Thursday, October 8, 2009

I Never Told Her

My mother was afraid of the water and I caught her fear just like I caught scarlet fever from Billy Thomas when I was four. Lots of people are afraid of the water and avoid it unless its a tub or shower or maybe a shallow pool. What is interesting about my mother is that she also loved the water. I caught that too.

When I was nine we moved to a house on the beach on Summerland Key. I mean right on the beach; the ocean was fifty feet from our back door! We would fall asleep at night to the sound of the surf.

In spite of this I couldn't swim. Just never learned how. I could kick and flail and stay afloat for seconds but I was tense and fearful and hated to get my face wet. This was my relationship with the water for almost forty years.

My husband and I had friends with a time share in Grand Cayman. Every year they came home with thrilling stories of snorkeling adventures. They'd spend hours watching the ocean and walking the beach. When they invited us to spend a week with them I jumped at the chance, but I was worried. I couldn't swim. I wouldn't be able to enjoy the ocean with everyone else.

That's when I decided to become a swimmer. The local community college had a pool that opened to the public for several sessions each day. I bought a snorkel and a mask and decided to put my fear behind me. At first I would only swim in the lane next to the side of the pool. Knowing I could reach out and grab onto something solid made me brave. I swam four times a week for several months and eventually became a confident swimmer comfortable in the water.

The trip was everything I imagined it would be. The front deck faced the ocean and the setting sun. Our friends, the most welcoming and gracious of hosts. In the mornings we had coffee on the deck watching the sea. Evenings we were back with a glass of wine and the setting sun, hoping to catch a glimpse of the caribbean green flash. We didn't but it never mattered. The beauty and the companionship made it worth while.

Several years later our friend was diagnosed with cancer. After surgery and treatment the doctors thought she had a good chance. For a while everything went well and she regained her strength and her hope. Then the cancer returned. This time to her brain. Six months later she was dead.

Kathy was a vibrant and funny lady who loved her family and her friends. She loved life and she loved to laugh. Because of her I can swim and I now swim regularly for fitness and for fun. Her fearlessness pushed me to try harder and go farther. She never knew that. Because I never told her.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Dancing Man

Have you ever wanted something, I mean really, truly wanted something? Then as years go by your wanting doesn't diminish but it becomes clear you're not going to get it. So if you’re like me you start thinking of other ways to satisfy that desire but none of them bring the same degree of satisfaction. Its out of your hands you need someone else to bring it to you, and that’s not happening.

I'm married to a great guy. I mean a great guy. Ask anyone who knows him and they'll tell you, he's a great guy. There is one thing, though, he has never been a dancing man.

One of the disappointments of my life is not marrying a dancing man. I know, in the grand scheme it might seem petty but little things matter. It’s the little things that come together to make the fabric of lives….sorry cotton.

I love to dance; I've always loved to dance. I'm not especially good at it but I'm not awful either. In our younger days we'd go to a club and after a few cocktails he might dance but his heart wasn’t in it. He just wasn’t a dancing man!

As time passed I got busy with life and children and for the most part forgot about dancing, but never completely. I didn't want to grow old with the knowledge that all my dancing was behind me! So from time to time at gift giving occasions I'd ask my husband for dancing lessons for the two of us.

The surprise of my life came this year when my husband gave me dancing lessons for my birthday. I don’t know what changed his mind. He doesn’t know either. It just seemed like a good idea.

We've had two lessons. We recently reached the point where it feels like we're dancing instead of practicing dancing. He twirls me and moves me around the kitchen floor. Feeling angry at one another? Turn on the radio and dance. Feeling sad, frustrated, depressed or uncertain? Dance! It is impossible to be unhappy while dancing. Before you know it we're twirling and laughing. Me and my dancing man!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mom's Birthday Apple Tart

At the center of my mother's life has always been food. From a grandmother who died of malnutrition in the Depression to a beloved aunt who taught her how to love with food to mothering five children.......... in her adult life she worked in a brownie factory and managed a restaurant........... my mother was a foodie before foodie was a word. On September 12th she turned 79. These days her food obsession runs mostly to the Food Network and food websites. I swear in her heyday she could have originated and run the Food Network. She was a tireless and inspired task master!

Mom didn't ask for much on her birthday but she wanted an apple tart and she loves the one Jacques Pepin's mother used to make. He gives the recipe in his autobiography, The Apprentice. I think its not so much the tart, though it is good, as the fact that its Jacques's mother's recipe and my mother loves Jacques and his story and his devotion to his mother.

We woke up early the morning of mom's birthday because we were hot. The air conditioner stopped working in the night and it was stuffy and stale in the house. There would be no repairman out until after 2. Mom said the tart would have to wait until the afternoon because if we turned on the oven the house would get even more uncomfortable, not that it was that bad but we didn't know how long we'd be without AC or how hot it might get.

The short of it is the air conditioner couldn't be repaired that day and my mom didn't get Madame Pepin's Apple Tart for her 79th birthday. Hardee's apple tarts served as our substitute treat and we sang Happy Birthday to MiMi while she alternately glowed and hid her eyes. Tears come easily to Mom, especially happy tears.

We've all gone back to our homes and lives and Mom is alone again in her home in the country; but thanks to the Food Network and the internet she can carry on with her passion for food!

Thank you Hardee's for being there when we needed you. Your tart's aren't bad I'll admit but they are not Madame Pepin's Apple Tart so I owe you one Mom!