the gregarious homebody

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Oh Natalie Dee, How I Love Thee

The Day After

This is not the post I thought I'd be writing after S's bar mitzvah. It's amazing how something can turn so quickly--from exhilaration to anxiety, from relief to worry. Life is funny like that although it's hard to think of it as "funny" right now. After celebrating The Boy who is now A Man (not) with family, friends, delicious food, and happy drippy children, I thought I'd have a once-familiar feeling of the day after Christmas. A let-down after all that planning. A kind of sadness that such a big day was over. Now I wish I had that kind of feeling.

Instead, HH's bosses dropped The Bomb. In spite of The Economy (the longest four-letter word there is right now for me), I'd tucked away any worries I had a few months ago thinking that the worst was over and we'd dodged a bullet. HH wasn't surprised. When you're in sales, you know exactly where you're at, business-wise. In fact, it's one of the great things (usually) about the job; if you work hard, you see the benefits in an almost immediate way.

And HH always works hard. It's one of his personality traits I wish I could mention on his resume myself, as in "No matter how insignificant or 'important' the job, my husband will work like his life depends on it because it's the right thing to do." He has an amazing amount of integrity. If you hire him to do a job, you can be absolutely sure that HH will get to work early and stay until past the time everyone else leaves. It's who he is.

Which makes this so hard. Someone who identifies so much with his work will inevitably think "what could I have done differently?" no matter how much he intellectually knows the economy's in the shitter. I worry as much about how he feels about himself as much as I worry about what we're going to do. He reads my blog (even when it's a Free Pass Five post) so I hope he really reads this post.

I am proud of my husband. I know we'll be alright because he's such a great asset to every workplace he's ever been. I only hope he can believe it as much as I know it.

Friday, June 12, 2009

My Life in Food

Starting a new Last Day of School tradition--The Volcano: 14 scoops of ice cream + 8 toppings

If my life were a book divided into chapters, each one would be about food.

Described as “a good eater” as a child (which may have something to do with the fact that I have also always been described as “solid”), most of my memories of my life up until now have been food-related. The room in my house growing up that I remember most is not the beautiful bedroom my mother wallpapered and filled with my beloved stuffed animals and dolls, but the kitchen, wallpapered in huge flowers inspired by The Brady Bunch and other houses of the 70’s. It’s not that the food that came out of it was so wonderful. My poor mom had the unenviable task of cooking for four children on a regular basis with totally different schedules and tastes. What was worse is that she also had to cook for a husband who thought having rice instead of mashed potatoes with his meatloaf was radical and who also thought that I “must be adopted” because I didn’t think gravy was one of the four food groups. No, my mother’s food per se wasn’t memorable. I guess I was just a “foodie” in the making. For that reason, I think my first chapter would have to be called:

Chapter One: Fish Sticks and Canned Green Beans—a Love/Hate Relationship

Let me just say from the start that I love fish sticks. A self-described non-fish eater at the time but knowing the health benefits of fish, I don’t think my mother ever tried to make the “real thing” for us but skipped right to the stick. Her own mother was a wonderful woman but a terrible cook and my mom has told me stories about saving whole fillets in her mouth and then somehow asking to be excused from the table to spit it out in the toilet upstairs. So I think she was saving us from our own childhood traumas. I didn’t mind. I can still remember being a very little girl, dipping my fish sticks in extra ketchup (a vegetable) and crunching away happily.

While I loved my mother’s fish sticks (and frozen turkey croquets and TV dinners when a babysitter came on a Saturday night), I did not love my mother’s way with vegetables. “Fresh” vegetables meant that the can had just been opened. Now canned corn or peas can sometimes be a good thing, but green beans should never, ever, be given to anyone, let alone a child who finds most vegetables suspect at best anyway. Canning green beans takes away their wonderful texture and fresh, snappy flavor. Or so I am told because to this day I still have trouble with them; with the help of a food therapist, I hope to work it out. Canning also turns this former bright green vegetable into a color best left to army fatigues and slime that one finds at the bottom of stagnant ponds. Yum!

But my mother’s love of the use of canned vegetables also extended to potatoes. Potatoes! I still don’t understand that one since potatoes are such keepers (I guess it was all about get-it-done-fast convenience) but my husband, whose mother probably didn’t know there were canned vegetables, cannot believe that I actually liked them. Bar none, one of our family’s favorite Sunday night dinners was a mixture of fried canned mini potatoes, scrambled eggs and hot dogs. Delicious! And my kids and husband love it too (all the while still being slightly disturbed by the potatoes).

My mom also used all the early convenience foods (before microwaves made them their own cuisine): Stove-Top Stuffing, Betty Crocker au Gratin (“all rotten”) Potatoes and, of course, Hamburger Helper. I loved them all and didn’t think them inferior to some of my friends’ mothers’ freshly-made-and-not-out-of-a-box food. My mom was ahead of her time; she was a busy housewife who would’ve rather spent time doing fun things than thinking incessantly about what would be a great dinner.

That job, much later on, was to be for me.

I can't believe they wanted anything to eat for dinner that night--
"Fancy" Italian-style Macaroni and Cheese with mozzarella and tomatoes, ready to go into the oven

Stay tuned for Chapter Two: Cauliflower & Awkward Adolescence


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