s Neil Young. All these have been witnessed from my office chair. Free.
BRAS THAT FIT – Not a pleasure, but less than a bed of nails. You can fill in whatever else at this point.
LOW SLUNG BOOT-CUT JEANS – As with leather above, sometimes my learning curve is so steep I tip over backwards trying to climb up the slope. These gems take at least 10 years off my middle aged frame. They’re comfortable clothes that actually look good (no humility there, but I’m discarding that with everything else these days, except the bras that fit. For now, anyway.)
THE BLUES – I’ve said it before but I’m sayin’ it again. Koko Taylor and Big Mama Thorton, if I could find a way, I’d inhale your essence and hold it in my lungs. No exhaling.
HUMMUS – I’m going to have to put a time lock on the refrigerator. Beyond delicious, and there’s a rumor it might be healthy.
NPR – Say what you want about government funding, biased news, etc. etc. NPR is about so much more than news. Never in a million years would I have otherwise discovered The Decemberists, The Bridge School Concerts, a Smoot, and more movies than I can name (including I Love You Philip Morris; Enron, the Smartest Guys in the Room; and The Battle of Algiers). NPR has made me more thoughtful and open to other viewpoints, but it hasn’t helped me understand Lady Gaga or that New Jersey girl, Snookie or Nookie or whatever her name is. No matter where I am I can usually find an NPR station with familiar voices and worthwhile stories.
MY BLOG – This year’s completely unexpected lifesaver. Some years back I wrote bad fiction. Sometimes the blog seems like bad fiction. The Magic Bus Stop is a deep, murky pothole swallowing everything I can pour into it. Somewhere in that big dark space, my missing identity lies covered by Solitude, Sadness, Emptiness, and Lost Dreams. The more I write into the blog, the closer to the surface my identity rises. Must write, must write, must write.
FRIENDS & FAMILY – Some old, some new, some borrowed. . . Sisters of another mother; friends online and in town; family found as the scales fell from our eyes leaving us bloody and bowed and leaning on each other – whether you know it or not, each of you at some point has propped me up. You are all on the Bus with me, and I’m better for having you beside me.
I’m not a foodie. If someone wants to cook for me, I’m going to like it even if I don’t because they’ve gone to the trouble (unless they’re cannibals; I’d have to draw the line there. Hopefully they would have a dog under the table I could slip it to). Somehow my diet became healthier over the years, more so after I was away from home. My parents ate some pretty damning stuff — Mom dredged bread in bacon drippings and ate it and Dad had burgers & fries daily under the golden arches during his letter-carrier career. They were simple, wonderful people and did an awesome job parenting three kids, each of whom has at least a dozen separate personalities, but they’re not on terra firma anymore. Their diet was a significant contributing factor in their premature heavenly recall.
Nuking rice today (that sounds healthy, doesn’t it, — and I’m doing it in cancer-leaching plastic) brought back some food memories. My Dad and I ate Rice-a-Roni brand Spanish rice (“Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco treat!”), made on the stove (that was in pre-nuke days) by my mother, who would say every time, “I don’t know where you learned to like spicy food.” That rice would not pass her lips. We’re Hungarian on my Dad’s side, and I hear we can trace back to Attila the Hun, so maybe that’s it. (You’re not surprised about the Attila thing, are you? Me either. It’s probably better than tracing back to Vlad the Impaler.)
We ate cake for breakfast. My Mom made frosting basically from butter, sugar and evaporated milk. I’ve never been able to duplicate it. I’m guessing there was a secret “mom ingredient” that’s the equivalent of the magical-sounding ”grains of paradise” used in beer brewing, that only Mom knew how to add for the perfect, creamy spreading consistency over that two-layer chocolate treasure.
I’ve struggled for years to find a decent meatloaf recipe. Mom pretty much put hamburg in a loaf pan and drizzled ketchup on the top, which nearly sent me to cooking therapy in adulthood. (“Tell me about your earliest meatloaf memories.”) She’d eat chicken fingers, always a safe choice, every time we went to a restaurant. She mailed me a ham bone once so I could make soup with it. I think it took about a week to cross country, unfrozen, in the mail. She meant well.
My Dad sprang from the womb already working. He had no idea how to not work. He’d deliver mail through rain, snow, sleet and dark of Pennsvylvania, then head to job #2, making milk boxes. Go ahead, ask me. In the summer he’d come home from work and mow the lawn in his postal uniform, then throw back a well-earned beer. He’d get a fire going in a hole somewhere in the nether part of the backyard, let it get to coals, and put corn on the cob wrapped in wet burlap in the hole. I’m not sure where he got that idea, but I remember clouds of smoke foaming up the slope and into the neighbors’ windows. The corn would take hours to roast. He could turn a steak into cowhide on the grill. But he was a man who loved to eat, and made no excuses for it. He had some sort of connection with the military reserve, and we’d go on these reconnaisance missions with those guys to a frozen food place where we’d get enough frozen pies to feed 50 people for a year. Each one had at least a can of whipped cream on top. We ended up giving them away to neighbors.
But this isn’t about the food. It’s about the folks. It’s always about the folks, and the fam, and the friends. It’s about the memories you’re making as you’re making them. Who cares if the pizza’s smoky? (You know who you are.) Does it matter if the cheese isn’t made by dwarf nuns in the darkest Bulgarian forests? Does it really matter if the coffee is half-calf or full moo? No. It really doesn’t. It matters who’s across the table from you, and what’s being said between you, and what’s not being said between you. It’s about the stories being told, and the memories being made, how the light looks in their eyes, and how goofy some of us sound laughing. That’s what matters, because when everything else is gone, including those people in your life you can never replace, or get a second chance to tell how much they matter to you, or just spend more time with, you’re not going to be thinking the spaghetti sauce needed more basil.