In my growing-up years, life and death were marked by filled seats at our Sunday dinner table. When I was six, Great-Grandma’s cushioned chair was replaced with two high chairs to accommodate new baby cousins. Eventually, the high chairs were swapped out for kitchen chairs with seats holding bulky encyclopedia selections like Volume 11-12: Fra to Ha or Volume 4: Ci-Cz. Atop each book stack was an antsy child, kept still with nothing more than, “Sit quietly or I’ll tie you in with Grandpa’s belt.”Read More
One More Thing Before I Go
Last spring when the scent of lilacs followed me from the backyard into my kitchen, I thought of my mother’s distant cousin and her daughters, who, like my lilacs, visited yearly when the earth warmed and the days grew longer. I pictured us all in idyllic memories of jump rope games and playing with dolls. But, except for MaryAnn, the littlest daughter, I could not remember their names.
A few years ago, I could have called my mother. She would have teased me for my forgetfulness, asked what I was making for dinner (there was never a phone conversation where we didn’t talk about food) and repeated her mother-to-daughter mantra, “When are you coming over?” We would have shared stories of those long-ago days before hanging-up and re-joining our lives. But my mother has passed on and while the images of our family lingers-the details are lost. I write One more thing before I go, my living record for my son, in hope that one day, when he has a question I can no longer answer, it can be found in this blog.
Part of what attracted me to Korean and Chinese cultures was that their established hierarchy and obeisance to grown-up relatives resembled my family’s. Any relative older than I was addressed by their well-earned title; great grandma, a quartet of grandparents, aunts, uncles and adult cousins. The last group members were addressed as aunts or uncles. My Aunt Jane, wife of mom’s cousin, Uncle Martin was lauded for her exotic cookery skills. In our uber-diverse family, she was the only Sephardic Jew. She brought with her an intoxicating cuisine; dinners of fresh sardines, shimmering in oil until crisp tender in an embrace of paprika, oregano, wine, cinnamon and citrus and desserts like Persian cream puffs, swollen with whip cream and robed in rose water and honey.Read More