Thursday, December 29, 2016

Jogging the Memory

Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind
Memories, sweetened thru the ages just like wine

Quiet thought come floating down
And settle softly to the ground
Like golden autumn leaves around my feet
I touched them and they burst apart with sweet memories,
Sweet memories...

Elvis Presley
A few days before Christmas, I was amazed – and pleasantly surprised  – to see a well-known landmark from the days I lived in Gardena as the photo that day on Bing. A wonderful photograph by Mat Rick (www. of the pier at Manhattan Beach, decorated for Christmas.

When we were kids and Dad took us to the beach, we did not go to Manhattan Beach. He liked swimming at Hermosa Beach, which is a few miles down the coast. But as we grew older and swimming in the ocean was less important than simply “being” at the ocean, we tended to gravitate to Manhattan Beach because the area has a nicer ambiance, parking is available for people who can’t walk very far, and as a bonus, the pier has a small aquarium at the end with educational exhibits.

In November 2010, I took our boy to California for Dad’s birthday. By that time, we knew our son probably would not live very much longer. In June he had been given 6 months to live and we knew time was running out. I wanted my family to see him – and him to see them –  before he died.

We had a wonderful visit (which I wrote about in several posts in November 2010).

And on one very nearly perfect November day, I drove us to the Manhattan Beach pier and we got our feet wet.

I had not looked at the photos of that trip for a long time. But I knew I had a picture of the pier at almost the same angle as the beautiful photograph that had just appeared on Bing.

And so I did.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Practically perfect...

Yesterday went well. Inviting our friend for dinner was a very good thing for us and for her as well. The meal was practically perfect, but not quite…

"It wouldn't be Christmas," my husband says, "without some sort of Leilani disaster."

Fixing pie continues to present challenges. What happened yesterday wasn't exactly a disaster, but the presentation suffered a bit. The crumb crust I made from vanilla cookies for the banana cream pie that was dessert at yesterday's meal was like concrete and very difficult to cut with the knife. And after I did finally mange to wrestle the piece I was trying to serve to our guest onto the spatula, I flipped it upside down on her plate. And the crust was in chunks.

The misadventures yesterday with the pie, and our ability to laugh at them -- and probably just as important my ability to laugh at myself -- were a blessing in disguise. Yesterday was such a joy.
A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones.

I think all of us got a good dose of medicine yesterday, and I am hoping our bones were nourished as well.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Almost Here!

As Christmas was barely looming on the horizon, I was hoping to write something meaningful and contemplative and perhaps even a little profound and kept waiting for the Muse to strike. And now it is the night before the night before Christmas and the  Muse appears not to be in a striking mood. So it goes…

In the last few years I’ve found myself struggling with feelings of sadness as Christmas approaches, but it hasn’t been so bad this year.

The thing I am remembering now as I reflect on the last Christmas we spent with our boy, who was in the nursing home with only a few weeks yet to live, was that he had made a gallant effort to get a Christmas present together for us earlier in the month, before his condition deteriorated so badly. I was so touched by that: he was not just thinking about himself and what was happening to him.

Well, it is hard not to think about what was happening that Christmas and hard not to remember past Christmases with my mom and my wonderful aunts who have died – and why should I not remember those things – but what me helped so much this this year is that we were able to get the focus off of ourselves a bit and were able to do something for someone else who needed help. It felt very good to have been blessed enough that we could do that.

And another thing keeping me from wallowing in the bog as the day approaches is that must get my house in order.

Yes! I must. The house is a wreck, and I have lots to clean and dust.

We normally have a quiet Christmas at home by ourselves, but this year I learned that our friend Judy was going to be alone this Christmas and I invited her for dinner. This will be the second Christmas for her since her husband died, and I am so glad she accepted our invitation.

Nigella Lawson gave an interview on National Public Radio some years ago that I never forgot. She said

Sometimes if you cook in a complicated way, your tension translates to your guests. They'll have a much better time having chili and baked potatoes than they would if you did roast duck with a wild cherry sauce and then had to lie down and cry for a while.

I am always -- always -- nervous about cooking for other people, so I am fixing something I have fixed hundreds of times before (well, okay, not 100s—but often) and it always turns out tasting wonderful and so I don’t have to worry about that. And even if the house isn’t perfect, that’s okay too.