I was born on a Monday and I always love it when my birthday falls on a Monday. Just finished the cake with my sweetie, my dad and my daughter here. My mom’s down the street, probably enjoying the cake I sent home to her with my dad. 9:09PM another year turns for me. I love that my birthday month is the same month as the Jewish New Year. There’s lots of love going around on a birthday if we are fortunate. I am.
“What you preserve is the cheeriest memento mori. It is a way to say and mean: of everything that passes, this is what I choose to keep. It is a clear reminder, there for the tasting, of where and when and how you have lived.”
Suzanne’s been gone a month today. She was my daughter’s boyfriend’s mom. A person who loved well and who was well loved. I think of her daily. I think of her boys daily, my girl and all the people heartbroken by her loss. When she was on the last leg of her dying journey I would turn for solace to one of my favorite bloggers, Hannah, from Inherit the Spoon. In between writing about food, her boys, and home, she writes of memories…in the making, and those made, of her mom, who died a few years ago, a lady who sounds like she was also about 59, same as Suzanne.
Recently, Hannah posted the above quote from a book I enjoyed reading a while back, An Everlasting Meal, by Tamar Adler. It made me think of Danny, Brian’s older brother, Suzanne’s firstborn. Both boys left work last March to come home to care for their mom. Danny left San Francisco, where he was a chef at Outerlands, Brian took a leave of absence from his job in Boston. Time seemed to crawl for me as I held my breath, hoping, praying for miracles.
And when the miracle didn’t happen, the time that was left for them seems like it flew. A whole lifetime. Not nearly enough for any of us, glib as we may want to be with our easy platitudes about grief and loss. I just try to remember the Dr. Seuss quote Suzanne included in her obituary, “don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” So like her to want to comfort from beyond. Suzanne, wherever you are, I hope you are enjoying an everlasting meal. We miss you.
“D” for Dinky. We landed in East Sandwich off Ploughed Neck Road in a wee cottage with a big “D” on it for identification. “D” for dinky we said. How were we, a family of six to fit into such a tiny shack at the edge of the ocean? For a whole week!
Well, we did and we ate taffy, ran in and out of ice cold ocean water (it was June), and we bought sweatshirts at King’s Department Store in Hyannis to combat the gray chill damp drizzle that foreshadowed the weather to come that entire summer and fall.
We went into Hyannis to “People Watch,” a favorite past time, checking out the hippies and the obvious tourists (it’s always the men and their socks that makes them easy to spot).
We went to the Doll and Glass museums in Sandwich Village.
Next thing I knew, my parents had bought a house in Hyannis from Joe Coughlin, and we weren’t going “home” to Virginia.
Our tear ducts are our soul’s pressure valves. A friend told me that years ago. I’m not one prone to tears because my dad always told me when I was little that big girls don’t cry. But I’ve cried streams this month, April, the month of showers. I’ve tried to save my mother all of my life, but I can’t. I know it. I just have to try to save her stories. And no, she’s not gone yet. But it has been so hard to watch her decline over the years. I’m tired and she seems tired too.
Gather. Prayers, family, friends, flowers, memories, sorrow. Gather.
Children, moments, days, love, hope. Gather.
Sunshine, seasons, a cure, the moon. Gather.
Together. Remembering. Grieving. Ourselves. Gather.
Earth, ashes, dust. Scatter.
My youngest sister Betsy used to make the best soap not so very long ago. Now she’s teaching yoga. She already has a good number of regular students so I imagine her yoga classes are as good as her soap was.
I miss that soap though and some of the other body luxuries she created, but luckily I still have a small stash of her soap that might last me another six months to a year if I’m lucky. Once you are spoiled with handmade soap, there’s no going back to Ivory.
It used to be called spaghetti, rigatoni, macaroni, lasagna or whatever noodle it happened to be. I don’t remember calling it pasta. Tonight while I was preparing it, I had a food memory from childhood. It’s a twirling spaghetti technique I don’t see my parents do any more. But, they used to. With a fork, they would spear a clump of pas-ghetti and using a large tablespoon, twirl the spaghetti in the bowl of the spoon, using their fork as a sort of baton, before eating it. It was so grown-up to me and something I didn’t think I could ever master then. I tried it tonight and smiled at the memory.
I told my daughter yesterday I’d send her two bread recipes from my family files. One’s a super easy yeast bread I dubbed Irene’s bread after our Burlington neighbor who gave it to me. It’s a simple sandwich bread and tasty. Makes great French toast, too.
The other is the perfect Granny banana bread, this from a nurse I used to work with. You could call it Nana bread because it actually is her gran’s recipe!
Combine 2 1/2 c. hot water, 3 Tbsp. sugar, 1 Tbsp. salt, 1/4 c. Oil. Add 2 scant Tbsp. yeast, cover and proof until foamy.
Stir in 6 to 6-1/2 c. Flour total (so 4 to 5 c. white if using whole wheat, too). Knead for 3 minutes til smooth and springy.
Oil dough and let rise in bowl in warm place for 45 min., punch down, let rest for 15 min. Put in 2 greased loaf pans. Put in oven for 10 to 20 min. for last rise. Turn oven to 400* & bake from that time for 35 min. Loaves are done if they sound hollow when you tap them — you’ll know. Cool on racks if you have them. Slather with butter or good olive oil (I like Trader Joe’s Greek Kalamata Olive Oil), and sprinkle with some flaky Maldon sea salt. Enjoy!
Jenn Gratton’s Nana Bread
3 large (or 4 small) very ripe (black is good) bananas
1 c. Sugar (I use a bit less)
1 egg or if veganizing, 1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed + 3 Tbsp. water
Eggshell full or @ 2 Tbsp. oil
1 3/4 c. Flour
1 tsp. baking soda
Mash bananas, add sugar, oil and egg or substitute. Stir. Mix in flour and baking soda together. Don’t over mix, a few lumps are okay (makes a lighter loaf). Bake in greased loaf pan at 350* for 45 min. When knife inserted in loaf comes out clean (no gooey batter on it), turn bread out of pan onto cooling rack to cool. Another yum!
For Christmas, my daughter and her boyfriend gave me some pastalicious gifts — a pasta making class, and pasta club. The pasta class has me on the hunt for a manual pasta maker, preferably unused, in the box, sitting in one of our local thrift shops. (I gave mine away years ago thinking I’d never use it! Wrong!) Fresh pasta is now like fresh local grapes were for me when I first had them…nothing but fresh and local (my own kitchen if possible!) will do now.
But, in the meantime, I have pasta club and this past Saturday was my first day of it. Major yum and so simple! I picked up fresh tagliatelle, grated butternut squash, fresh thyme and basil, a plug of butter and olive oil, and salty toasted pistachios in several little containers. Included was a take and bake baguette, also!
To make the entree: get your pot of salted water boiling for the pasta. In a cast iron pan, heat the butter and olive oil on medium heat until hot, then add your shredded squash, stirring occasionally as it cooks. When the water’s boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain most of the water out, leaving a wee bit. Dump this in with your squash, lowering the heat and giving it a good stir. Add grated Romano or Parmesan if you’d like, toss well and serve with pistachios and crumbled herbs (I used the thyme…so delicious!). Mangia!
When did it happen? As I left the rehab center the other day, I turned and waved to my mother from the walkway outside. She waved back to me from the window of her room. All I could think of is how it must have been for us when I was 5 years old, waving to her from the window of the bus on my way to kindergarten, as she waved back to me.