Bedroom door

19/08/2017

 

Door2This family. Open and close. My round, brass knob has lost its shine from all the hands – large and small – that have grasped me sometimes gently, others with uninhibited force. Children with the dirt of outdoor play or squeakily fresh from the evening baths – all I have felt as they have worn away at my golden brilliance. And those hands of teenage boys. Their fresh scents of testosterone and pheromones. They too have embraced me with their adolescent passion for sports and burgeoning loves.

But it is the woman’s hands. She, my only gentle touch. Clearing away my gauzy curtain, she lovingly washes me clean with care and deliberate pause at each of my fifteen panes. Ah, you see, I am French. I recognize love. It is she who loves to throw me open wide. This is her invitation to the family; she is at the ready for her family, even within the sanctity of this bedroom. She is the balance to the man’s hands. He, always closing me to keep his private counsel whether in muted conversations, in love with this woman, or alone with his dreams and fears.

Yet, I am no sentimental fool. My gift to you, you who reside within my boundary is this – I bear witness. Rarely has my soft pine frame been slammed in anger, yet I have seen pain, fevers, and heartache come and go across my threshold. I, the sentinel, have witnessed all and have kept my silence. I have done what is required with a steadfast heart.

The summer breezes brush against my frame. I sigh with a bittersweet and slight sway. I have seen and felt children growing into young men, and a young couple into an old one.


 

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Despite the dark corner, I stand tall and proud.  Strength. Patience. Potent. The passage of time does not diminish me. I know my worth. I, who have negotiated for those ransomed by offering myself in exchange for those of lesser value, know the game of waiting . Long ago, I was sought after across continents and even cherished. Yet, time does not diminish me. I have never felt the loss like so many others as they vie for daily accolades. Now, relegated to an occasional glance or tentative embrace, I retain my power.

Do not be misled by my playfulness as I dance and weave among partners. Teasing you with my bawdy behavior, I fool you into thinking that you are more than you appear to be. Taste my lips. I manipulate this masquerade of intimacy all too easily for such a guileless novice as you. I can just as easily slip through your fingers as the white sands in the hourglass turn and descend to their nadir. Turn on me, if you dare. I will bite you. Burn you. Fervor will be my calling card.

I am indifferent to your years of thoughtlessness. Neglect me. I am not diminished. I wait. You will need me. Know this to be my truth. And when I come to you – when the door is thrown open and ambient light illuminates all that is before you, when the dark places are no longer my home, prepare to take the bitter with the sweet.


Mould

 

This writing is my nod to white pepper. It holds meaning in our family, and though I anthropomorphize it, I delight in its occasional use. My husband’s grandfather was a thirteen year old, Flemish lad and a baker’s apprentice who emigrated from Belgium to the United States in the early 1900s. He brought with him the mould you see here for speculoos cookies which was used to celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas on December 6.  

My mother-in-law shared the recipe with me, which has now been lost or perhaps, misplaced. But, I remember a key ingredient, one which my family of origin never used for any purpose, is white pepper. A lone container of the spice has sat in the back of our cupboard for decades just waiting for us, to every so often, bring it out from its obscurity to limited fame.

Below I am including two links, one for speculoos and the other for a variety of foods elevating this ground berry to quotidian status:

 

Speculoos cookies  (This is a Dutch recipe, but close to my memory of the family’s list of ingredients)

 

White Pepper recipes  (choose from among 2212 options)
Smakelijk!

Quiet visits

25/03/2017

garage3Some visits are quiet ones. The day is routine. Walking in any weather. Walking along the streets of a small town or the wide alleyways behind historic homes where even the garage curtains speak of a gentility. Big plates of pasta balanced on the laps of the three sisters, sitting on chairs and sofas. We are tucked in snugly on this chilly night. Mystery hour. It is about relationships. It is a slow story. One that takes time and nuance. So too, with my sisters and me. It is about relationship. Slowly moving through decades, through years of upheaval and years of the steady, almost imperceptible changes in each of us. It is a quiet visit. It is a visit that is full.

I return home, here, with sunny skies and warm breezes. Shy windflowers at my garden gate wave their greetings, faces filled with light. I am filled with thoughts of family as my key unlocks all that is before me.windflowers3.jpg

Kiffles

17/09/2016

recipe-001The Christmas season. On our table standing proudly are these basic ingredients: Pillsbury flour, Land O’Lakes butter, Philadelphia brand cream cheese and Rumford’s baking powder – the one in the small, red can. Next to this are her utensils: a large stoneware bowl to mix the pastry, glass measuring cups and inexpensive aluminum measuring spoons, a knife from our everyday set, and a well-worn, wooden rolling-pin. My Aunt Agnes Check’s recipe – a blending of Slovak family heritage with Italian sensibilities. A new heritage.

Pounds of Diamond’s unshelled walnuts wait for my mother and me on this winter evening – a school night. We sit at the white porcelain kitchen table-top that my parents purchased when they were newlyweds. Metal nutcrackers in hand, we sit together in a comfortable silence and begin to squeeze and crack. It is tough work for a ten-year old. Repetitive. Detailed. Inexperienced, I laboriously pick out the bits and pieces of meat left behind in the inner shells – spaces dark and convoluted in nature. My mother’s pile is substantive while mine – quite a pitiful showing for the attention I am dedicating to this task – fill only a cup.  Our conversations alleviate the tediousness; our banter brightens the evening hours. We talk of the nuns, my teachers; the friends and the cliques to which I belong and those where I am shunned, already at a tender age. Back to family, she carefully guides the talk, of Christmas gifts, wrappings, of course, eating. Ham or turkey? Both kinds of potatoes? My hands begin to hurt, but I am loathe to leave. Feeling as if I am caught in some dark fairy-tale with the impossible task, I persevere not for my survival, but for my mother’s love.

 

bake-001

 

My son, plugged in, and baking kiffles for the holidays. Same recipe; different generation.

a brick house

02/10/2013

Today, I realized while I was teaching my sixth grade students a lesson in short essay writing that I needed to give them a personal example.  The one I had chosen from a very good book was just too long.  Below is what we will be looking at in class.  For them it is about structure and form; for me, a sweet memory.

My Life Before Cats

brick houseOur house always seemed  too quiet for my taste, as a child.  We lived in, what was called back then, a row house. This is where one house is slammed against the other, as if they are trying to hold each other upright.  What this also meant was that you and your next-door neighbor shared a wall.  You shared the sounds each house made if those noises were against the shared wall.  So, it was important to BE quiet. Fortunately for our neighbors, my two sisters and I were fairly well-behaved. Oh, this was not because we were born that way; rather, because my dad meant serious business if he told us to “quiet down” and we ignored him!  We rarely had pets of any sort. Once, when my older sister was doing a science project in high-school, we kept the guinea pigs afterwards.Unfortunately, my mom got asthma, and they had to go, even though they were quiet. Next, my middle sister brought home a stray dog.  We kept him too… for awhile.  He was not quiet. My father found a home for him. A guy he worked with at the steel mill had daughter who was “simple-minded.”  Other kids were afraid of her, even though she was really nice. She did not have a lot of friends, and she was lonely.  So, our dog went to her. I cried, but it was better for her, our dog, and especially our neighbors.

When I grew up and had my own family we bought a house – standing all by itself and surrounded by a big yard. Space between our neighbors and us. It was living here when I finally got my first cat.  She was a tortoise-shell stray who just showed up. She stayed.  She was not terribly friendly or cuddly, but I liked the way she strutted around, talking incessantly. She was noisy. Next, my sons found an orange cat – a stray with only three legs.  He was very friendly, very quick, and very talkative. We had to keep him.  Then, the animal shelter called us, “Did we want another cat – a three-legged one – a little black one.  Of course we did! For many years in our house we lived with these three, no-longer-stray cats. Until on an autumn night, a fourth, feral kitten came to our kitchen door.  The following week we brought her in.  It was never quiet after that!  There was constant meowing, howling, growling. There were my two boys fighting over who won this and that.  Oh! did I mention the dogs?  Two. My life was no longer quiet at home…except at meal times.

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