The Week That Was

Monk's Cafe--Inside Looking Out

Monk’s Cafe, Philadelphia Merril D. Smith 2018

I was born in this city where now we go to celebrate, the night before my birthday. Holiday lights glow through the misty air. We sit in a pub, warm and cozy, even though the nearby tables are loud with after work parties, students, and academics. I gaze through the window as two young girls outside take photos of an older couple standing in front of the Christmas lights. Perhaps the girls’ grandparents? My husband and I clink our glasses in a toast, and I dig into my mussels.

 

holiday spirits,

sparkling souls in glowing light

December revels

We walk around the neighborhood for a bit. Rittenhouse Square is full of light; the skyline shimmers. We see winter trees and signs of city life.

 

ghostly branches wave,

beckoning to seasons past

harboring futures

We go to show, laugh at the jokes and clever Broadway parodies. The woman next to me sits stoically, never applauding, but suddenly lets out a loud guffaw at a joke about [vice-president] Mike Pence waiting to be raptured. Well, it was a funny joke. It is raining as we walk back to the train.

 

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raindrops dripping from branches—

glimmers in puddles

It is still raining the next day, my birthday, but we walk around anyway. Then go to a movie of cinematic splendor, filmed in black and white. The images linger on screen and in my mind–

 

puddles on cement

an airplane flying through clouds

crashing ocean waves

Class struggles. Race. But always women without men, raising children.

 

 

We eat Chinese food with friends, laughing, catching up with this and that. I receive roses from one friend, and another bakes me a birthday cake. My husband gives me chocolate truffles. I get birthday wishes from family and friends. I talk to one daughter on the phone, and I see the other at a winery holiday party. Despite the weather, this has been a wonderful birthday weekend.

 

I am thankful for this life.

I was born just before the solstice. The days have been gloomy, and the nights grow longer.

now coming darkness

then the coming of more light

long night’s moon whispers

softly from behind the cloud cover, where meteors blaze across the sky. Perhaps I hear them sigh.

I close my eyes. Like a vision—I see a snow owl. It swivels its head. Looks at me, raises its magnificent wings, and sails off into the night sky. I think of the owl I saw once on my birthday. Spirit animal? Magical vision? Who knows.  .  .

this feathered glory

shining white in midnight sky–

hope in the darkness

 

At Sharrott Winery, Members Holiday Party, 2018

 

I’m linking this to Frank’s Haikai challenge—solstice. We went to 1812 Production’s annual show, This is the Week That Is. We ate at Monk’s Café.  My daughter took me to the member’s holiday party at Sharrott Winery. We saw the movie, Roma. It will be on Netflix, but if you can, see it in the theater. The cinematography is worth it. Here’s the official trailer.

 

 

By the Sea We Gather, NaPoWriMo, Day 16

Monday Morning Musings:

“My soul is full of longing
for the secret of the sea,
and the heart of the great ocean
sends a thrilling pulse through me.”

–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “The Secret of the Sea”

“Look at that sea, girls–all silver and shadow and vision of things not seen. We couldn’t enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds.”

–L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

 

By the sea, we gather, we four

full of longing to share our secrets–

no special sequences–

but in the way of friends

they flow like waves, rolling to the shore

tumbling, one after another

silvery shadows and thrilling pulses

visions of things almost seen

things that are and things that might be

 

We embrace and sit in this lovely space

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

this place in which my friend has found welcome shelter

a temporary place for body, if not heart,

a house between homes,

a loan

where she and her husband have lived

between and around unexpected circumstances—

well, life is chances,

no smooth sailing on this ocean–

sometimes we turn about

sometimes we tack into the wind

begin again,

navigate through a choppy sea

till we are free

to sail calmly and be

 

So, we

sit in this interim home

where we can hear the water play

(come this way, stay)

and seagulls laugh as they fly about

black-tipped white wings sing in the sky

with the sun glowing warm and high

and the wind sighs from sea and land

spindrift covers windows, cars, my hand. . .

 

is held out to my friends

we gently hold each other’s hearts

apart too often to know the everyday annoyances

of ailing mothers and troubled kids,

roosted egos, wandering ids–

we talk of husbands and silly cats,

all of the this and all of the that

and move from living room to kitchen

pitch in

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(though it is all prepared)

take our chairs

and over quiche

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

we relax some more, release

and feel a bit at peace. . .

 

to venture out to see some history of place and space

a concrete ship, a lighthouse, a bunker, the beach,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

where we walk a bit and feel

the sand beneath our feet–

in this moment, life is sweet,

away from troubles and toxic tweets,

this faux-summer day

holds us in its sway

I am mesmerized by the tumbling waves

the ocean takes, the ocean saves,

(à bientôt, inside, I say)

as we turn and walk away

 

back to the not-vacation house

where my friend offers us food and drink

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and we sink

into a relaxed state,

where troubles abate,

as we talk and drift

(eyes open, close, open again)

the golden sun beats down through window panes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and slowly in a ball of fire, sinks

extinguished in the sea

 

we see it after we’ve walked

(ten miles one friend exclaims)

heading for a restaurant, but too long a wait,

no debate

and none of us that hungry anyway

no need to stay

so over pizza we watch Letterman, Seinfeld, and Obama

wishing we could get rid of the current nightmare, drama

and farce, in every moment, tweets and cheats–

the outside world, outside this place–

but even here the temperature drops

and the sun hides the next day, stops

her summer-teasing ways,

and in the morning, we watch branches sway

and the tom-catting chairs dance and prance

out on the deck

and the windows are specked

with salt and rain

we hear the sea

calling. . .

but let it be

 

to breakfast or brunch

(perhaps call it lunch)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and linger around the table,

unable,

unwilling to part

our lives and thoughts

tumbled like my friend’s sea glass

smoothed and polished by laughter and tears,

friends together,

friends apart

friends in joy, in troubles,

friends for years

we’ve shared our secrets here by the sea

now it’s back to reality,

(we sigh)

we must do this again

spend

time together,

let’s do this, friends–

time flows and bends,

(an arc)

and ripples like the sea

and on it our friendship sails

(an ark)

so, we’ll journey together, and then—

well, we’ll see.

 

 

 

I’m off prompt for Day 16, NaPoWriMo.

Unusual formatting due to WP gremlins and a cat sitting on my keyboard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://www.napowrimo.net/day-sixteen-5/

Looking Forward and Looking Back

“Actually I prefer to see myself as the Janus, the two-faced god who is half Pollyanna and half Cassandra, warning of the future and perhaps living too much in the past—a combination of both.”

–Ray Bradbury

Many people make New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t.

However, this is a good time of year to reflect upon the past and think about the future.

On New Year’s Eve, my husband and I celebrated with friends we’ve known and celebrated with for decades. Decades! Did I really write that? We met one couple when we were all in college—over forty years ago. Yikes! How can that be true? We met the other couple shortly after we were married. A third couple could not join us this year because of a death in the family.

Old friends. We’ve been with each other for births, deaths, weddings, and funerals. We’ve seen parents die, and we’ve seen our children grow up. We’ve seen career changes and retirement. We’ve laughed and cried together. And we’ve celebrated.

Oh, those celebrations! They no longer involve copious amounts of alcohol (well, perhaps at the weddings), but there is always plenty of food, and usually chocolate, and often wine and beer. We may have given a name to the beverage dispenser that a friend uses to hold sangria. I can neither confirm nor deny this.

So on New Year’s Eve 2014, my husband and I celebrated with the two other couples. We missed our absent friends and mourned their loss. We ate takeout Chinese food (also our tradition for New Year’s Eve)—on China plates. We discovered that the locally produced spiced pear wine goes really well with it. We caught up on news. We talked of recent events and discussed our futures. We decided we should take notes of our conversation for our missing friends, but we didn’t actually do it. Sorry Pat and Tom. We also decided that if we did, there would have to be several asterisks and footnotes to explain some of the more . . .hmmm. . . . outrageous?  questionable? bizarre? statements. We checked the weather in Yaak, Montana. It’s cold there, in case you’re wondering. We shared our fortunes; we ate dessert (flourless chocolate cake and Christmas cookies). We drank more wine. One cat stayed close while we talked, laughed, and ate, but the other one hid. He is wise.

We suddenly realized that we had had so much fun talking around the table that the hours had passed without us realizing how late it was. It was nearly midnight. We turned on the TV to watch the ball drop in New York City and hugged and kissed when it reached it midnight. We heard fireworks exploding from nearby streets and from Philadelphia, across the river. Our friends left. Both cats reappeared, and then followed my husband and me to bed.

The next morning, New Year’s Day, I was up at the usual time, and then went to the gym. When I returned, I had a protein drink and called my mom to wish her happy New Year. Then I ate a Cinnabon while watching the Call the Midwife holiday special. . .because, after all, it was a holiday. It all balances out, don’t you think?

Some days you need to eat a big, gooey Cinnabon and curl up under a blanket with a cat on your lap. Especially after you’ve had only a few hours of sleep and a workout at the gym.

Life is made up of days at the gym and hard work. It is also made up of time spent reading a book or watching TV. Life includes salads and chocolate. It has love and heartbreak. All of these things go together to make us who we are.

Some days you need to reflect. Some days you need to celebrate. Some days you need to think about how lucky you are to have such great friends. Some days you just need to sit back and relax.

James Baldwin wrote:

Some days worry
some days glad
some days
more than make you mad.
Some days,
some days, more than shine:
when you see what’s coming
on down the line!
–from “Some Days” by James Baldwin

Wishing all of you few days of worry and a year filled with days that more than shine.

Here’s a beautiful version of Baldwin’s poem sung by the fabulous Audra McDonald

The Magic of Snow

These 40+ year old sleds are completely origin...

These 40+ year old sleds are completely original and still work great! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Snow-Storm

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o’er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river and the heaven,
And veils the farmhouse at the garden’s end.
The steed and traveler stopped, the courier’s feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Last night it snowed, just a little bit, just enough to cover the grass in a cloak of white. The velvet surface was broken here and there by the prints left by the wild creatures–raccoons, opossum, and maybe even deer that wandered through our yard in the darkness. The air was still. It was magical—until the reality of scraping ice off of cars and clearing steps set in.

Children experience the magic of snow for a far longer period. They feel anticipation and delight in the falling flakes, the crunch of boots through the frosted surface, the glee of making angels and snow creatures, and the joy of having an unexpected vacation from school to stay in pajamas and drink hot chocolate.

In Dallas, snow appears occasionally, but not often, and usually only in trace amounts. As children, my younger sister and I were so excited when it did appear. We took turns trying to pull each other around our yard on the sleds stored in our garage. They were real sleds made of wood with sharp steel runners, relics from our life in Philadelphia. My older brother, away at college, had probably used one of them to slide down hills in Germantown with his friends. Of course, they were not of much use in the minute amount of snow that dusted our Dallas backyard.

During our Christmas breaks from school, my family usually traveled back north to Philadelphia to visit with family and friends.  We often stayed at a downtown Sheraton Hotel. From the wide windows of our hotel room, my sister and I gazed down at the tiny ice skaters gliding across the ice at the Penn Center Ice Skating Rink. We watched them twirl and sometimes fall. There was a wide ledge under the window that sat over the room’s heater and air conditioning unit. On one visit, perhaps bored with watching ice skaters, my younger sister and I marched back and forth across that ledge singing an advertising jingle, “Franco-American where sauce is king.” Seeing how annoying it was to our older sister, we continued to do it over and over and over again, until we finally collapsed in laughter.

One day while staying at that Sheraton, my family boarded the subway to visit my dad’s best friend, a doctor, and his family. It was just beginning to snow as we walked to the subway’s entrance. It was still snowing when we arrived, and it continued to snow through the night. We were snowed-in!  My mother was probably not pleased, and she was concerned that we didn’t have snow boots and other snow gear. None of that mattered to me. Here was real snow that could be played in and formed into snowmen. We were having a real adventure. At some point—I can’t remember if it was that night or the next day—my father and his friend trudged through the snow to a Jewish delicatessen. They returned with enough food to feed us–and several other families, should any happen to wander in through the snow—if need be, for days. The large, dining room table was piled high with bagels, lox, rye bread, corned beef, and other delicatessen staples. (Yes, my love of food is inherited.) I don’t know where my parents slept that night, but my younger sister and I bedded down on the carpeted floor of the bedroom of one the teenage daughters of the household. Warm and cozy under a layer of blankets, we dozed off to the chatter of the older girls and were content.

I don’t particularly love the snow. I don’t go sledding, skiing, or ice skating. If ever forced to do so, I would be the person sitting inside the lodge with a warm cup of coffee in my hand and a good book on my lap.  I’ve been through other snowstorms since that long ago time in Philadelphia, and I’ve experienced “the magic of snow” with my own daughters. Still, I guess it’s true what they say: you never forget your first. . .snowstorm.

New Book: History of American Cooking

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I am happy to announce that my latest book, History of American Cooking (ABC-CLIO Press), is available for purchase! [Cue the drum roll and trumpet fanfare.] OK. This news might not be all that exciting to you, but I received my author’s copies yesterday, and holding the book that you’ve labored over for months or years never gets old. Trust me.

What this book is:

*A concise reference for students and the general public

What this book is NOT:

*A cookbook

*A book for food historians and scholars

What this book includes:

*An examination of the history and practice of cooking from approximately the 15th century to the present

*A focus on one particular cooking method, such as baking or broiling, per chapter.

*In-depth discussions of such dishes as fried chicken, doughnuts, and Thanksgiving turkey

*A chronology

*Sample recipes, mainly from 19th century sources

*Witty asides and pop culture references (Well, you can decide.)

How do I get this amazing book?

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/history-of-american-cooking-merril-d-smith/1112077272

http://www.amazon.com/History-American-Cooking-Merril-Smith/dp/0313387117

http://www.abc-clio.com/product.aspx?id=2147543574

I would be grateful if you would recommend this book to your public or school libraries, if you feel it would be of interest.