Notes from the Home - December 30, 2013



   Russell and Bethany are spending a lot of time in the kitchen these days. As a result, I have been eating my way through the holidays. Karen and Russ brought dinner to me on Christmas day. It was a shared effort. Karen baked the ham, mashed the potatoes and prepared the vegetables; Russ made the rolls from scratch and made some sort of custard stuff for dessert. It was all very, very good.

   On Friday, my other gift from Bethany and Ken arrived. The first gift from them – an impression of Hayden’s hand and one of MaKenna’s foot, both brightly painted – was delivered earlier in the week. The second gift came from Beth’s kitchen. My cupboard is now full of jams and jellies. She sent blackberry vanilla bean jam, up top grape jelly (up top of what she didn’t say), white grape jelly, cinnamon pear vanilla bean jam, white grape strawberry jelly, ginger pear jam, mountain elderberry jam, and a jar of sliced pears.

   My first thought was to run over to Piggly-Wiggly and clear its shelves of English muffins. But, it has since occurred to me: if Russ can make homemade rolls, he can make homemade bread. Wouldn’t that be wonderful – Beth’s homemade jam slathered on Russ’ homemade bread.  Dreams are made of such things.

   There was also an unexpected treat in the parcels from Idaho. Beth is a shipping professional, and with her and Ken operating their own business, she has access to bubble wrap, which she used liberally. There was so much of the stuff, I wondered if I could get it all in one garbage bag. Then a piece of the stuff fell out of my hand on to the floor and I inadvertently ran over it with my wheelchair. It was great; I was ecstatic as the sound of bubbles popping filled the apartment.

   I spent the next half hour purposely dropping bubble wrap on the floor and advertently driving the wheelchair over it again and again. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning.

   After things quieted down, I got to thinking. When Russ was a lad, and I was doing the cooking most days, he had no interest in the kitchen. If he walked into the kitchen, he was either on his way to somewhere else or looking for a Pepsi, never a Coke.

   There were times, however, when Beth would seat herself on the counter and keep a close eye on what I was doing. Those times were when I was making tuna-noodle casserole. She needed to supervise to insure that once the noodles were boiled I didn’t empty all of them into the casserole dish and that I did not pour all of the cream of celery soup-Worcestershire sauce-milk mixture on top of them. She derived great pleasure from stirring the unused noodles around in the unused sauce and eating them. But it should be noted that Beth was also extremely pleased with the finished product. A few years later, on those occasions when she came east from Idaho to visit me in Ashtabula, I would ask her if there was anything special she wanted for dinner during her stay. Her answer was always, “Tuna-noodle.”

   Beth also made a habit of visiting the kitchen when I made bread. But most of those visits were made in stealth mode. They would start as soon as I put dough aside to rise and went to do something else while it did. Making frequent trips to the kitchen, Beth would pinch off a pieces of the bread dough and eat them. When I’d go back to check on the dough, it looked like a giant golf ball, thanks to all the dimples left from Beth’s pinching. I tried to tell her that the bread dough would continue to rise after she ate it and eventually her stomach would explode. She didn’t believe me.

   Those were the days, my friends. I thought they’d never end. Oh yes, those were the days.

  

   On my way back from dinner Saturday, I discovered I was in the middle of a cat fight. Eleanor had called earlier in the day. She smashed her hip about three months ago and is back home now after a lengthy stay in a rehab place. She still isn’t getting around very well – her one leg is two inches shorter than the other – and she asked if I would mind stopping by Covenant Woods’ little library and grabbing a couple of Sue Grafton’s books for her. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to do my good deed for 2013. I knew there were several of Grafton’s books in the library, and Eleanor said the only one she’s read is Q is for Quarry. It took no more than five minutes to make my way to the library, pull K is for Killer and P is for Peril off the shelf and call Eleanor to tell her I had the books. It was raining and she lives down in the duplexes, so she said she’d ask the woman who is helping her to come up and get the books from me. A few minutes later the woman was at the door, and my good deed was complete.

   Three hours later, I was talking to some people after dinner when I heard Penelope, the activities director, say she wanted to talk to me. I turned around and she was gone. Someone pointed to the hallway that goes back to the offices, and Penelope stuck her head out and said, “Back here.” So I joined Penelope in the hall, where she was making some copies.

   “Did you get those books for Eleanor?” she asked in a tone that was dripping with disgust.

   I told her I had. I was about to ask her how she knew about the books, but it soon became evident that Eleanor had first asked Penelope to get the books for her. They are both strong-willed, often demanding women. I’m sure Eleanor’s attitude was, “I want the books when I want them, and I want them now.” Meanwhile, Penelope would have had a you’ll-get-them-when-I-get-them-for-you-which-might-not-be-until-the-week-after-next edge to her voice. And when I was about to leave, Penelope said, “I owe you big time for this one.” I didn’t bother to ask why.

  

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