I cooked dinner for my family last night, and it feels like a major accomplishment. Other than holiday cooking and the rare episode of baking with the kids, I’ve spent more time watching my husband cook over these past several months than I’ve actually done myself. I used to call myself a weekend cook, but really, I’m not even that anymore.
I love cooking, but I’ve been in such a rut lately. I have stacks of food magazines overflowing in my living room, mostly just gathering dust and serving as unstable perches for sleeping cats. I’ve always been a devoted reader of Saveur, Food and Wine, and Fine Cooking, but when I cleaned out a stack of magazines to donate to the waiting room at work, I found unread issues from months ago. It’s embarrassing.
But yesterday, I took a copy of Saveur – the May France issue – to my kids’ tennis lessons. We’re heading to London and Paris this summer, so this issue caught my attention more than any others have lately. I split my attention between watching my kids thwack the tennis ball across the court and the glossy pages filled with recipes from Provence, Lyon, and Bordeaux. I bookmarked some pages – one of them highlighting a bakery in the Marais neighborhood we’re renting an apartment in later this summer – and imagined how wonderful it must be to be the food writer writing those essays.
Writing you a letter this way – by blog post on the internet – may be a bit silly, but you and I have always been the letter writing sort, and writing letters (or blog posts) is so cathartic. I know you can’t read this, but it’s good for me to get the words out. Or maybe you can read this. You’ve always been able to do just about everything you ever wanted to do, and if you wanted to read this, I believe you’ll find a way.
It was two years ago today – the 27th of February, 2014 – that you died. I remember being angry with you that you waited until we had all left the hospice, waited until the early dawn hours when we were all sleeping. I wish you’d waited until we could have kissed your warm cheek one last time. I wish you’d waited until Tina arrived from Chicago. She really wanted to see you one last time.
I often tell myself that you’re watching us from wherever you are right now. I like the idea of that. When I dream, you’re frequently there, and I wonder if this is your way of letting me know you’re okay. Usually in those dreams, I’m trying to go with you somewhere, and I can’t quite get there before waking up. Or, I’m trying to speak to you and can’t get the words out in a way that you can hear them. But always in my dreams, you are able to walk again and you look whole and healthy, with no evidence of the strokes or the dementia that left you debilitated. And always, you smile at me in a way that lights up your entire face.
The kids are playing basketball at the park with Sam as I write this. You’d be proud of how they are turning out. Maddie is nearly as tall as I am. They’re both beautiful, inside and out, and they are bright and curious. You would absolutely love spending time with them. You all would have the most wonderful conversations, and I know they would love to hear your stories about growing up in Louisville. Maddie might drive you crazy when she rolls her eyes at you, but I’d remind you that she’s in 6th grade and that is almost part of the uniform. Oliver really only remembers you being sick and in the wheelchair, but Maddie remembers you as you were, when you were whole, when you were you.
The whirlwind that was Thanksgiving is over, and the Christmas tree is now in its place of honor in our living room. We’re not done decorating, though. There are ornament boxes still in the hallway, the outdoor lights are in a pile on our front porch, and the stockings are draped over a chair in the dining room, waiting patiently to be hung in their proper spots. Eventually, we’ll get to those things.
I’ve been purposeful about making time to be reflective over this Thanksgiving break. That’s the nature of Thanksgiving, of course – it’s the perfect (and expected) time to reflect on what we’re grateful for, what makes us happy.
To aid in my process of reflection, I’ve started a practice called bullet journaling thanks to some inspiration from Kristen. She recently wrote a post about how she’s learned to love mornings that was filled with great ideas, and in it, she mentioned bullet journaling. I began doing some research and dove right in. Lists? Daily journaling? A chance to write more with my favorite fountain pen? Sign me up.
When I filled in my bullet journal notes on the evening of Thanksgiving, reflecting on what went right (or wrong) with the day’s cooking, one entry read, “America’s Test Kitchen glazed ham = YES.” This is what I’m here to tell you about today.