Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Breakfast with my mother

People often ask me, "Caroline, what is it about the baking?"  They want to know is it the science, the precision, the accolades for each delicious thing that comes from my kitchen.  Yes.  It's all of those things, but mostly -- it's breakfast with my mother.

This morning, I made -- resisting saying "whipped up" -- a batch of cranberry-orange scones.  I've made these scones hundreds of times.  I don't need the recipe, I just start doing:  The yellow Pyrex bowl that is that last of my mom's set.  The tin measuring cups we used to make cookies at Christmas.  Cutting a cold stick of butter from memory, into thirds, first long way, then short way, then chopping.  Scattering the butter over the dry ingredients and working it in with my fingers -- exactly the way my mother showed me, which is exactly the way her mother showed her.  Mom felt doing this by hand made for flakier scones, biscuits and pie dough -- it also, she said, put some extra love in the recipe.

When I bake, my mother, her mother and my Grandma Siemers, all come into the kitchen.  In my pans and bowls, my spoons and spatulas, in the glass measuring cup with the measures so faded they can't be read.  These baking women are in everything I make and how I make it, whether their recipes (Pulla, strudel, prune tarts) or mine.

I shared many things with my mom, but nothing so tactile and nostalgic as baking.  She's gone nearly 20 years now, but when I want to spend time with her, I pull down a bowl and start measuring flour.  And she's right there, leaning over my shoulder, showing me a better way to sift the flour or knead the dough.

I'm a baking woman. I come from baking women.  My sister-in-law is a baking woman, my niece (and nephew) are little bakers.  It's a legacy I cherish,  it keeps me close to home.

The scones are warm, fragrant with orange, running with butter.  A pot of Earl Grey sits beside.  My mom's chair is empty, but she's here.  And thinking I should have used less sugar.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The valley of the shadow of success

Who doesn't feel the lure of the small town?  I hear it in the early morning, underneath the nearby freeway, garbage trucks, and construction equipment.  I hear it at 4:30 on the 405.  I hear it when all roads to nature involve noise, cars, people and congestion.

I love a small town.  A single blinking 4-way, small businesses lining quaint blocks, the diner where the waitresses know everyone and call you "hon," the library with its story lady and clusters of schoolchildren, neighbors who know you by name.  

I've lived in cities most of my adult life (Boston, New York, Los Angeles) and have rarely known my neighbors.  Even now, I've lived in this building for 12 years and only recently started talking to the people around me.  Part of me really loves anonymity, the going about of my own business without accountability for my routine.  

I hate the idea of people all up in your business.  In fact, I hate it so much, the most successful relationship of my life was with a man living 3,000 miles away.  All the time in the world for me without having to really accommodate someone else.  (I grew up with a father who was all about the crowding, so I've swung perhaps a little far the other way...)

So it's with a certain amount of startle that I realize not only do I want a quieter life, but I want one of greater community and connectedness, I want people around me to know me, to stop me in the street, to pop over.  (OK, maybe not pop over, but you know, be within calling distance of coming by.)

This is the biggest question of the past few months:  How do I change my life?  How do I shift my focus from work/career (the centerpiece of my life for 24 years) to family/friends/relationships/meaning/home?  How do I make work the snapshot in the frame of my life instead of the picture in the middle?

I read stories about this in More and O, but they seem to always leap from "I was a big city book editor and now I raise chickens" without dwelling on the messiness of, "So all I had was $13K in the bank and no idea of employment, but I made the leap, and for the first six months it was very messy, but then things started to turn around and suddenly I had blue ribbon chickens and a new life."  

It's the valley of the shadow of these successes that I want to know about.  Leaps of faith I can get behind, I guess what I really want, though, is an informed leap.

I hear my town a-callin' -- how do I answer?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mon Day

Monday, Monday, can't trust that day....

Never liked Mondays, likely never will.  A very good friend's husband got over the hump by referring to it as "Mon Day."  He shows up, but doesn't have to take meetings, make calls or do business.  This is his day.

And so, a bit of a non-post today as I'm enjoying Mon Day.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

A day of rest

Sunday is a day off.  Instead, there will be something from someone else:  A poem, a link, a quote, a post from a friend.  Anything I feel moved  to share.

Enjoy the day.

my father was not in the telephone book
in my city;
my father was not sleeping with my mother 
at home;
my father did not care if I studied the
my father did not care what I
and I thought my father was handsome and I loved him and I wondered
he left me alone so much
so many years
in fact, but
my father
made me what I am
a lonely woman
without purpose, just as I was
a lonely child
without a father.  I walked with words, words, words, and names,
names.  Father was not
one of my words.
Father was not
one of my names.

from The Father of My Country