Back in New York, with barely time to figure out what time zone we are in, what meal we would like to eat when the family starts to arrive. Our son arrives a few hours after we do and as I make dinner the catching up begins. All the little things that you don’t have time for on a transatlantic phone call.
On Wednesday my sister and her husband surprise me by showing up at the front door, they’ve left Portland to come east and be with family. Elaine and her friend Edgar come later in the evening, and the family extends and embraces them. Of course the fact that they come bearing foie gras and Muscat de Beaumes doesn’t hurt at all. But, if they came bearing only smiles we would embrace them all the same. I haven’t had time to stock the refrigerator, let alone prep a dinner for six serious food people, but we make do with some truffled pasta and Umbrian style lamb shoulder.
Thursday we head to Mom’s where the party has already begun. It takes awhile to hug everyone, glasses are filled and the noise is deafening as we share the moment. My mom’s kitchen isn’t small, and it isn’t big, but it’s bursting with people offering to help make dinner. Jeff begins 12-year-old Cody’s appreciation of wine by giving him a lesson on the fundamentals of wine tasting. Cody starts off saying it tastes like sour grape juice, but you can see the wheels turning, he knows he’s being introduced to something important. Nicole faces her task and mashes a mountain of potatoes into silken submission. My enophile cousin Jim has brought some excellent wines, thanks God because our cellar is beyond bare, and each wine is a treat for the senses. By the time we crowd around the table, the noise is like jazz, it’s a syncopated rhythm of conversation punctuated by requests for more gravy.
The party continues at Steve’s house the next day. Only we give our thanks with lobsters and outrageously good clam chowder instead of turkey. And of course, you all know that you get a more tender, tasty lobster if you hypnotize it by standing it on its head prior to cooking, right?
By Sunday we can only manage a little dim sum for lunch, but by Sunday night there is another gathering around the table, this time with NY friends and family and a large vat of spaghetti Bolognese. Perfect fare for a cold, rainy NY night.
Can I count all my blessings? No, they are as many as the grains of sand on a beach, but it’s the sound of family and friends laughing in the kitchen that holds me together and welcomes us back to the States. It’s been a whirlwind re-entry and we almost feel as if we were never gone, except for that glorious hunk of parmigiana in the fridge and a tin of olive oil from when I climbed the trees to get the olives. It’s good to be back!