Monday, November 14, 2022

More Stories by Claudette S.


Letter from Los Angeles/Thanksgiving eve/ 2001:
I’m just wrapping up my evening at 10:00 p.m., early for me. I've had a half a bottle of wine all to myself since 6:00 p.m. I am cooking and listening to the travel people on NPR talk about waits at airports. E-Tickets vs. paper. (I’m a paper person.) What to do if you look Middle Eastern, (I don’t) Where to park at airports, the exchange rate in Spain and good restaurants in San Francisco. But, it’s Thanksgiving and I belong here at home
All this time I was finishing up this complex and very satisfying Indian Pudding that they serve at Durgan Park in Boston for tomorrow's dessert. It takes some unsulfured molasses and I dip my finger into the bowl of the spoon where some of the molasses has pooled. When I lick my finger I have a memory of my mother holding out a spoon for me to do the same thing. It is a deep flavor that clings to my tongue and makes me think of caves. I took the pudding out of the oven after baking it at a low temperature for three hours in a larger pan of water and it sits now on top of the stove, "maturing" turning more and more dark and dense looking. Very inviting. You imagine you might only need one generous dollop. It's something my mother would have warned, "Be careful now, it's very rich," not wanting anyone at her table to swoon from the sudden sweetness, I suppose.
I washed a couple of pans and something slipped out of my hands, knocking a glass off the counter and making a large racket. Both dogs showed up at the ready checking to see if they were needed.
I drove over to Whole Foods at around 8:30 to pick up some loose ends, parmesan, prosciutto, parsley, several things that begin with "P" it seems. The young man in the small deli section proceeded to slice me a quarter pound of the prosciutto. I had said, "Slice it thin please, " Waiting I stood looking at all the babies folded up in their little seats attached to the shopping carts. Their mothers and daddies stopped to investigate briny peppers, wedges of cheese, olives, whole fishes and shrimp while their babies gazed only at their mommies and daddies. I gazed only at the babies thinking about the one that my son and daughter-in-law will be having in February. What will that be like? How will I control myself? How will I explain to friends that this is different? I'm not just another Hallmark Grandma, this is my grandchild. This baby I was around for, long before it was born. And my parents were around for it too, and theirs and theirs and theirs. Ancestors I don't even know will be looking up at me from that baby and we will all gaze together across generations.
So the boy in the deli is taking forever to slice the prosciutto. He comes to me and says, "Sorry this is taking so long but I want to make sure to trim off the fat." I say back, "No, no don't!" He returns in a few minutes and holds out the flat, pink translucent pieces to me I say to him, "I'm not really a low fat person," he says back, "Well, me either, but my supervisor saw me slicing it and said, ‘trim off that fat’. I tried to tell him that fat really mattered, but well..." I say, "Fat is the deal." He is wearing a beret, he smiles at me and says, "Yes, it is. That's what I thought, with proscuitto." I tell him he is right and we are happy to be together on this issue.
I return home and getting out of my car I pause pleased with the smell of fireplaces at night in my neighborhood. And also, just for you folks in the east who get all huffy about fall, I'd like to mention that the leaves on the liquid amber trees lining my block are bright golden. Bright. The loose leaves whirling in at rare breeze are piling in the gutter. So, don’t tell me!
I decide to slice carrots so I won't have to do them tomorrow. I take out this Madoline that Bren and Sara gave me a couple of years ago which has sat propped up by the radio against one of the cabinets, mostly for looks. Now's as good a time as any. I try to figure out how to adjust the blades thinking that the French would definitely have named this practical tool something that sounds elegant and a little seductive. Madeline. I begin to push carrots through the blades and almost lose the tip of a finger. Okay. This is serious, and I'm an amateur. I think about the funny letter I will write to Brendan and Sara about blood and carrots. It will make them laugh. I get band aids.
I put the carrots in the fridge, clean up, run the dishwasher so I will have it empty for tomorrow. On the counter is a big bag of red potatoes, a basket of oranges and lemons and limes and bag of onions. On the small table is a handsome grouping of Nouvelle Beaujolais, a couple of bottles of Chardonnay with narrative labels and two serious red. On top of the washer /dryer, bottles of seltzer, and a bowl of chopped pecans. Folded towels I must put away.
I take off my clothes and turn off all the lights before I go sit in the hot tub. The dogs rouse themselves from a sound sleep and come out to see if I'm alright mistaking sighs of satisfaction for distress. It is pitch black but I can see the outline of the three story deodara cedar towering over the roof of my house all the way from the front yard. It is like having my own personal giant. Each Thanksgiving is the echo of all those which came before it. Momma and Daddy, candles and sweets—all their friends dressed up and smelling fancy. Sometimes Mom invited a soldier from the airfield. “They should be with family too.”
First thing in the morning, I have to go look for that football. It's very important to have a couple of people go out in the street and throw a ball around on Thanksgiving Day while we wait for more just one more piece of pie.

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