Friday, December 16, 2011
Friday, December 9, 2011
Soup (Red Plate), 1997 50x58 inches Mitchell Johnson
When I was in college, my roommate Megan came back from Thanksgiving break with news that her Uncle Arnold had dipped his head into a bowl of chestnut soup and then left it there. His heart had simply stopped beating. Everyone at the table assumed he had had too much Jameson. “My Aunt Mary didn’t even budge!” Megan exclaimed.
I recall that story from time to time, and after so many years, the image of Uncle Arnold with his head in a bowl of soup has a certain patina. I imagine that I was there, too, watching Megan’s extended Irish clan raise their glasses to make a toast while her uncle perished.
This brings me to the relative period of silence since my post in November. This Thanksgiving, one minute my husband was playing checkers with my little niece, and a moment later he disappeared into the bathroom indefinitely. I knew enough not to make Aunt Mary’s mistake, and discreet knocks on the bathroom door only revealed a meek: “I think I overdid it.” I sighed and slipped him an Alka-Seltzer, then continued to calmly serve pie, cranberry cake, and coffee as if his vanishing act was quite ordinary.
What a fretful night he had and suffice it to say that my brave husband has an immense threshold for pain. His surgeon praised him post his appendectomy and fended off his rapid fire questions about how soon he could get back into the pool—he is an avid swimmer. He is also a terrific patient and recovering quite nicely, showing off his belly to whoever stops by with candy and puzzles.
Leaving my family for a few days to resume my book tour, I learned he is back on his bicycle and swimming a few thousand yards a day. Earlier in the week I did a reading for the Ross School Book Fair in Marin and I was so touched that the parents had made my date bars and my mother’s quince marmalade to serve with scones. The Book Passage had done a beautiful job selecting the books for the fair and I was glad to do some Christmas shopping there. The following day I left for Seattle for a reading at the brand new Book Larder, a most inviting space, its shelves lined with gorgeous cookbooks, and Lara, the owner, calling out a warm hello to everyone who walked through the door. My childhood friend, Jackie, who lives in Seattle, had made posters announcing my arrival and driven around town pinning them up in all the coffee shop windows. She and her “Maman” had made trays of baklava and Persian rice flour cookies scented with rosewater for the event. Cardamom tea bubbled in a silver urn and everyone who braved rush hour traffic, came in from the cold to be folded into Jackie and Lara’s welcome. I wished for time to slow down so I could take it all in, all this affection tucked into layers of filo dough and drizzled with honey. I wanted to take slow sips of tea and talk about my maman till dawn. I wish you had been there, too.
Our Thanksgiving may have been thwarted by a trip to the emergency room. There may have been hours of hand wringing waiting for surgery. But the real thanksgiving came later, when Papa came home from the hospital and asked for cream of wheat with brown sugar, and later in the week in Seattle.