My primary role during holiday food prep is to stay out of the way. Jerry does most of the cooking – OK all the cooking. Once, a few years back I got inspired to whip up a batch of homemade cranberry sauce. But just that one year. It seemed like a lot of work when an equally satisfying version is available on the shelf of any grocery, pharmacy, or dollar store this time of year. Since then, my list of duties includes setting the table, and scouring the cupboards in search of the gravy boats that we use twice a year. We never manage to store them in the same place during the frenzy of post-holiday hazmat cleanup.
That’s why the hubs’ request to make green salad shocked me. Indeed it sounded more like a command.
“And you’ll make the green salad.”
I watched an interview with Sully co-star, Aaron Eckhart. He’s working on a movie based on his mother’s memoir about her hardscrabble life growing up on the Montana plains. It got me thinking about my memoir and whether my daughter would appreciate the grueling torment that embodied growing up in the ’60s in the unforgiving San Francisco suburbs.
- Hygiene horror. The one and only bathroom option in our cracker box domicile consisted of an indoor toilet, small wash basin, and a tub. Sparse at best. That’s right. One lavatory for five people. Oh, the humanity. When dad had to go, he grabbed the sports section of the Oakland Tribune and announced his intentions to the rest of us. His attempt to fend off the requisite pounding of the door and caterwauling of my older brothers and me to “Hurry up!” was, alas, futile. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the 19th century claw-foot tub had – wait for it – no jets. Imagine wallowing in flat, motionless, non-jetting water. Oh sure, we had bubble bath, a pathetic substitute for a frothy whirling whirlpool.
My fascination with all things French began at an early age, upon learning the origin of my ancestors. I named my new puppy, a French poodle, Pierre François Dubois. I picked out swirly French Provincial style drawer pulls for the dresser my dad refinished for me when I claimed the bedroom my older brothers vacated. Pierre chewed every corner he could dig his razor-like bourgeois canines into.
My first opportunity to learn my “native tongue” was in seventh grade, choosing French for my foreign language elective. My teacher, Madame Lynch, was a European transplant. Also a tyrant, she confiscated my “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” paperback the morning she caught me reading it in class. She promised to return it at the end of the school year. On the last day of school, when I approached her to get it back, she claimed she couldn’t find it. Dictator.
Despite her iron-fisted disciplinary methods, she was generous with praise when deserved. One day, each student took a turn reading aloud a passage from our textbook. When I finished reading, she announced that my pronunciation was exceptional. In fact, she said, I could pass as a native speaker. My thirteen-year-old self interpreted that to mean I was a natural, had mastered the basics, and no longer needed to study. My B+ plummeted to a D the next semester. Nonetheless, her words stuck with me, and I never lost my affection for la langue française. Continue reading
At ten years old, my grandson is a seasoned bargain hunter. But Jackson didn’t get it from me. Even when my daughter was little and my budget littler, I never got into the whole coupon cutting, bargain hunting competition that my contemporaries enjoyed. When dollar stores starting cropping up in strip malls in my area, I had no interest. Target, sure. Walmart, on a rare occasion, but the Dollar Store? Sounded like another scam whipped up to get me to spend my hard earned Social Security check.
The last time I made the two-hour drive to visit, Jackson insisted we take a trip to the neighborhood Dollar Saver. I wrestled a cart loose from the queue and followed him in. The first thing he spotted was a shelf filled with miniature stuffed teddy bears in a variety of colors. He grabbed a red one from the display and asked if he could get it for his mom for Valentine’s Day. Continue reading
The house smelled of pine, bayberry and bacon. My mouth watered, anticipating the feast promised by our hostess.
My husband and I settled in on the sofa to enjoy our new Christmas tradition with his daughter’s blended family. Kelly’s fiancé and her two college-aged kids sat at the dining room table. Alfredo’s two grade-schoolers bounced around the room, along with Kelly’s littlest one, navigating through the assortment of friends and relatives, curled up cross-legged on the floor in the crowded living room.
“We’ll serve brunch after we open the gifts,” said our hostess, wiping her hands on a dish towel.
Perfect. My morning coffee and toast should hold me while we unwrap a few presents.
I got up to greet a late arrival and nearly tripped over the avalanche of gifts fanning out beneath the tree in a wide semi-circle.
How will we ever get through that landslide of ribbons and reindeer wrap?
The room began to spin. Visions of syrup soaked waffles danced in my head.