Bittersweet

21 06 2009

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It started all quite innocently…Shop Girl had come to Indiana with me for a visit with the Mrs.  On our way out of town she wanted to find a little “something something” to celebrate School Boy’s first unofficial Father’s Day.

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Since we are all about shopping local – we headed to the downtown’s quaint re-purposed storefronts.  Funny, this one sits just a door or two away from where the 1893 City Directory lists LeClair & McNiece had their grocery store at 8 South Washington.  Obviously, Shop Girl has it coursing through her veins.

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Peering down the street to where the Premier Theater used to stand and over my shoulder into the recesses of my memory,  I was transported to a Saturday matinee  in 1971 – having imbibed some magical candy – friends and I entered the fantastical world of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  Now on this unseasonably hot day, almost 4 decades later I step inside this virtual Turkish Delight.

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Much wiser now, I realize that eye-candy is just as rich if not richer than the stuff I could be melting on my tongue.  We tried to take it all in…perusing and pressing close to the glass cases in search of that special something.

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It was the kind of place that had every kind of penny candy – reminding me that I used to tight-fist some of the change Billy would give me for the Sunday School offering…surreptitiously stealing down the alley to a corner store, I could be licking my lips and standing at the car looking innocent enough by the time the rest of the family got there.

Protestant Guilt would have me wondering why I never choked to death on that candy purchased with monies intended for the hand of  missionary Edith Witherspoon somewhere deep in the Congo.  I stole from the Lord’s work.  Karma came ’round as I dug my way through missionary closets and spent countless Sunday mornings with the Children’s Church set.

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Shop Girl carefully examined each nook and cranny in search of the perfect token.  None was to be found that would express what she was trying to convey.  But, alas, she realized that “we” (she and baby? she and I?? all three of us perhaps???) needed a “little goodie” for ourselves.

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Nothing but the warmed lava cake would do.  Taken back to the fact that I wasn’t shopping for Father’s Day…I missed Billy something awful.

He never was much of a cake or cookie eater.  When he DID eat chocolate cake – it was first sprinkled with salt.  Apple pie wasn’t complete without cheese.  He liked his vanilla ice cream plain and simple – like spoonful by spoonful right out of the freezer.  One of the biggest surprises in hospice was when he asked for chocolate ice cream – a sure sign there was a major shift in the universe happening.

If I had been looking to buy him something in this sweet shoppe – I would have had to ask for the jar of anise candies.  On their first visit to Spain back in 1986 or ’87, he found a hard candy that tickled his fancy.  I remember him taking all the black jelly beans when we were kids.  He loved liquorice.  Did he really  – or was it just that he learned to take what everyone else turned their noses up at?  Liquorice and anise aren’t the same thing – but they fall in that family of distinctive tastes.

In tiny corner stores all over Spain, anise candies come in a variety of sizes and shapes.  He found one he really got enthusiastic about and for the dozen or so years that followed, I would never head Stateside for a visit without a kilo or more in tow – just for him.  He kept a secret stash all these years and every time my kids would walk into his house – they would be presented with a few pieces to put in their pockets before we left.

A few weeks ago, before Shop Girl and I left for LA, some friends were over for a tapas feast.  As I reached my hand in the antique Spanish alacena (breakfront / hutch) to retreive a half a dozen espresso cups, I found where I had been stashing away some of the candies Billy would give me on my weekly visits in the last few years.  I had entirely forgotten that they were there – and it was if an invisible arm extended from behind the glass door had grabbed me by my throat and started strangling me.  I quickly recovered so as not to ruin the evening with my personal drama and set the cup aside.  I decided to leave the candy out where I could see it during the following days – and to eat one every time I felt like it.  I ate the last one the other day.

Life goes on…even when I momentarily choke on the memories.  Billy never made a big deal about days like Father’s Day.  He was hard, in my opinion, to buy for.  So there were more Father’s Days than NOT, that a card was all he got from me.  I want to wallow a bit today.  I don’t want to move on.  There have been lots of days in the last month – with my voice strong and clear – I’ve chirped out, “My Dad passed away last August and I…” without missing a beat.

The sweet side of yesterday’s bitterness was being able to hug my best friend’s dad and to wish him a Happy Father’s Day.  Seeing her – visiting for an hour with her folks and her husband – made Father’s Day for me.  I miss my Daddy.

p.s. Thanks Designer Desserts…it was a trip!dd8

BTW check this place out if you are looking for a place that does the kind of thing you see on Ace of Cakes but for a fraction of the price.

Go Valpo!





looking forward to earth day 2029

23 04 2009

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I didn’t quite know at the outset how the day would play out – but with promise of sunshine, temps in the 60ºs and fluffy white clouds in the blue sky – I was hopeful.  After all it was Earth Day.  Then again, any time I’m at her house I’m already thinking of how to save the planet, my sanity and whatever bit of cosmic juju I can muster as I battle the forces of junk.  There has to be a great role-playing video game in here somewhere.  Or maybe a new reality show.

Nonetheless, I was on the road early because I knew that my first challenge was the “big brown bin”.  I’ve spoken before about how I have tempted the gods of garbage as I switched trash haulers on her after years and years and years with some other company who’s prices went up as fast as the cable company’s.  By 10 p.m. the night before, I knew I was doomed since I hadn’t reminded her to take the thing out and put it curbside. So I was racing the clock, trying to get there before the truck came by to make sure that they took away last week’s “gathering” of landfill gorge.

It really is (and I’m not kidding here) a struggle to know what to put where.  In my mind’s eye I find myself wandering over the steaming piles of garbage and stumbling on things I recognize that I put there.

But I also know that it isn’t fair to give real junk to Goodwill. Yesterday they were graced again with various and sundry goodies…old books (that I had to convince her she had never read or would never read), the vintage DA-LITE projector screen we used to pull out to watch home movies (she cocked her head to one side), a contractor’s bag filled with things she couldn’t see and an old suitcase (“But what if…?”  “Mom, it doesn’t have wheels on it!!”  “Oh…”).

She was feeling especially proud that she’d cleared off the desk in Billy’s room and I was secretly panicked that she’d tossed some precious stash (but I think I had hidden all the good stuff).  In another corner of the room beside where he slept, is her sewing machine.

I never had a store bought prom dress.  We even came up with a design for my wedding dress that she made.  Maybe on a few occasions in the last 30 plus years has she hauled it out.  She hated all the “mess” that Billy had stored underneath – transistor radios out the wazoo, a half a dozen flashlights, a space blanket and lots of empty padded envelopes, old greeting cards – I can’t go on…you get the picture.

So that was my main focus for the day.  Lo and behold – the majority of the bulk was remants of fabric.  I started making a pile.  I have already memorized the city’s recycling brochure and had noted places that took donations of handiwork and the like.  They were going to be so “blessed” today with my haul!

When I had it all assembled, I asked her to just eyeball it before I took it out to the car.  The earth shifted…it got very very quiet…we were in a freeze frame.  She gave me a look that screamed “Oh no you DON’T young lady!!!”

I had crossed a line that I recognized.  I’ve been here before with Billy many many times…that’s why I’m doing what I’m doing now and never got it done then.  Out of the pile of “dreams” – there was only one little scrap of material that she was ready to be done with.  Even when I was mouthing the words “When on EARTH are you EVER going to get your SEWING MACHINE out again?”…she was hearing “You USED to DO this but you CAN’T ANYMORE so let’s just TOSS out any hopes that you had!!”

If I’ve learned anything through this process it is that we, as human animals, get alot of our identity from things we once did or dream about doing someday.  A box of fabric scraps – as much as I’d like to see them in someone’s hands today that will do something with them – are intricately tied to her self-worth and dignity – who she was, the contribution she made and how she still “feels” on the inside.

Billy is gone but she is not.  She needs to move through HIS STUFF now but I had better beware applying the same principles to her for the time being.  This is one tightrope I’m walking and I don’t want another misstep.  I packed up a box-worth of odds and ends and put it back in the bottom of the closet…it was no longer under the sewing machine – just re-located…she was happy.  Yikes!

I turned my attention to something I knew was a safe zone  – a box full of batteries.  Since they have yet to invent some way of just visually determining whatever power they have left – I needed a battery tester I could read.  Billy, being the Mr. Fixit guy he was, had the REAL deal there but I am too dumb to figure out which red wire goes to where when the black wire is touched to the bottom, etc.   So I went and got a gizmo I could handle and started in.

The guy at the store even gave me a hand full of plastic bags and asked me to only put three per bag which helps him out with the recycle process.  So my Earth Day adventure consisted of 1 bag to the “Big Brown Bin” for next Wednesday morning’s haul, a car full to Goodwill and this nice little cache of batteries to recycle.

I had planned on staying over night and getting more done…but I felt that it was imperative to restore the necessary chi and harmony in the universe for me to high tail it north so I could sit and be surrounded by MY STUFF and laugh at what is in store for Shop Girl and Best Boy – Earth Day 2029.





channeling my domestic goddess

21 04 2009

cavalliJust a Tuesday with a bagazillion things to do before I go to the dentist this afternoon – then leave town tomorrow for at least an overnight.  Magically, a rather routine dreary, drippy day was transformed.  It started with getting to iron some hand-painted Roberto Cavalli artwork.

towelsSo inspired was I, that I took the time to fold my old towels the Martha Stewart way.  I feel so proud – so sophisticated.

DSC_0011I looked down after grabbing one rug to throw into the washer and replaced it with its almost twin and stopped just for a second to admire this little gem from Algeria that keeps my toes warm each morning.

DSC_0034It’s that time of year to give my pretty little perfume bottles from Egypt,  quietly perched atop the door frame, a bath.

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Then just because I could, I paused, turned out the light in the bathroom and lit the candles – the votive holder was a gift from Shop Girl when she was all of 13 I think and on a field trip to Chicago with her French Class.  It has always been a fav.  The pitcher behind it –  a little treasure from Morocco.

All I was doing was ironing and needed more water to fill the iron.  I walked into the bathroom and stopped long enough to admire things I look at more than once a day and never stop to “see”.

Our bathroom is on that never ending “Money Pit” wish list for a major makeover.  Who knows then my MegaMillions numbers will hit…till then I keep myself pacified with little trinkets that keep my mind off the general sad state of affairs when it comes to the desperate need for gorgeous white subway tiles to line the walls – along with having the tub (probably from the 1920’s because it is NOT a claw foot which would have been original to the house) re-surfaced in an attempt at being green and keeping it out of a landfill somewhere.

DSC_0042Amazing how much ambience can be added by low lighting…you can’t even see the mold!  What a great day this is turning out to be!!!