Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Jade Image

“Jade, I done told you to get up out of that chair and go to the store,” said Mama way beyond mad and holding in her hand an empty container of baby formula. She stood there with disbelief in her 50 year old eyes, as I continued clipping photos from a travel magazine I had retrieved from the “free bin” at the library while enjoying my chocolate snack pudding cup. I was getting slow at jumping to her beck and call. I was tired.
“Hey, a girl gotta live her life don’t she?” I said under my breath. I loved traveling the world and eating in exotic foreign restaurants. Even if it was through extensive scrap booking and fanciful daydreams. I didn’t aspire to be the next Cover Girl, but I was big, black, beautiful and nothing was gonna keep me from going to the furthest corners of the world.
“This child can’t wait one more minute for you to finish with that foolishness girl. You really need to grow up!” Mama breathed fire. “By your age I already had three mouths to feed.” With a whimpering and hungry baby hung on her hip she was a little worn. But, Mama was rarely happy anymore anyway. The days of happiness and fun ended when mama saved my six month old niece, Aleeya, from foster care.
“I told you I’m going,” I said in the retaliatory tone that came so willingly from my tongue lately. For all the work I was doing I never felt less appreciated. Run to the store, heat a bottle, change a diaper, mow the lawn, do the dishes, respond to the crying child at three o’clock in the morning; on-and-on it went. Without looking up I knew I was one step away from a serious tongue lashing. The electricity in the air was thick and if her breathing was any indication of just how close I was to doom I thought better of saying what was on my mind, “You wanted the baby. How about you go?”
“I’m sorry,” I said instead, with my eyes averted so she couldn’t see just how disgusted I was feeling. I sat the scissors down and used my fingers to clean the bottom of the pudding cup, then licked my fingers clean. I reached for my tattered hand-me-down flats that were laying next to my chair. While slipping on my shoes I asked, “How much money is in the account?”
“The check came Boo,” she said wild-eyed, in disbelief. “You think I’m going to send you to the store with no money in the account?” Her lips were quivering and she was perspiring, “And leave that funky mood in the streets before you get back.” Aleeya started to wail. I grabbed my jacket and purse and left without looking back.
As I walked down the numerous steps of our old Victorian rental, each individual step rendered an account of its age with creaks and groans beneath mv feet. I was thankful that almost everything was within walking distance in this lame town. Mama and I didn’t drive. It was all about walking. The only bus that came through this town was the one that took people to utopia.
I reached into my purse, pulled out my iPod, and put the buds in my ears. The distraction of some funky music was a staple in my life. As I walked along I thought about how much life had changed over the past few months. My 13 year-old niece had given birth to Aleeya, and lost her to the authorities. When Mama caught wind of the situation she had jumped into action. “No great-grandchild of mine is going to be raised by strangers,” she vowed. To some degree I think Mama was trying to make up for what she hadn’t done for her children. For years she had played slave to drugs and alcohol. My oldest sister had once told me, “You got it good. Mama ain’t who she used to be.” I was by far the youngest sibling, and maybe I didn’t endure what they had, but I knew without a doubt that this was not the good life my sister alluded to.
Only one block to go. I was almost there. The smell of Burger King french fries invaded my nostrils. I wanted so badly to stop and get some, but decided not to since I hadn’t asked first. As I approached the market I knew it would be a feat to walk past the magazine rack at the entrance and not stop to look at the latest edition of Travel and Leisure, so I planned my venture into the store carefully. I couldn’t stop anywhere with a starving child singing the blues back at the house. As I entered I took a deep breath and purposefully looked in the opposite direction. Then I exhaled and headed to the formula.
The check-out lane was unusually long. It made me think about just how unlikely it would be for Mama to smile when I walked back through the door with the liquid gold. I would give anything for one of her smiles. I glanced to the front of the lane. “Dang!” I must have said out loud, as the guy in front of me turned around with a curious look on his face. There at the front of the lane was an old woman writing out a check for her purchase. People still write checks? I thought to myself. The story of my life.
At last. The checker scanned the formula as I consecutively slid the debit card, and then said with a less than sincere smile, “Your balance due is $1.99.” It took me a second to realize she was asking me for money. Surprised, I stood there for second not sure what to do. I started rummaging through the bottom of my purse for change, knowing there wasn’t any more than a handful of pennies.
Feeling humiliated I stammered, “Le-le-let me see what I can find.” I placed five pennies and one nickel on the counter and continued to search, hoping for a miracle. I felt like fainting.
“You still owe $1.89,” she said with raised eyebrows.
“Are you sure there isn’t more money on the card?” I asked mortified.
“Slide it again,” she said in a bored tone.
A male voice behind me said, “Here. I got it.” And he placed two, one dollar bills on the counter.
I turned around, “Thank you sir.” He was a handsome old man with a gray beard and ponytail. I wanted to cry in appreciation of his kindness.
“It’s okay,” he said kindly. “You better go feed your baby.”
I said thank you again, and almost ran from the store. I didn’t have a baby. Thank God.

As I approached the house I could hear Aleeya howling at the top of her lungs. The front door and screen were wide open. I ran up the steps and into the house. “Mama?” I called out. Aleeya was in her crib with tear-drenched eyes. I picked her up and headed to the kitchen to make a bottle. I called out again, “Mama, I’m back!”

Sitting on the kitchen table was a hypodermic needle and a small crumpled, empty brown paper bag.

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In all fairness, although true, I feel my post “Flight 4476” was a little harsh. Perhaps I was blunt and somewhat lop-sided in my observations of Grand Consumption. I have had the “Grand” pleasure, pardon the pun, of meeting some really cool people here. Let me just say they are the exception to the norm. I will call them “my friends” since they have gone out of their way to make me feel welcome throughout my visit and to some degree have allowed me the splended opportunity to consider a return visit. I shall certainly miss their hugs and smiling faces. By the way…they are not missing teeth or laden with oxygen masks.  I will speak of two of them in no particular order of relevence and may embellish just a tad. Enjoy!

One of the most enjoyable and unexpected of my new friends is a woman who is in her 80s named Jule. Her daughter and son-in-law, Peg and Mel, asked if I would like to take a ride over with them to visit her. She lives alone, in a beautiful house, with the exception of her pal Louie. Louie is a well-mannered yet loud macaw. Jule is really quite gorgeous and must have been a looker in her day. At first glance I thought her to be fragile and perhaps reserved. I would soon learn otherwise. She wears her hair in a shiny silver bob, and her face is as fair as porcelain. When she smiles she lights the entire room. Her voice is sultry, and her first words to me were astounding and spoken in a clear and concise manner. “Do you play Wii?” she asked me. Well, I never had and for a brief moment I endured an overwhelming feeling of culture shock. I was about to be led into an area of technology I hadn’t yet explored, and by a woman who should never have known that such a game even existed. Wow, I thought…I want to be like this woman in my golden years. Her unexpected invitation lent me the opportunity to induldge in an abridged recollection of my far-from-ordinary grandmother (of whom I shall soon write). The result of the game? Well, lets just say she beat my pants off with finesse and style while Louie cheered her on!

Another of my new acquaintances is a 65+ woman named Nan. Nan is a hoot! This woman is an old farmer who does not mince her words. She was raised in the back country of “Grand Consumption”. After high school she left the confines of her home in the sticks to complete flight attendant school in Denver. It’s amazing that her family had allowed her to go so far from the farm to pursue such a worldly career. Her straight forward, gruff personality is contradictory to such a pursuit. Well, as it turned out, she was called back home by her mama when she broke the news to the family that her graduation would take her on to a career in New York. Thank god she did, as Nan would not be Nan had she moved away from the outskirts of the “Grand” valley. This warm-hearted woman has an opinion and voice that warns in advance that she is a person to be reckoned with. She means well, and seems to know what she’s talking about. What a joy to listen to her speak. She has some of the funniest and most unusual expressions I have ever heard. She once referred to a hard-headed friend of hers as being “tougher ‘n bowled (boiled) owl”. And when speaking about preparing dinner she refers to a kettle as a “kittle” neither term of which I have heard lately. “A’m gunna put on a kittle of beans for ‘eem”. Another of her very common oddly pronounced words is “him”. In fact, now that I think about it, many local-dwellers have the same habit. They NEVER pronounce “him” as ole’ Merriam Webster would have suggested. It’s always “eem”. Well, Nan is one woman I will never forget. When I said my goodbyes to her she had tears in her eyes and said, “You need to take ‘keer’ now”.

As I reflect back on my visits with people like Jule and Nan I will always remember them as people of the “Grand” valley. Yes, although there are a tantamount number of odd people ever-so-present in “Grand Consumption” there too are real treasures.

Soup and Love

Posted: December 4, 2011 in Family, Food, Humor
Tags: , , , , , ,

It’s a great day to make some soup. The rain, wind and slight breeze dictate this to me from the moment I rise. Something warm and spicy will hit the spot. Must warm the soul. So, next decision…traditional Italian Minestrone, Mexican Southwest Tortilla or Clam Chowder? I say to myself, “Mexican” and go with it. In all honesty, Mexican won’t require a trip to the grocery store, so my spiel about making a choice really wasn’t all that difficult, and made before the words Italian or clam came out of my mouth.

I love cooking for my family. It’s really very entertaining and to some degree requires a bit of acting skill. Once any trace of activity occurs in the kitchen and the burner is hot, one at a time, the family slowly files through the kitchen with their inquisitions and suggestions. It is almost as though someone went through the pains of choreographing their moves. It is just hilarious, because I know in advance who likes what and so-on, so my choice of words, as well as ingredients, are selected with great care. I too am part of this fine production called dinner. My lines spoken well as I play the part of my own sous chef and leading actress.

The first family member strolls in. It’s mama. The kitchen is her domain, so when anyone decides to play her role they better do it well. Mama approaches in a nonchalant manner which is very deceiving. She’s pretty subtle most of the time, but that could be a sign she’s about to take over. So I proceed with caution. In a way she kind of reminds me of Lady Gaga disguised as Sophia Loren. She has a beautiful a luring demeanor but could suddenly break-out with an off-the-wall suggestion. Which she does while remaining in character, “We have some fresh zucchini. Why don’t you throw some in there?” I calmly acknowledge her suggestion, but refute the idea stating how this would certainly take away from the distinctly Mexican flavor of the dish.One thing I decided would warm us on this chilly afternoon. She rolls her almond-shaped eyes and saunters off stage-left, and although she disagrees, I think she enjoys an occasional travesty in her kitchen.

The next performer is my son. He is definitely THE drama-king within the familial generation to which he was born. You may recall I said choose my lines wisely. He is the main reason I do so. We don’t use words like: onions, tomatoes or bell peppers…My god that would certainly bring an abrupt end of the world. This I just don’t understand. How could I have given birth to a child whose culinary repertoire does not include some of the most likely and well-liked ingredients for any Italian household? Was there a mistake at the hospital? Had they slipped me the wrong child? “No” I acknowledge to myself. He looks too much like the family. It’s just a fluke in his DNA. SO…(in a whisper) just between you and I, if any of the foregoing ingredients are called for, it’s not decipherable, and never omni-present, and I didn’t just say that.

On this particular occasion, the last one to enter, right on cue, is my youngest brother. He loves to eat, loves to cook, and is very good at it. There’s only one very small problem today. He doesn’t like soup. And, this is truly an issue because although we might be able to hide onion in any given recipe or distract mama from adding whatever is in the frig…I have not discovered any way to make soup look like anything but, well…SOUP. So, I tell him after a slight slip in my stellar performance that “it’s kinda like spaghetti sauce, except you serve it over tortilla chips instead of pasta.” He laughs and says, “good try.”

The final result of my Academy-Award-worthy meal? Delicious…everyone eats and knows better than to ask any questions. Ciao!