3M …Melancholic Memory Monday

30 years ago today was one of the worst days of my life.  Most women are full of joy, hope, dreams, and laughter on their wedding day…I was just a girl, 17, and knew in every cell of my body that this was a terrible idea, mistake, decision, and plan, and that nothing, from that day forward, was going to go the way I had anticipated for my life…All those dreams you have as a teenager; all those wishes for “how’s it gonna be?” totally extinguished in one afternoon at 17 years old…

To be clear, I have in fact had some really awful days since, and some really, really splendidly great days during these last three decades; I don’t in any way intend to imply that my life has been all shite and woe for all this time, but I do intend to express that if today were my last day to breathe life on this planet, I would say that one of my greatest regrets was that day;  having gotten myself pregnant, having been too slow with my phone call to the clinic to get myself un-pregnant, and then being too chicken to fess up to my parents right away, of the mess I had made of my very young life, thus removing any possible chance for them to fix the situation to a solution that would be the best possible outcome for their 17-year-old daughter…so chicken was I, that I made my sister tell them, on her 15th birthday no less…what a f**king mess…not only is the 30th anniversary of my wedding day a melancholic memory, the entire memory from that summer after I graduated high school is a wash of tears and worry and anger and frustration and confusion, it’s really a miracle, looking back now, that I did not just drive my little green Pontiac into a building…it’s a wonder that I managed to get up every day and live…because in my mind now, remembering  that time of my life then, I did not want to live, but did not know how to un-live.

When we are young we have so many hopes and wishes and dreams and we just assume that we are skilled and smart and sharp and will make all the right choices to make our dreams come true.  It used to drive me mad, as a teenager, when my mother would say, “all I ever wanted was to be married and have a family” and I would think, good grief!  dream bigger!  …but the funny thing is that my mother made all the right choices that got her exactly what she wished for…all these years later, perhaps that more than anything, is the perpetual painful thorn in my side, the typical mother/daughter angst that we all know is part of life…that my mother made the choices to get her to her goals, and I did not.

So today what would have been my 30th wedding anniversary, I think about how we think about ourselves and how the choices we make either get us to our chosen destination or keep us struggling to achieve the unachievable, attain the unattainable, access the inaccessible.  How daunting, to think of living this way?  It does not seem like a very healthy way to live, so instead we keep getting up and getting on with our day, and keep trying to do whatever we must to get “it” all right, and surely the “it” is completely different for each one of us.  I know a few couples who got it right the very first time…I know several in fact, both my own age and that of my parents, who are still in love with the person they loved in high school.  I know two couples who went on one date and “knew” that person was their “it” and their life as a singleton was over, and all of these people are perhaps exceptions to the norms of today,  because honestly most people I know are divorced or have been divorced…and just keep trying to find one person, is that too much to ask?! they lament, to find a match, somebody who brings out the best in them and helps them to be better than they were alone, better than they were before…I think it’s perhaps what everybody wishes for, on their wedding day, man or woman; let this union make me better than I am on my own, let this relationship make my life better than it would be if I were alone…

30 years is a long time ago to still harbor ill feelings, so I don’t.  I am no longer angry with myself for all of the stupid things I did & I recognize that all of my years of anger did nothing to get me towards my goals or dreams in life, and regardless of what I always said I wanted in life, I never tried hard enough I guess to get there, so I am here…at this point in my life, full of acceptance…a Mea Culpa to the universe.  Somebody I once knew used the expression that a good relationship doubles the joys in life and halves the sorrows…perhaps that’s all any of us can hope for…two times the smiles, and frowns that are few and far between.

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There’s no place like phone

I went to a party yesterday afternoon and stayed many more hours than I had anticipated, and honestly had many more laughs than I knew I needed.  I had my purse and my phone in the pool house and I checked my phone only twice in nine hours.  I can’t describe how good it felt, to be “otherwise engaged,” and not at all interested really in the world inside my phone…

I originally got an iphone for one reason; I often was bringing my ipod and forgetting my phone, or bringing my phone and having no music all day at work…I bought an iphone only so that I had to remember and carry just one object.  However, as we know from countless stories on the news, in the paper, and in magazines, we, well many of us, myself included, have become attached too much to our phones,  I have become one of those who does, at least several times a day, look on Instagram & Facebook, and  check my email.  Not that many years ago I only KNEW what somebody was doing if they called me on the telephone and left a message on my answering machine in my house that they were doing ‘something,’ or needed ‘something’ or wanted to tell me ‘something,’ and I only KNEW about it after the fact, because the message was left at some ‘other’ time and I did not hear the message until I pressed play…and I lived just fine back then, NOT knowing anything…emails were read at night after work, phone calls were returned, nobody needed me immediately, and I find that texting now is one of those things that most of us can’t seem to live without…

Yesterday at a party filled with friends, old and new, I realized how much I do enjoy interaction with real live people; smiling and eye contact, the sounds of peoples voices, the warmth of their laughter, and all that good humanness that is so lost in this modern world we now live in.  We swam in the pool together, we drank beverages together, we giggled together, we shared some happy stories and we shared some heart heavy stories, we ate good food, we walked to the roof deck together and looked at the sun set, while it was setting, and we interacted and it felt so rejuvenating to my very core.  This is not to say that I won’t still be a person who checks her phone throughout the day, but it is to say that I think I am going to slowly revert to the me I used to be…or at least the essence of her, who liked togetherness and who did not “need” cyber-space to feel connected, who actually connects with humans.  Yesterday reminded me how ensconced I have become in a world that is not real.  Sure, it’s in real time…I see from photographs and read in posts that somebody is on the beach, or is on vacation, or is making scallops, or is missing somebody they love, or is feeling melancholy, or is angry at somebody who hurt them, and all of these things are valid and all of these things are part of life, but yesterday, among friends, in real life and in real time, I remembered how good it feels to be physically connected, and I am going to make an effort to be more present and less cyber, and although it is certainly something of an “addiction” it is one I feel I can enjoy a little more if I take it in smaller doses…

Mangia!

The man who is, was, most responsible for my love of cooking and eating, and more significantly, who made me my first cup of coffee of my life, has died.  Admittedly I had not seen him in more than two years, it could be closer to four, but the impact he had on the young me, significantly shaped the woman and the “foodie” I grew up to be.

I started working for his wife when I was 17 and a senior in high school.  He was retired from a job in design and engineering and had recently gone to culinary school for the sheer delight of food.  He could not believe it when I told him about my parents and my sister; how they just had no interest in trying anything new or different or prepared in a way that they had not had before, that my father ate the same packed lunch every single day, that my sister would not eat anything green, that my mother had not ever tried broccoli…these things were anathema to him…an Italian who loved food…and I think it intrigued him, how me, the member of this bland and boring eating family, so dearly loved to try new things.  I clearly remember telling him about my Mimom; how I liked to help her to prepare food and how she loved to entertain, and that I enjoyed food in a way my immediate family did not.  I think he liked that I was young enough to be molded.

He and my boss lived above the shop they owned where I worked, and on nights when I was on the schedule, the aroma that often wafted through the joists would make anybody in the shop salivate…the week in the summer of 1985 that I had to announce to them my upsetting news, that I had gotten myself pregnant and through tears admitted that I had also been too late with setting up an appointment at the clinic to get myself un-pregnant, he barely blinked before he said, “well that’s it for Suzi-Q’s and Tab for dinner” (which honestly I did often bring to work FOR dinner) and proceeded that night to bring me a plate of dinner before he and his wife sat down to their meal. That summer I ate very well. Almost every night of the week and he introduced me to things I had never seen nor heard of.  He made me eat capers at least a dozen times, in a variety of dishes, before he accepted that I in fact hated capers.  He made this pasta sauce called sun sauce, literally out on the deck, that tasted like nothing I had ever enjoyed in my life.  He made another pasta sauce with itty-bitty chopped carrots and served with a hard-boiled egg that was so odd to me but oh so wonderfully delicious, and his bolognese sauce was honestly something that I could eat two bowls of and still say, “sure, I’ll have more.”  He taught me how to make gnocchi from scratch, which I tried to do many times and for me they always sunk like bricks in the pot but when he made them they were luscious and light.  I could go on and on for paragraphs…I tasted spanakopita, caponata, piccata…night after night and week after week, he fed me.  He loved food and loved to cook and I think, looking back, that he loved that he could introduce me to so much that I had not before experienced.  I often think it was because of him, and only him, that I gave birth that winter to the biggest baby in the nursery.

8 weeks later I went back to work and one afternoon when I felt really drained and really tired, and frankly overwhelmed with the life I now had,  he asked me if I wanted afternoon coffee.  I had never had afternoon coffee with my boss.  She loved afternoon coffee and in fact, in all of my 18 and a half years on the planet, had not ever had coffee ever.  I said “yes” or maybe I said “sure” and frankly, none of that matters because he brought downstairs from their apartment at about 2 o’clock in the afternoon two mugs (high fired, artisan hand crafted stoneware mugs to be exact) and I took my first sip, of what was to become my be-all-end-all-beverage-of-choice, of coffee.  It was wonderful that he introduced coffee to me, because the following year when my baby was one I started college at night after work, and anybody who knows me knows that coffee became a much needed part of my life.

I worked for them for more than 21 years; full-time at that shop for 14 years and then part-time for another 8. My boss and her husband let me sort out my work schedule with college so that some semesters I worked four days a week and went to school three, some semesters I left work at 4 so I could make it to school for night classes, they did not mind that during slow days in the winter, after all my work was done, that I did homework at the counter.  They encouraged me to go to college and were two of my biggest cheerleaders for achieving high marks.  They also both knew the value of a good cup of a coffee and a really delicious meal.  I could write about him for paragraphs, but I think instead, in his honor, I am going to go downstairs now and make a shopping list, from one of the cookbooks he wrote, and be a foodie this weekend.