It’s Gonna Be a Martini Night

It’s a sunny day in my neck of the woods. The winter sky is a stunning blue with wisps of white clouds here and there. I’m thinking of a multitude of things as I walk at a fast clip in a effort to stay warm. Still, the cold penetrates my mittens and I find myself constantly trying to stave off numbness and tingling in my fingers. Oh how I dislike the cold but honestly, with Raynauds, I could be living in 105-degree desert heat and walk into an air-conditioned building and the cold effects on fingers and toes would feel just like a walk in the woods on a crisp-cold winters’ day.

Principally, more than usual, thoughts turn to my mother on this day which would have been her 84th birthday. She left us four years ago and yes, though ours was a messy complicated relationship, I miss her. She was an unusual flower–belonging really, in a totally different universe…on a different planet perhaps. She added distinct bursts of color to a somewhat drab world. She certainly did not fit into the world she found herself in when she married my father. I’d venture to say my mamma (nor my father, for that matter) should never have had children…or, at the very least, she should have waited until her thirties. I’ve definitely got some baggage from both parents. But as God is my witness, though it took over forty years, I’m ever so grateful for my scars. It’s made me who I am and given me a resilience to which the snowflakes of this generation (and those past) could not even begin to hold a candle.

Mamma was a force of nature and mighty opinionated. I’ve lost count of how many times she’d say something inappropriate or cringe-worthy, and often in public, and yet sometimes I secretly admired her unabashed directness. She didn’t care a wit about political correctness or what the “Jones’s” might think. I’ve thought a great deal about my mamma during this past year, one that has been fraught with violence, cancel culture, pernicious woke-ness, deep political divide and all topped by a global pandemic. I’ve held many conversations in my mind with mamma as to what she’d have to say about Trump or his often ridiculous tweets or all the destruction and mayhem in cities across the U.S. I think we’d surely disagree with each other on some topics as she would be all-in for Trump, as opposed to my more measured (dare I say, balanced) opinion. I imagine too that some conversations would surely get a little heated and would end, as often would, with a dismissive wave of the hand, an eye roll, and a “whatever.” And, oh boy….I just cannot envision mamma wearing a mask even if her life depended upon it. She’d likely would have spit bullets and forgo doctor appointments and the like rather than don a mask to go out. I almost feel it’s a Godsend that she left us well before the world turned upside down with such venomous discord and tribalism, as well as the devastating effects of a pandemic. She would have listened to the news non-stop and it would have only served to heighten her agitation, and those around her. I could be wrong in all of this; she could be looking down on us from above in horror as to how the world seems to be teetering on its axis or she could be blissfully unaware sipping a martini on the rocks before playing something lovely on her white baby grand piano.

I struggle to erase the last vision I have of mamma. Unfortunately it was in a hospital and she was on a ventilator. Her face was terribly bruised from the fall she had suffered the day before in her apartment. She never regained consciousness from that fall. I often refer to one of my favorite recent photos of her but still…the image of her connected to tubes in a hospital bed superimposes on anything that I look at. I keep hoping that this will pass as the years go on.

Mamma gave me a love of classical music so on my walk this morning I listened to a few of her favorites–Chopin, Albinoni and Beethoven, just to name a few, as I walked down the path leading to the small neighborhood lake. I looked for beavers and was disappointed again. The family seems to have found new digs this year; we haven’t seen them in ages. But a heron has come back to grace the banks of the lake and it is there that I paused this morning, with eyes teary and a body weary from all that has happened this year. I love you mamma I say aloud as I looked out over the water and took in the quiet majesty of the heron.

I think of words by a young poet:

“Some broken vases can still hold beautiful flowers”.

Munia Khan

Even with a relationship marked by voids, I hold that unique flower that was my mother in my heart and soul and yes, I miss her dearly. So I say: Happy Birthday Mamma. Tonight we’ll raise a glass to you.

Martinis, with three olives, were her favorite. I’d like to think she is enjoying endless martinis in heaven as well as colorful conversations with her favorite personalities.

Let Them Eat Cake

In the wake of the election people have taken to the streets in a handful of major cities, including the windy one–Chicago.  They are outraged over the election results.  I watched the demonstrations unfold on T.V.; it was surreal…as if I were living in a banana republic.

I’ll confess I was more than a wee bit nervous as I watched the angry protestors two days following election night.  I’d be flying into Chicago the next day to spend the weekend visiting my daughter.  Given Chicago’s dubious distinction this year as The U.S. Murder Capitol, its no surprise that I should be nervous.

I shared my concern with my friend Emily.  Like me, she is amazed that folks would react this way given Trump won, fair and square.  Yes, Clinton may have won the popular vote, but not by much all things considered (under 400K is the current count).  But how meaningful is that even, really? Not all the provisional and absentee ballots will be counted now.  It is possible that even that could have turned Trump’s way.  It is clear to me; there was no overwhelming mandate.  People voted. Clinton lost, Trump won.  That is the process.  Stunning? Absolutely!  I’m still floored.

I’ll confess to another reason for trepidation upon arriving in the windy city: My daughter, beautiful and bold,  voted for Clinton.  She wasn’t happy one bit that I had attended a Trump rally many months ago. “I’m simply trying to be an informed voter I had said; He’s campaigning pracatically in my back yard.”  And, I want to see Rubio and Cruz too.”  Add to that,  I’ve seen her social media posts and comments over the course of the weeks leading up to the election.  Let me be clear: I am proud of the fact that my daughter has opinions about politics and what happens in the world.  Still, We have had our ups and downs as most mother-daughter relationships do.  To put it as diplomatically as possible, I worried that she’d be less than gracious that I didn’t vote for her candidate.  So far, for the most part, differing views has not been an issue. Whew.  What a relief because I’m in town to be a part of some wedding decisions (the big day is in May of next year).

First on the agenda.  Cake tasting.

After a workout at Orange Theory we shower, breakfast and head to the caterer, Big Delicious Planet.  My daughter has chosen them because they create interesting and delicious menus with ingredients from their urban farm and quite possibly because they are billed as the “greenest caterer in the country.”  We meet the catering associate that will work her wedding.  Her name escapes me but she has beautiful eyes and excitement for what she does.  Within a few minutes of meeting we get down to business.

I’m excited: Bring on the cake.

The lovely associate returns from an enormously large catering kitchen with a big tray of samples.  I look at the bowls of buttercream frosting (almond, cream cheese, and chocolate) and I can feel the saliva building up in my mouth in anticipation of the heavenly sweetness that it surely will be.  Olive oil cake, chocolate buttermilk cake and a basic vanilla buttermilk cake are placed in neat rows accompanied by little bowls heaped with cake fillings: strawberry-basil preserve, dark chocolate ganache and hazelnut-praline cream.

We debated for a nano-second about waiting to taste as my daugter’s wedding coordinator was late in arriving before agreeing that it was impossible given the delight of sweets before us!

Without delay we dove in.

OMG….YUM!

I dipped my tasting spoon in a bowl of almond buttercream frosting and I am in heaven (my daughter didn’t like it but I’d happily spread it on anything).  The chocolate buttercream frosting was fabulous (who doesn’t like chocolate?!)  and the cream cheese divine as well.  Every sample was heavenly to me.

How’s about a cake in every flavor combination represented here?  I already know I’m planning to have one of everything at the wedding.

When my daughter’s wedding coordinator finally arrived I mostly sat back and listened…and ate cake.  I had an idea or two to share but those were summarily dismissed…as I suspected they would be.  Honestly, not a whole lot clicks between me and my daughter and this trip illuminates it once again and has me given up trying.  I lament in earnest.  For a time my heart feels heavy and sad.

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But there is cake.  Sweet. Soul-Soothing. Perfect.

That got me thinking about all the angst and upset following the election.  Maybe all the angry and hurting folks just need to eat cake with buttercream frosting and strawberry-basil preserve filling.  I know Marie Antoinette’s “Let Them Eat Cake” cry didn’t end well for her but I’m certain these sweet confections would get folks to dance happily in the streets in sugar and fat contentment.

It nearly did so for me.

Bliss.