Family, Friends, and Food

I just realized how often food reminds me of dear ones in my life –

– Buttered toast with avocado always reminds me of Dad. He’d grown up in Los Angeles back when it was still orange groves (he was born there in 1918) and, as a youngster, picked avocados right off the tree in his backyard.  He knew avocados before avocados were “in.” I remember the first time he prepared avocado toast for me – I must have been about six or seven – and I remember my surprise that such a slimy-looking food could taste so sumptuous.

– Cheese souffle and tuna casseroles remind me of Mom. Mom wasn’t the world’s best cook (growing up, she’d had seven older sisters who always shooed her out of the kitchen), but she knew how to make a mean tuna-Chinese noodle-cashew casserole, and she knew how to make an awesome cheese souffle.

– Cream cheese dip reminds me of my beloved Aunt Junie. I must have been eight or nine when she visited us and whipped up some cream cheese dip with diced green onions. My life has never been the same.

– Banana bread reminds me of my childhood friend, Rita. I remember going to her home and helping her as she made banana bread from scratch. Now whenever I make it (from the recipe Rita gave me all those years ago) I think of Rita and it makes me smile.

– Bacon tomato sandwiches and lemonade with ice cubes reminds me of a lady from church, Betty Lay. Betty was cultured and educated and well-spoken. I can’t remember what she did for a living – but I know she was a career woman long before most women had careers outside the home. I think she may have been a librarian. Or a professor. She was smart. I don’t think she’d ever married, and I don’t think she’d had any children of her own – but I remember she knew how to talk to children without condescending to them. I remember Mom bringing us over to visit Betty in her home near the Sound. I remember sitting out on a deck in the sunshine, feeling peace all around me. And I remember Betty bringing out a fresh, cold glass of home-made lemonade and a bacon and tomato sandwich – the first bacon and tomato sandwich I’d ever eaten, and pretty sophisticated fare for a youngster. Isn’t it funny that after all these years I still remember that afternoon with Betty?

– When I was living in a house near the University of Puget Sound one summer (I was working on my fifth year for my teaching certificate) my next-door neighbor was a single young mother who was studying to become a dee-jay. I don’t remember her name anymore. But I remember her friendly smile, her great raspy dee-jay voice, her little daughter, and her recipe for pie crust. Her pie crust recipe is the same recipe I use today – and my youngest son says that the food he associates with ME are my pies. Isn’t that cool?

– I associate two foods with my husband – no one makes a better poached salmon than Scotty. And – even though I’m not much of a pasta person – even I like Scotty’s spaghetti.

-My friend, Laurie, introduced me to hot roasted garlic squeezed onto freshly-buttered sourdough bread. Enough said.

-I associate the smell of baking bread with my sister-in-law, Lori, who used her bread-making machine to fill her house up with the smell of yeasty wonder. I’m salivating right now thinking about that smell.

-My sister-in-law, Bev, can work wonders with kale. She dribbles olive oil and spices on the kale and bakes it in in the oven for a few minutes – et voila! Crunchy goodness.

– Any food wrapped in grape leaves reminds me of my beautiful neighbor, Rachel, who used to come to our grape arbor to collect leaves for her Greek cooking.

– My friend, Kathi, an amazing chef, served us a dish with peppers, fresh Bocconcini mozzarella, olives, olive oil, butter, pine nuts, and garlic when we visited her and her husband in Nova Scotia nine years ago. I still have not forgotten that dish. And I still try to replicate it in my own kitchen. (When the youngest son and I were talking about foods and people yesterday, he brought up Kathi and her roasted pepper dish – and I told him I’d been thinking of her and her pepper dish, too! – yes, it was that good.)

– I associate tofu with my vegetarian friend, Heidi. She is the only one I know who can make tofu taste edible.

– My cousin, Debby, introduced me to home-made yogurt years ago – before yogurt was a common thing – and showed me how to use it on baked potatoes and in salads. (I still remember walking through Debby’s little backyard vegetable garden in San Francisco and being impressed by all the colors I saw there, and the way she just plucked things out of the ground and turned them into a meal.)

-I associate dark chocolate with my friend, Teresa, who took me to a chocolate shop for my birthday and gifted me with a box of chocolates of my own choosing. “Try this!” she’d say, pointing enthusiastically to a dish of dark chocolate samples. “And this!”

-Whenever I use my bottle of chili powder I think of the time my friend, Christine, whose family had originally come from Mexico, invited us over for home-made enchiladas from an old family recipe. I don’t think I have ever tasted better enchiladas than the ones I ate that night.

-Apple slices and caramel dip reminds me of my friend, Marissa, who surprised me by having a gift basket sent to my home when I really needed a nice surprise in my life.

I’m sure I’ll think of more food associations right after I hit the “publish” button. But I guess that’s it for now.

All this talk about food has made me hungry. Time to go down and make some avocado toast…

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This Homesick Yearning

It just makes sense to me, you know?
She wouldn’t be leading me
out of this place if She didn’t already
have another place for me to go.
I  wouldn’t have this homesick yearning
for a place I’ve never seen or been,
if it wasn’t time for a change, a shift
of thought and direction – a turning
a fresh start and a new adventure.

I’m about to go exploring again, ain’t I?
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

“Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea. Gladness to leave the false landmarks and joy to see them disappear, – this disposition helps to precipitate the ultimate harmony.”
Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures

“Behold, I make all things new.”
– Revelation 21:5

 

moonrise over baker this one 7 really

 

“I was surprised by how painless it was…”

When I got to Dad’s place I learned a friend had just sent him the obituary for author Ruth Kirk. Ruth had been a dear friend of Dad’s and Dad had tears in his eyes when I arrived to visit with him. He was having a hard time of it. He’d told the care-giver that he’d illustrated some of Ruth’s books, and the care-giver had tried to find one of Ruth’s books on Dad’s bookshelves – but hadn’t been able to find one – so, instead, she’d pulled out Dad’s book, The Challenge of Rainier and they were looking through Dad’s illustrations in his book when I got there.

His care-giver made room for me to sit next to Dad so we could talk. Dad shared how sad he was about losing his friend, Ruth. I told him that this had been a rough year, and we talked about other friends he’d lost. He said at this point whenever he gets a card in the mail he expects to find an obituary for one of his friends inside it.

Some people he remembered were gone – climber Fred Beckey, and his brother, K (although he thought K had just passed away a couple years ago, when actually he’s been gone since 1994). He was surprised to learn that other friends were gone – “I wondered why I hadn’t heard from them,” he said. I think he was wondering why no one had told him about his friends’ passing – so I let him know that we’d shared these passages with him, but that he’d forgotten. I suggested that maybe he forgot because it was too traumatic for him to process – and I told him that would be understandable. He seemed to accept this.

I always follow my intuition in these conversations – sometimes I don’t bring up Mom’s passing, and sometimes – like today – it seems the right time to talk about it. I know talking about Mom’s passing is very hard for him – but… there are times when I think it’s helpful to him, too. So I held his hand and shared with him, again, Mom’s last week with us – I told him that he’d been able to say good bye to her in the hospital before they brought her to my home; told him she’d died peacefully in her sleep while I slept on the couch next to her; told him I felt her presence brush passed me as she left – I felt her love and joy. I told him that she’d loved him very much – that she still loves him – and that we’d promised her we’d take care of him. Dad nodded and wept quietly.

I observed that when you live to be 100 you lose a lot of people along the way. “But fortunately,” I said, “you have a lot of friends who are younger than you.” He smiled and nodded.

I asked him if he’d ever expected to live to be 100. He said he’d never thought about it.

Then – “Is it time for a drive?” he asked, hopefully. So his care-givers helped me get him ready – got him in his sweater, put shoes on his feet – and I put his alpine hat on his head – and we loaded him up in my car. I asked him if he’d like me to take him for a root beer float, and he nodded his head.

On the drive to the Sisters Espresso…
Dad: I’ve been thinking this week that I needed to get out of here and get back home to Mom. But now I realize she’s gone.
Karen: Yeah. That place where you’re living is your home now.

As we turn onto old Hwy 99…
Dad: Now we’re heading north. Parallel to the Pacific coast.
Karen: Yup.
Dad: How are the boys?
Karen: They’re both graduated from university now.
Dad: (taking this in) Time goes fast. I was in school a lot longer than them. Or… that’s how it feels, anyway.

As we turn onto Chuckanut Drive…
Dad: Last month when I thought I was dying I was surprised by how painless it was. It’s just getting sleepy…
Karen: You thought you were dying last month?
Dad: What?
Karen: (louder) You thought you were dying last month?
Dad: What? I can’t hear you. Let’s talk when we get to where we’re going.

I pull into the Sisters Espresso…
Dad: (smiling) I remember this place!
Karen: (turning off the car and speaking into Dad’s ear) Did you think you were dying last month?
Dad: I dreamed I was. I was surprised by how painless it was. It was just like going to sleep.
Karen: Do you feel like you’re dying now?
Dad: No. I’m good.
Karen: Good!

I get him his root beer float and hand it to him. He thanks me and begins drinking it. I head the car back to his home. As we pass a field bursting with little yellow flowers (maybe mustard seed flowers?)…
Karen: I love you, Daddy. (I’m not sure he can hear me, but I feel the need to say it.)
Dad: (turning to me) And I love you!

We pull into the driveway and next to the front door, and I help Dad get out of the car and up the stairs. The care-giver helps him get situated in the living room in Mom’s old chair.
Karen: I love you, Daddy.
Dad: I love you! Thank you!
Karen: Thank YOU!

They Got You Through the Winter

They got you through the winter, Karen
They got you through the grey, the rain, the cold
They got you through dreary days and showed
you beauty in the muck, grace in the mud
And now it’s just dawning on you that they’re gone
they’ve left your valley, returned to their summer
homes. As the fruit blossoms bloom and bud
and the earth grows green again with new life
and you celebrate the joys of spring, there’s a part
of you still feels a little the loss of them. But they’ll
return when the nights grow long again, when
the earth freezes and hardens and loses color
They’ll get you through the winter, Karen.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Snow geese and trumpeter swans in Skagit County, Washington. Photos by Karen Molenaaar Terrell.

Epic Afternoon

Epic afternoon. Dad (Dee Molenaar, aged 99 and 10/12) was visited by three of his old mountaineering buddies – Tom Hornbein, Jim Wickwire, and Bill Sumner – extraordinary climbers all. Dad arm-wrestled Tom (Tom and Willi Unsoeld were the first men to ascend Everest from the West ridge), looked at a K2 book with Jim (Jim and Louis Reichardt were the first Americans to ascend K2), and had a good laugh with Bill (who was a member of the expedition that included the first one-legged person to reach the top of Denali). They talked about old friends, old climbs, and the Mountaineers Lifetime Achievement Award Tom is going to receive tonight. (Tom picked up the award for Dad last spring when Dad was in the hospital, and says that helped him prepare for accepting his own award tonight.)

Watching these old pals reunite – men who have shared adventures together that most people probably can’t even imagine – men who are living pieces of history – brought tears to my eyes. What a privilege to be there with them…

 

 

 

What a Miracle to Be

What a miracle to wake and discover the planet’s still here
we’re still alive
and there’s still opportunity to do some good in the world
to make a difference
to change course
to sing
to write
to create
to be kind
to find beauty
to laugh
to learn
to love
to be.

To reflect the beauty of Love…
Karen Molenaar Terrell

Flipped Tulip Reflection

Flipped tulip reflection. Skagit County, Washington. Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.

“…Love is reflected in love.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

 

 

Day 446

We’re 446 days in. I’m starting to feel a little detached –
like a spectator watching a farce unfold on a stage – a show –
as if this has nothing to do with me or my world.
And the tragicomedy unfolds in front of us now –
simultaneously pitiful and horrifying and maddening
and over-the-top wacky – Dr. Strangelove on ergo-
genic acids. The audience makes its predictions about
what will  happen next. What new woe will he sow?
Will he fire more people? Will he put himself above the law?
Will he start World War III? Will our debt continue to grow?
Will our environment go down the toilet? Will we lose
our social security? Will he twitter us some new foe?
“He certainly believes he has the power to do so.”
And the audience waits with ‘bated breath to see
what will happen next in our very own unreality expo.
A train wreck in slow motion. Slim Pickens riding
the bomb in Earth’s last rodeo.
Once we had the chance to save our planet.
But we let it go.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell