Post #87: Come to the Table

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There is never ever a plan.  But does it matter?

A cavernous, empty pot sits on the stove, it’s gaping mouth almost crying out to be filled.   But, ah, with what? A flash of the knife,  a bloom of blue flame and suddenly it begins!  I’ve a sizzling swirl of mirepoix, fancy French for plain old onions and carrots and celery. A spirited rummage through the cupboard:  Kale or cabbage?   Crushed tomatoes or cubed potatoes?  Barley or farro or pasta or rice?  Zucchini or beans or chicken or beef?   A dollop of hot sauce or sprinkle of cheese? It matters not. No matter what, no matter how, I will stir up my pot to make, as the Mock Turtle blissfully intones, “Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!”

The dreamy scent wafts through the kitchen, curls around the hallway, up the stairs and down. Oh please, let them fly and float through the air to me like the etherial lovers from a Chagall!

I promise there will be enough for everyone.  The door opens.

***

My Great Grandma Rachel Leah, 1962

She comes down the stairs sideways oh so slowly, clutching the railing with both hands, her face contorted with the effort.  It’s so hard for her to walk but she is insistent and determined she will do this, step by laborious step.  Then finally a sigh and a settle into her chair. No one can keep her away.  No one would.  She sees me and her body relaxes, her arms unfurl.  In a moment I am relaxing, melting  into her lap.  As she strokes my hair I can feel the knots in her fingers.   I twist to see her face. She is smiling. Her eyes are the simply softest brown.

***

My Little Gram, 1971

Not a whisper, not a word! We know to tiptoe, how to pull the door  shut with only the tiniest woosh and never a slam.  It’s just us, the early risers!  We creep into the car and drive stealthy, squinting into the early morning sunshine.  We are on a dual mission, to find both the Sunday papers and the bags of hot bagels.  Neither of us knows which we love more, to eat or to read. Don’t make us choose!

***

My Grandpa Lou, 1960

He is tired.  He works so very hard. And it’s been such a long day.  Even so still he walks through the door with the confident  stride of a natural athlete.  Although his dark curls are receding back from his forehead, his jaw is still so strong, his gaze direct and searching.  Before he has his dinner, before he even takes off his coat, he digs into his pockets and pulls up fistfuls of coins: Roosevelt dimes,  Indian Head nickels, Lincoln pennies, some of them still made of World War II steel.  The coins are for me. Every night my Grandpa Lou showers his pocket change into my bank for my future.

***

My Bubbe Slava, 1961

Adored by my Dad, your grandson.  Adored by my Mom, his young wife.  It was said you were beloved by everyone who ever knew you.  So missed by them, and so too then,  by me.

***

My Grandma and Papa, 1968

Chest puffed out proudly, hands on hips, the Superman of Lauder Avenue rises from his chair to greet us.  Calm and controlled, the master of the living room.  Clothes perfectly pressed. A clatter from the kitchen and he is joined by my grandmother, perspiring and wrinkled and aproned, hair flyaway.  He bestows a regal kiss on each of our foreheads. She squeezes us into the tightest of hugs. At dinner he sits at the head of the table and waits to be served. At dinner, she is always on her feet and is constantly serving. And yet when she presents him with his plate, meat, vegetables, potatoes just so, their eyes lock, just for a moment. Did you catch it? They love each other so.

***

My Aunt Bess and My Aunt Rose and My Cousin Marty, 1972

Sit with us, talk with us, be with us! Around the table, around the living room, glance to glance, phrase to phrase, heart to heart. Around and around we are forever warmed.  We never get our fill.

***

My In-Laws, Lillian and David, 1988

It is the most elegant of places, delicate chandeliers giving off a muted, almost viscous light, the silverware arrayed with the precision of a marching band,  flanking a platter of the purest white. Yet in this impressive place I am the one who is meant to impress. You sit beside me eagerly,  your words reaching out yearningly across the table to the almost impassive couple across from us. I feel as if they only have eyes for you, their boy. While my smile is calm my hands are not,  as under the table I am twisting my napkin into a harsh knotty rope. But when I get up for a moment to leave the table, I take a quick glance back.  Your father is grinning.  He gives you two thumbs up. And satisfied,  your mother smiles and nods in agreement.

***

Come back to us, please, come sit at the table!  Of course there is room.  Can you see, can you smell, I have made the soup?   You’ll know us, here are my sisters, one with armloads of daffodils, the other holding aloft a tray of the most exquisite cakes.  Our husbands, strong and kind and good are here with us, as well as all of our funny, kind and wonderful sons and daughters, nephews and nieces.  At the head of the table is our Mother, ever solicitous, chooser of the most perfect presents.  Dad, still the clever jokester, remains at her side.

Waiting expectantly too are  Shayna and Sam, Rorschach and Roscoe, Charlotte and Tina, dearest Golda, sweet Cody and ever so intelligent Jess.  Overseeing it all of course is Big Nick, large, orange and masterfully in charge. They do not wait for scraps.  As befits all of the beloved, full plates for all.

To all those we love, to all we so miss. You are cherished. Come try the soup. Come to the table. There is, and always will be, a place set  for you.

 

Photo: My Little Gram, Ann Venitsky Chudler

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Post #86: Transformations

IMG_0209To be honest, I’ve always cared much more than I let on. Sbould I let my limbs swim in oversized sweatshirted significance? Prickle to the starched white splendor of a crisply ironed shirt? Thrill to the chill of an Armani silk?

Enrobed, encased, and otherwised armored: time to dress.

***
Ruffled Socks

I sit tensed, my eyes squinting beneath Buster Brown bangs. The man behind the camera snuffles and grumps and fusses with the lens. I am perched birdlike sitting high on a box. I am so very proud! Not just dressed but so dressed up. A starchy white outfit, my own initials CLA stitched in red right on my dress. White ruffled anklets turned over just so. Ruffles on the socks? But then poof! The camera flashes! My wide smile is frozen, set to be frozen in time. It should be over, but all I can think of is yanking those ruffled socks away from propriety, up up up high to my knees!

***

Plaid

A plaid belted jacket. A plaid pleated skirt. A plaid collared vest. A plaid brimmed hat. Non plaid knee socks, but you know, that’s okay. All the plaid pieces fit together, and fit together just so. I’m ready for school.

But is school ready for me? An outfit so stupendous, I am elevated to the stars! Or at least lofted to the top of a desk. I am the model. My classmates are forced to sketch my outfit. And forced, it seems, to sketch me.

***

The White Shirt

Longed for, dreamed of, I had never had one before. But there it was. Perfectly creased and standing at attention, the uniform of grown ups everywhere. I slid into it and was instantly transformed. A second grade grown up. I surely would wear it every day and forever. But alas! My tightly gripped left-hand drags the pencil led straight through my left cuff! In to the wash instead.

***

lLeather Patches

A handful of dimes. A tiny, shiny pile of quarters. A few creased and crumpled dollar bills. Longed for, scrounged for, scrabbed for and saved. Poured into an old sock and then clutched hard all the way to the store.

All those saved allowances to allow me purchase this this prize all for myself. A rumpled brown sweater. A rumpled brown sweater? Really? But of course!That sweater had leather patches on the elbows. The perfect accompaniment to fit with the pile of books that were always in my arms.

***

Powder Blue

Hair feathered, dress polyestered, feet encased in platforms stacked on high! I am the lead-footed, self-conscious youth queen of the disco! Gyrate, point, and twist through the motions. Perhaps subconsciously dreaming of jazz rhythms yet to be discovered?

***

Wide-Legged Jeans

Worn and worn and worn again. Wide-legged jeans, both tight and loose. Week of salads? Loose and loose. Week of sundaes? Tight and tight. No matter. Worn and worn and worn again.

***

The Very Big Sweater

Home for the holidays, snoozing on the sofa, slowly being consumed into the couch pillows. I am woken by the steady sound of my mother’s knitting needles, clacking away like a set of Carmen Miranda maracas. Did I want to try? I did. And so I find myself beside her trying to match her, stitch by steady stitch, adding on, casting off deep into the night. In the early morning, we have a flecked, turtlenecked sweater, green as the valleys of Ireland, made for me and meant of me.

***

The Silk Blouses

Charge into to the workplace in transformative armor, suits by Donna Karan or Tahari (always dreaming of Dior). Beneath it all, the softening silks, neatly knotted at the neck. Stand proud and tall.

***

The Wedding Dress

Simple and square necked, made all of lace, I am wearing the so longed for dress of my dreams, designed for me, and only me, by sister. A dress I will wear only once. And yet, once I slip it on it doesn’t matter.  My thoughts are only on the tall bespeckled man in the double-breasted tuxedo. The one with the perfectly tied bow tie.

***

Black Stretch Overalls

Like paintings displayed on the walls of a museum, exquisite and distant, I gaze absently into my closet. Were these things truly actually mine? There is my entire hard won wardrobe, sized out of reach. I don’t care. Instead, I am absurdly and proudly wearing a pair of black stretch overalls (the better to match with a variety of t-shirts). Perfect. The babies will be born very soon.

***

Black on Black

A jumble of sweaters, a knot of shirts, a pile of pants. All in black. Unseeing, I grab something, anything and throw it all on. Start running. Then up the stairs and down the stairs then up the stairs again. My arms are always so filled with books. My head so filled with ideas. My mouth so filled with words. I scurry from room to room barely able to catch my breath before diving into the next class. Chalk smudged in black.

But sometimes as I run, something lovely will catch my mind’s eye. A lavender mohair sweater. A silvery beaded jacket. A slim, long jacketed pearl grey suit. And I’m certain soon I’ll slip on a new outfit and transform once again.