Archive for the ‘nostalgia’ Category

In 4th grade I had a crush on a boy named Jason. We lived a few streets apart and had been playmates since we were small. Our parents would joke about how someday we’d get married and after awhile I found this speculation rather comforting. I felt very proprietary toward him although I don’t think he ever really returned my feelings.

One afternoon in science class, our teacher thought of a demonstration to show how 2 pieces of matter cannot occupy the same space at the same time. She asked Jason to sit in a chair at the front of the classroom and then asked someone to volunteer to sit on his lap. I wanted to be chosen so badly but I knew I couldn’t raise my hand.

Too sensitive to put up with the teasing that would follow and too proud to give Jason the satisfaction of knowing I liked him, I sat in my seat, hands demurely in my lap and stared. I mustered all the attention and focus at my 10 year old command and in a Matildaesque moment of glory, my teacher and I made eye contact. She picked me! I rose from my seat primly and as though I could barely be bothered to, walked to the front of the room and found my place in my beloved’s lap.

Today is the first day of 4th grade for Mitten. I’ve had an astonished “I can’t believe you’re in ___ grade” moment every year since preschool though this year feels different because I remember my own 4th grade year so very vividly. I was on the cusp of adolescence and all the social trials that go with that time occupied my full attention. Mitten is no different. I’m hoping I can guide her through this with a bit more grace than I had. It would help if she inherits my psychic powers.

(p.s. Jason married his high school sweetheart. They have 5 kids. They named their first daughter Katherine.)


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ten years ago…

Around this time, ten years ago, I was living alone in a little apartment in Charlevoix. I was about 4 months pregnant with Mitten and I saw my grandmother every day. I would drive or walk from my apartment, along Main Street, over the drawbridge that spans Lake Michigan and Lake Charlevoix to her condo. I’d help her get out of bed and when her first bout of coughing was over, we’d sit on the porch and have coffee. It was an intensely lonely period of my life and our visits kept me afloat. Being able to help take care of my grandmother during her final months on earth was probably the largest benefit of having a surprise!baby, other than the baby herself.

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My maternal grandparents moved from Detroit to Charlevoix when I was little. First they lived in a smallish but beautiful house feet from Lake Michigan and then when the area got really popular they sold and built a new home on a hill overlooking acres of forest with Lake Michigan visible in the distance. Our family visited every summer and my brother and I spent many happy afternoons wandering the woods nearby and searching ponds for frogs or small fish.

One afternoon during such a vacation, my dad, Mike and I were heading back to the house from a longish ramble through the woods. We were a couple hundred yards away when a dog broke through the tree line and ran like hell straight toward us, without barking and tail down – intentions manifestly unclear.

My father calmly pushed Michael and I behind him and crouched down a bit. It was a tense few seconds but when he got within touching distance, the dog slowed and began gamboling about while sniffing and licking happily (because my dad is the original Dog Whisperer) and everything relaxed and we finished the walk back to the house accompanied by our furry friend.

I was impressed immediately by what my father had done – especially since at 10, I wasn’t sure whether the animal we faced was domestic or wild (as if there were a distinction between facing down a wolf or a mere mad dog). Years went by and as I reflected on the experience with the eyes of an adult and a parent, the memory came to stand for the best of my (very good) relationship with my dad.

We were all on vacation in Charlevoix again, probably 10 years later when my mother added the crowning detail. I had just finished recounting the story over dinner, it being one of my favorite family legends.

“What you kids didn’t realize”, she said, “was that as your father crouched down, he took out and opened his pocket knife in case he had to kill the dog”.

Yup, my daddy is one baaad motherf –

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Cooking was never a high priority for my mother. True, she was raised in part by my great-grandmother, an old school Italian who used to hand roll spaghetti noodles but this wasn’t enough to offset the influence of my half English, half Norwegian grandmother, an orphan (barely) raised on institutional cooking. I adored the woman (we shared a birthday and many interests) but her idea of a good meal was black coffee and a cigarette. Maybe if she was really hungry, a slice of toast and half a grapefruit. She famously said that she would prefer if her nutritional needs could be met just by taking a pill.

Everything I ate growing up was either bland or over cooked with a few notable exceptions (Chicken Paprikash, yum). Consequently, I was never really interested in food. I loved sweets but I think that was due largely to my chronically low blood sugar. During high school, I got addicted to Thai and Indian food but I still didn’t eat well at home. After I had Mitten, the low blood sugar that I used to be able to ignore got so bad it would trigger migraines. I had to eat regularly but I still didn’t really enjoy it.

I met my husband when Mitten was 2. On our first date, he made me a frittata. On subsequent dates we visited MacKinnon’s (duck breast w/ crispy skin), Ruth’s Chris (filet mignon and giant shrimp), D’Amatos (tea braised pork w/ scallops), The Whitney (Remy Martin XO and dark chocolate), Lily’s Seafood (Sander’s Hot Fudge cream puff and handmade creme soda). I never knew food could be so good! At home, Halim made everything from Korean bbq to 40 clove garlic chicken. Our Thanksgivings were epic. On our wedding day we served our guests crab seviche, Danish lobster tails, filet mignon and ahi tuna steaks with pureed celery root and lemon cake w/ cream cheese frosting.

We love food and food loves us. All this time I watched my husband cook, sometimes I helped and sometimes I would bake. Before the birth of our son, I made banana bread and snickerdoodles almost every other day. Still, I held back from making my own entrees because I thought I couldn’t cook. I was sure I’d burn the roast or make everything taste like feet.

Then something illuminating happened. I went to my mother’s for dinner. She was trying to make my husband’s 40 clove garlic chicken recipe for my sister’s birthday and things were going wrong. I got in the kitchen, took a look at the dish and realized that I knew exactly what I needed to do to fix it. I did and dinner was good.

Now I make dinner whenever I can get a free hand. My husband still loves to cook and I don’t fight him for the pleasure unless a dish has really caught my fancy. I know which spices finish a dish, when things are done by smell and I can make a perfectly tender tri-tip.

Apparently, over the last 7 or so years, my husband has taught me how to cook.

“Gourmandise is an impassioned, rational and habitual preference for all objects that flatter the sense of taste.”
Jean Antheleme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste

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baby daddy


My adorable husband, circa 1971. No wonder our kids are so cute.

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Anyone else remember Chinese Jump Rope? I had such a wonderful time playing when I was in grade school. I was thinking about it recently and bought Mitten this book/ropes combo from Klutz. She’s enjoying it but the book doesn’t have much in the way of rhymes and I can’t remember many.

By the power of the interwebs – I need help finding some!

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