Posted in family, Health, human nature, Mothers

The Home

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The following is a true story.

It happened in a clothing outlet, one mid-morning in early September.

A mother and teenage daughter were waiting on line. The mother was fifty-ish, probably near, or in the throes of, her changes and looked like someone who paid close attention to her diet and exercised regularly. If she was anything like I was at that age, she was probably at war with her body much of the time and the five extra pounds waiting to glom on to her with every bite of any carbohydrate. From where I stood, however, she was obviously winning as she was trim, and very fit in her skinny jeans and crisply tailored shirt.

If she had gray hairs, they were masked well by strategically placed highlights. Like most women at that age, she had a few lines on her face, but what struck me most was her fatigued expression. As clearly as she adored the girl, I sensed she would rather have been at home reading a good book than shopping.

As space on the conveyor belt cleared, the mother began placing items on it—tee shirts, sweaters, shoes, waiting for the two women ahead of her to pay and leave.

They were also a mother and daughter, but the former—short, elderly, with rounded shoulders and coarse, steel-hued hair—stood aside, steadying herself by holding on to their shopping cart’s handle as the former—close in age to the teenager’s mother—paid for the items.

When all their bags were in the cart, and the sales receipt was in the daughter’s hand, they walked to the exit, the daughter staying close to her mother, who continued to use the cart for support.

The teenage girl’s mother watched the pair leave, and as she stepped up to the register, and took her wallet out of her purse, she gazed into her daughter’s eyes. “Will you take care of me like that when I’m old?”

The girl didn’t miss a beat. “Nope,” she said. “It’s straight to the home for you.”

I suspected she was joking, but her mom didn’t laugh.

©2018 All Rights Reserved

 

Posted in books, family, fiction, Mothers, Shadows and Ghosts, writing

Coming to….

 

the-persistence-of-memory
The Persistence of Memory – Salvador Dali

(From Shadows and Ghosts)

I returned to New York in August of ‘91 with five hundred dollars to my name (all that was left from the royalties on my surrealism film, money I’d saved while teaching, and a surprisingly large option on a Jungle Thriller I’d written as a joke), direct from my breakup with Ricky Mahoney, looking for God-knows-what from the city and my family. I’d say I was thinking that a change from L.A.’s brand of insanity might do me good, or that my mother’s homemade chicken soup, Max’s good-natured pep-talks, and Lisa’s insistence that having my hair colored and styled would make me feel better, but that would be a lie. The sad fact is, when I left the West Coast for the East, I wasn’t thinking at all. All I had going for me was brain-stem activity, and even that was minimal. The only reason I managed to get on the right plane was because the same friend who had convinced me to fly out to L.A. put me on it. I vaguely remember an arm around my waist and the feeling of falling into a seat and seeing someone’s hands fussing with a clasp in the vicinity of my crotch. I also remember telling the person who was fussing not to bother with the chastity belt because I knew how to pick the locks. The next thing I recall is coming to in a hospital room. Max was standing at my bedside and Lisa was pacing madly beside him.

“You should have left her on the plane.”

“I couldn’t. They would have taken her to a state hospital. You don’t want her in a place like that.”

“I don’t?”

“Lisa.”

“No, Max. I’m sick to death of the way she keeps dragging us into her messes, and the way you get Crusher to leap into action to save her. For once, she could have at least had the courtesy to get strung out on the other side of the country.”

“Keep your voice down.”

“Who’s listening? The nurses? The doctors? They have better things to do.”

“What about Ida Mae? She might hear you.”

I quickly shut my eyes.

“Oh, please.”

“Or your mother. She could show up any minute.”

Lisa said, “What?”

“I said, your mother might hear you.”

“You told our mother?” she said. “My mother that Ida Mae was here? In the hospital? That she was….”

“Don’t worry. I didn’t tell Edna why Ida Mae was here. I just said she collapsed at the airport, probably from exhaustion. I thought your folks would want…”

“Of course. I mean, Ida Mae is their darling, isn’t she? Why wouldn’t they want to know why she didn’t come to see them the second she landed? Exhaustion. I protect Ida Mae and myself and end up being a schlemiel. They’ll carry on about how sensitive she is and I’ll get shoveled away like a pile of soaked kitty litter.”

“That’s not true.”

“Oh, no? You wait and see what happens when they get here. You wait.”

And then I caught a whiff of Chanel and stuffed cabbage, and heard my mother’s voice slice through the room. “How is she?”

I opened my eyes. My mother was bending over me, laying her palm on my forehead, and grasping my wrist to check for signs of life.

“She’s slee…” Lisa moved next to her and got a look at me. “I guess she’s awake.”

“Mom, Lisa, Max.” I smiled weakly. “Hi.”

My mother leaned over and kissed me on the cheek, nearly smothering me with her chest in the process. Then she sat on the bed. “Look at all these tubes. Gevalt. So why didn’t you come home before you got sick?”

“I’m sorry.” I looked past her to Max. He had this sad, lopsided smile on his face. Lisa’s back was to me. “Where’s Dad?”

“Looking for a spot.”
 Lisa swiveled around. “Why didn’t he just go into the lot?”

My mother turned so she could see Lisa. “I told him that, but you know your father. ‘What? I’m going to pay twenty dollars to a hospital to visit my daughter there? Don’t they charge enough already for the room?’ Who can argue with him?” She shifted her focus back to me. “So, are they feeding you enough? You look so tired. What did you have for lunch?”

“I don’t know. What does it say on the bag I’m hooked to?”

Max laughed and Lisa shot him a glare. “That’s not funny.”

“Sure it is, Leese. C’mon.”

I took Mom’s hand just to annoy her. “So, Max, did you guys get a cat? I thought I heard Lisa say something about kitty litter.”

“What’s this?” Mom pulled away from me and zoomed in on Lisa. “A cat with the baby? Are you meshugah? It could smother her.”

“Ma, the baby is five years old.” I swear, if Lisa had had a gun at that moment, she would have used it on me.

Max cut in. “Edna, Lisa told me you went to see the Van Gogh exhibit at the Met yesterday. How did you like it?”

“It was wonderful.” My mother, who could be distracted no matter who was in the hospital, said, “We loved it…and we would have seen the whole thing, but we were parked at a half-hour meter.”

It was about then that my father showed up, having found a great spot two blocks away at another half-hour meter. As a result of the parking situation, I didn’t see much of them while I was in the hospital, which is just as well. It made it easier to sustain the lie.

©2011 All Rights Reserved

Posted in family, food, Mothers

Nostalgia Bread

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This probably should have been a Mother’s Day post, but my head was off on Mother’s Day, drifting to other days and dreaming of date-nut bread sandwiches and comfort.

We went on a lot of outings, my mother and I—to the theater, ballet, opera, museums, and shopping. We dressed up for every excursion, even to shop, choosing stylish dresses, or skirts and blouses, then later, smart pantsuits—and, of course, sturdy walking shoes.

I don’t know how my mother managed it, as she worked full time. But it seemed we were always going somewhere together when I was growing up.  And when we did, we had favorite places to lunch or simply recharge.

One of them was Chock Full O’Nuts.

In those years, it seemed as though the restaurants were on every block.

I remember heading indoors out of the cold or heat, lured by the scent of their freshly brewed coffee, and climbing up onto stools to sit at the counter. We’d order drinks, and always date-nut bread and cream cheese sandwiches. They were a blend of sweet and crunchy substances and tangy cream—a perfect comfort food.

A few years ago, I set out to recreate my own version of these treats, adding some personal favorites to the traditional blend of dates and walnuts. The result was both comforting and nourishing, as well as calorie rich and decadent.

Since I’m allergic to cow’s milk, I opted for chèvre instead of cream cheese (you know how much I love goats, right?). But for those who don’t have that restriction, go for the original. There’s nothing like a good, old-fashioned shmear….

NOSTALGIA BREAD

Ingredients

1 & 1/2 cups chopped dates

1/2 cup boiling water

1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon of honey

3 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter

3 tablespoons molasses

two large or extra large eggs

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 small zucchini, grated

1/3 cup mini dark chocolate chips

1 cup, minus two tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons coconut flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350º.  Liberally grease an 8″ x 4″ bread pan with butter.  Pour boiling water over chopped dates. sugar, and honey, and let stand for 15 minutes. Beat in eggs, molasses, oil, and vanilla, then add nuts and grated zucchini.  Sift dry ingredients over the liquid mix, and blend. The batter should be substantial, but not overly thick. If it’s too runny, add flour a tablespoon at a time until it’s right. If it’s too thick, add water or coconut milk until it loosens up.

Bake in prepared pan for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack, then dive in and devour!