Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Sunday, March 21, 2010
I fell asleep a bit ago. A needed nap. A place to escape to.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Second Sandwich and going strong...
When I was growing up we had a delicatessen right down the street. It began as just a counter in 1945 and then grew into a full-fledged restaurant. My father had a charge account at this deli called Nate ‘n Al’s, and it was a heavenly place. Soon enough, it became a Beverly Hill’s legend. Still, on any given day, you can find Hollywood moguls making deals or a legendary actor or actress sitting in the avocado green vinyl booths of this infamous deli.
I remember the Beverly’s and Westwood’s of my youth. These were the names of the mouth-watering sandwiches bulging with turkey or roast beef, slathered in Russian dressing and coleslaw. Two perfect pieces of rye bread held this bit of paradise together. And then there were the most delectable pickles complimenting your perfect sandwich.
Every once in a while, my mom would order cold cuts from Nate ‘n Al’s and bring them home for dinner. I can’t really remember why, but these evenings stand out as the special ones. Perhaps it was her German roots, but Mom would present this ordinary tray of cold cuts and make it look like she was serving the King of England.
Living in Northern California, I’ve yet to find a deli that I like. I know Nate ‘n Al’s is a hard act to follow, but I’ve tried them all. Nothing comes close.
Recently, I discovered that I could create my own version of the perfect deli. I found a great market that will cut my roast beef, my turkey, my French ham, my salami perfectly. And they have huge, succulent pickles and fairly good coleslaw. I have perfected my own Russian dressing, but I have learned to live without the rye bread. Nobody can make rye like my favorite deli. So, instead I resort to some of our rustic sourdough. I try and buy vine-ripened cherry red tomatoes and fresh romaine lettuce.
I had no idea that my kids would love this dinner as much as I did. I can see in their sparkling eyes that they delight when I don’t cook and they get to make their own sandwiches. It is their little bit of heaven.
When we head down to LA, the first place the kids want to go is Nate ‘n Al’s. I know that my attempt at imitating the cold cuts of my youth is still appreciated…but there really is nothing like Nate ‘n Al’s.
And there is nothing like watching my 13-year-old son bite into his perfect sandwich. “I’m growing, Mom,” he says as he makes his second sandwich. And he smiles at me as he takes another enormous bite.
That’s my 13-year-old! Hard to believe. I look at my little boy with the huge sandwich and finally understand how he got to be taller than I!
Did you have a favorite meal when you were a kid? Do your kids have their favorite dinners? What is it about food and memories that seem to resonate? Have you ever walked into your elementary school cafeteria and felt like you were transported back in time?
Monday, March 15, 2010
Saturday afternoon a friend e-mailed me to see if Hubby and I wanted to join her and her husband and another couple for dinner in town at 6:30PM. This particular restaurant has a happy hour that includes half-off on most of the dinner menu. But you have to have your order in by 7:00PM.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
I had put down my novel for a couple of weeks. I am close to the end and suddenly became afraid. The end must pull all the pieces of the novel together neatly and cleverly. I was not sure I was up to the task.
Monday, March 8, 2010
We woke early Saturday morning, too early. We dressed in black suits, all four of us. There were ties to tie and even cufflinks to insert into pretty little French cuffs.
We drove to the airport. The kids began to argue. Tears came to my eyes as we passed over the Richmond Bridge.
“Can’t you two just not bicker for one day?” I pleaded.
They tried. But they were tired and apprehensive. They had never been to a funeral.
We flew down to sunny Los Angeles and were greeted by rain showers. It never rains in LA. But it was raining on Saturday. We made our way to Forest Lawn Cemetery. We gathered under a tent, my cousins and a few dear friends.
My Aunt had been cremated so her ashes were placed in a small wooden box. Flowers adorned the table.
We were told to remember my Aunt. I did. Tears welled in my eyes once again. I looked over at my young son. He had tears in his eyes as well.
It struck me that although my Mother is still alive; my boys never really got to know her. Kyle was only a year when we were actually told she had Alzheimer’s. And I do remember Mom coming to the hospital when Will was born. Her caretaker drove her into San Francisco just hours after Will was born. It is my last full memory of my mother. She was delighted to meet her newest Grandson.
But my Aunt quickly tried to take my Mom’s place in my children’s eyes. She was the matriarch of my side of the family. And they loved her.
Her own Grandchildren generously shared her with them.
The three cousins came together as a family once again, at a place we used to visit every Easter. My sister died 16-years-ago. I desperately felt her absence. Our other cousin lives in England. The journey was too long to make. But her beautiful flowers and note sat right next to Auntie. She was with us in spirit.
Every Easter my Mom and Aunt would drag us to Forest Lawn and we would bring flowers and place them on the graves of their parents, Mutti and Vati. These were my Grandparents. The Grandparents I never had a chance to meet.
It felt significant sitting under the tent and honoring my Aunt. I could finally mourn.
When the service concluded, the cousins and the cousin’s kids went to visit the rest of the family buried at Forest Lawn.
We walked over rows and rows of buried souls and finally found my Father. My Sister lies next to him. My heart aches. I am so glad I am with my family and all my cousins.
Next we paid our respects to the grandparents we never knew. My Aunt and my Mom always made them so alive for us. My cousin snapped a photo. I understand his desire for the photograph. That’s where our rich history began, with them. I know he wants to remember them, although he never knew them. I know he wants the connection to them and to the rest of his family. He wants to feel them today and he wants to send the photo to our other cousin in England. He wants the family that was so strong to continue through the generations. I understand this. I love him for this.
The rest of the day passed with food, conversation and little too much wine.
The four of us left late Saturday night for a small hotel room in Pasadena. I didn’t sleep much. I shared a double bed with my husband and Kyle slept in the other double bed. Will was relegated to the cot that flanked our beds.
We woke early again Sunday morning to return home. I was happy, truly happy. I looked around the small room and I understood why. I was with my family and nothing makes me happier.
We landed in Oakland and Kyle shoved Will at the airport gate, “Move faster,” he said. Will turned to Kyle, “Stop acting like such a butt.”
My husband turned to me. “They could barely last a day, and now they need to get it all out!”
He was right. I was home and home felt normal again.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Growing up in LA with a father in the film business I always knew when it was Oscar time. There were Academy screenings and the trades were filled with huge advertisements taken out by studios hoping their films would win.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
I ordered flowers today for my Aunt’s funeral. I gripped my stomach as I talked to the nice man in Los Angeles about exactly what I wanted--white roses and white tulips with some English Ivy and twisting twigs. I added a note from all of us. A pain shot through my abdomen.
When things get really emotional or stressful for me, I have the uncanny ability to place all my stress into my body. I have perfected this talent over the years. Usually it takes a few days for the full effect of whatever is eating me up to make its way into a physical symptom. Today it hit hard and fast.
I hung up the phone feeling bewildered. I am not prepared to bury my Aunt. I feel her loss so much more significantly than I was prepared for. And now I’m certain that I will be the next one the family will bury.
See, this is what I do. I know it probably keeps me NOT thinking about the things too painful to think about. And I’ve mastered the talent. It has taken years, but it’s the one thing in my life that I know I am really very good at.
Clinically, I think they call it hypochondriasis. I’ve actually never been really diagnosed. But my friends have been happy to diagnose me. “Oh Terry, it’s just in your head,” they will tease. I kid about these things, but its really real and scary.
This afternoon my husband had to scrape me off the ceiling. The pain in my stomach frightened me so much. I am convinced I’m having serious health issues that involve something deep and dark and terminal.
I quickly go through a myriad of morbid scenarios. And then I hole up in my home and worry.
The creative part of me has a field day. I have had so many terminal illnesses in my head that I’ve buried myself more times than I can count.
This is the part of being a creative person that I really hate. In a mere second I can project so far into the future. Scenes play out quickly and brutally.
I try to go to my “nice” place. I try and breathe. I force myself out into the world. This all helps, sometimes.
My eldest put into perspective last night, “Mom, are you feeling alright?”
“No, dear I have some stomach issue.”
“Oh Mom,” he teased. “Last week didn’t you think you had a brain tumor?”
His loving humor really helped. It brightened by dark mood. And he made me realize that my stomach is probably just that, a stomachache.
But how can I be sure?
How do you cope with stress? Do you assume the worst when it comes to medical issues? Do you meditate or use any other coping tools to deal with life’s difficulties?
Monday, March 1, 2010
Opera is playing in the kitchen. Yes it is. But I fear that it's too late. My eldest is buried under SAT prep and term papers and my youngest is in his room easily maneuvering between homework and the computer 'thing.'
The familiar roar of the trash trucks. The first ray of sunlight streaming through the cracks in the curtains of my bedroom. My husband's alarm softlly ringing.