Food, Family, and Memory

folded-map.jpgHaving vowed (in writing, which makes it serious) to have a more open, less fraught relationship with my mother, I am making time at least once a week to take her to lunch and have a good talk. By that I mean that I drive, and she pays for lunch. If my mother lets me pay for lunch, and we are not sharing a meal to celebrate my new job, bonus, lottery winnings or inheritance, it’s time to begin steering her gently towards a neuropsych evaluation.

So yesterday we ended up at a lovely little sushi place where I could eat sushi, and she could have something else. She had already asked me to take her to Talbot’s, for me the retail equivalent of the Bataan Death March, and I had agreed; the whole point of our time together was that I would not look at my watch, think about what else I could be doing, or patronize her with my opinions of her taste in preppy shifts and cardigans. She is my mother, and it is not only unkind but backwards to assume that age and illness have rendered her a child requiring my guidance. As I dabbed a little wasabi on my spicy tuna, she made a second request: since my brother and his wife were going to New Orleans soon, could we stop by the book store so that she could buy them a map?

Before I could stop myself, before I could re-direct my automatic inner know-it-all, I said “no one uses maps, mom. I mean, I’ll take you if you want to go, but they both have smart phones, and he has GPS on his phone, and I just can’t see them hauling out a map.” She put down her chopsticks, and narrowed her eyes.

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pasadena greetings.jpglaraine_newman_cameo.jpgTwo times a week I have to find stuff to do for several hours in Old Town Pasadena. This is a part of Pasadena that is, well, the oldest.  If you can imagine any part of California old, this is it. Many of the ‘old money’ resides here and the architecture reflects the Spanish influence tinged with Victorianhanna_toss.jpg and Craftsman flavor. The reason I go is because my daughter Hannah is a competitive cheerleader. Not the kind connected with a school. She’s too young for that. The kind from Bring It On. The kind you see on ESPN. My little Westside dolly is the one they throw up in the air. The one who brings her leg back to touch her head while being hoisted aloft.  Frankly, I’d puke if I ever had the guts to get up there, but she’s tough and fearless.

If you attend one of these competitions, which I’ve done for many seasons now, you hear sped up hip-hop for hours on end. I actually like hip hop to some degree, but after hours of it, I want to kill myself. This past season, her team; Explosion, had a sixties theme, so their music was a mash up of Sam and Dave, Buffalo Springfield, The Beatles, The Monkees, Steppenwolf etc. It was fabulous and they took first place nine times out of the eleven times they competed. Obviously, not because of the music, but because they ‘stuck it’ every time.

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david-hockneys-a-bigger-splash-1967-300x300.jpgAs a little girl, I loved to swim, still do. Just about any chance I got to go swimming, I would. I dreamed of having my own pool. My bigger dreams were to be an Olympic swimmer and also to swim the English Channel.

Pools and water became an obsession as well as a love. I would look into my backyard and fantasize a swimming pool. It never appeared. My dad always lived in an apartment building with a pool so there was usually a place for me to swim. When I was older and using his for exercise, I would have to share it with his elderly neighbors. They could get nasty and it was tricky navigating around their crankiness. Some of them became my new best friends in long as we stayed in our own lanes.

When I saw the David Hockney series of pools, I totally understood how the swimming pool was his muse.

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savagecookie.jpgWhen I was a kid growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, my favorite food in the whole wide world were sugar cookies from Savage's Bakery in Homewood. Made fresh daily, from before I could even walk, I used to go in there with my mother to buy bread and other baked goods, knowing that every trip to Savage's always ended with a big fat old-fashioned buttery cookie, cooked to the perfect yellow consistency and coated with the best flakes of sugary sweetness that would melt in your mouth.

Old Mr. Savage used to laugh everytime I came in the door saying he remembered me coming there when I couldn't even open the door by myself, always wide-eyed in hopes that there was a fresh batch of cookies hot out of the oven.   Whenever he or one of the women behind the counter saw me walking down the street, they would usually greet me  holding one out for me as soon as I walked inside.

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icecreamroll-005.jpg I’m quite sure it’s in the genes. I know I got the ice cream-loving gene from my dad who got the gene from his mom. It’s that gene that forces me to direct my husband miles out of our way just to visit an ice cream store that makes their own ice cream. That same gene has been known to cause cravings that send me to bed with a spoon and a pint of my favorite frozen cream. I can eat ice cream morning, noon and night and never get enough. I can’t help it – it’s in my genes.

Fortunately for me, my sons each have the gene. Those with this specific ice cream gene like to hang out with others who have the gene. Both sons chose ice cream-loving wives. So far, it seems each grandchild has been gifted with the gene. Oh, I am lucky to have so many who are always ready to share a cold dreamy treat. Did I say share? I didn’t mean it. My friends and family all know that I’ll share just about anything – except ice cream.

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