I adjusted the glittery mask to my face, blowing a wisp of a plume of bright red feathers out of my eyes as I did so. “How do I look?” I asked Rocket-man as he donned his own mask.
“Beautiful,” he said. “Yeah, right. That’s what you always say,” I quipped. “Well, here goes!”
Without knocking I opened the front door and stepped inside. I could see that there was a lively bunch of folks in the kitchen. Music (though I cannot recall the genre) was in the air and the sounds of talk and laughter filled the entire downstairs area of my sister’s home. Miss Nica-Roux, a bundle of beagle-mix puppy love, was the first to great me. I silently petted her and, with a finger to my lips, whispered a “hush, no barking” to her as I tip-toed down the hall into the kitchen. The Lord of the manor (my sister’s husband Greg) didn’t see me enter the kitchen as his back was to me. He was at the bar mixing up a batch of drinks, talking animatedly to one of his guests as he was mixing. Greg was dressed in pirate garb, his costume of choice for Halloween this year. He certainly looked the part with a green bauble faux-piercing his right ear, a billowy white shirt with a bright red sash around his waist and a black pirate hat. He was quite absorbed with his guest when I tapped on his right shoulder. Still engaged in conversation with his guest he turned slightly towards me.
“Um, can I have a pomegranate martini please?” I asked as non-nonchalantly as possible.
“ACK!!!!!! What in the world….Oh my…..!” He screamed in wide-eyed delight (Yes…I’m absolutely positive it was delight). His eyes literally resembled 9-inch pie plates. I kid not!
“CC! What a surprise! Your sis did not tell me you were coming!”
“She didn’t know either,” I laughed with childish glee as we shared a long hug.
Just moments earlier Sis was equally thrown for a loop. I surprised her just as she was walking down the street with Alexandre-the-Greatest and a group of his trick-o-treating friends. We hugged and screamed together with happiness. “In all my years I’ve never been surprised like this,” sis gushed with joy. I was pleased beyond belief that I had succeeded in thoroughly surprising my sis and her husband, arriving just in time for their Halloween party. They weren’t expecting Rocket-man and I for another week.
So folks, that was a delightful memory forever etched in my heart. I smile from ear-to-ear every time I think of it. I share this recent memory because of the times we live in. Friday’s terrorist attack in The City of Light (so named because Paris was considered the center of education, learning, and ideas during the Age of Enlightenment) makes me realize more than ever our mortality. Our hearts beat in this moment. But in the blink of an eye–whether it be from a health affliction, a drunk driver, or God-forbid, at the hands of an insane terrorist/suicide bomber–our breath can be snuffed out and, in an instant, we are gone. We. Are. Gone. My heart has been heavy all weekend. Our world seems to be going to hell though my historian bro-in-law reminds me that these are not the worst of times humanity has endured. He speaks the truth though It sure seems to be the opposite to me.
During a recent walk with The Poodle, I resolved to snap out of my funk. The universe obliged, for as I soon as I thought it another lovely memory came out of the recesses of my stressed-induced brain fog. This one in beautiful Paris a year before my sweet nephew, Alexandre-the-Greatest, was born.
I was with my sis and her husband for a weekend in Paris and while there, we were lucky enough to meet up with my California friend Miss Lou who was in town celebrating a honeymoon with her love. We all met for dinner (the restaurant escapes me now) and decided to dine outside under a perfectly starry nights’ sky. We ordered Champagne (but of course!) and we clinked glasses to Lou and her husband. We also thought we’d order an appetizer to go with that Champagne. For inquiring minds, Sis and I don’t speak french but I took a semester in college and together with our Italian, we were confident we could figure out the menu. Miss Lou had studied French too so between the three of us, we felt fairly confident that none of us would starve that night.
“How about shrimp?” Asked Greg, sis’ husband.
“Oh yes…a shrimp cocktail sounds perfect for a start,” I agreed.
Since there were five of us we wanted to order several shrimp cocktails to go around. At this, the waiter’s eye-brows came together. It was but a nano-second, like a blip on the radar screen, as it were. But, it was telling. If only we hadn’t been so wrapped up in our starry-night bliss. In retrospect, though it was an expression that was ever-so-subtle and gone before my brain could process any meaning, I should have given pause and asked for clarification.
When the waiter returned with our “appetizer” order of shrimp some ten minutes later we were all nearly stupefied at what he placed before us. It was a very large platter piled high with some form of teeny-tiny crustacean. It looked akin to that scene from ET…remember? Who could forget the most famous mashed potato scene of all time with Richard Dreyfus piling his plate high with an enormous mountain of mashed potatoes?!
“Yikes!!! This looks nothing like shrimp cocktail. Could it be a mistake?” I whispered to my sis in quiet horror. Seriously….It looked like a pile of cockroaches, sautéed in a dye of festive red.
“Yum. Looks like crawfish,” Greg said. The Cajun in him was quite happy. I do believe he was the first to dig in.
No wonder the waiter gave us a strange look! We had ordered too many servings. One small plate was meant for our table, not the mountain before us. He probably thought we were typical gluttonous Americans. Or stupid. Or both.
I was not about to dig in. But, not one for drama –meaning, that I certainly didn’t want to be the party-pooper in the bunch– I knew I’d have to hide my true feelings about this food nightmare and at least give the dish a try. A long sip of Champagne gave me the courage to pick up one tiny “shrimp”.
“How on earth are we supposed to peel these?” I asked, non too pleased about the pile of eyes and antennae on the platter. I honestly tried to peel a couple but the task seemed impossible and I gave up quickly. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one. The lot of us barely made a dent in the pile. Even Greg gave up. There were so many tiny crustaceans on that plate that I daresay we’d all still be at that table today.
We all laughed and laughed over our food error, though, If memory serves me, Greg wasn’t quite as euphoric over the bill. Still, it was a delightfully magical night in every way possible. It’s a memory I’ll cherish until my lights go out.
As Paris mourns in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks last Friday, I mourn with her and her people. Paris will always hold a special place in my heart because I spent time there–though short– with family and friends. My soul was bathed in the joy of a new adventure, made complete with walks on both sides of the Seine, strange food, heavenly buttery croissants, and love and laughter. I’ll forever cherish what Paris gave to me.
I’m keenly aware that I could die in the next moment, especially in a world that seems to be growing more insane by the minute. But, I’m lucky enough to be here…now…in this moment, with a pocketful (and then some) of memories. I’m ever thankful for the good memories AND even the not-so-good ones. They all make up the fabric of my life. All the insanity in the world cannot erase what lies forever etched in my heart and soul.
There is bliss in that.