Monday, July 25, 2016

Don't Forget the Calzones

What do you tell a man that you've known for thirty years on your anniversary? I guess it depends on whether or not you love him.

Yes, I love him. 

Can I write Mike a love story with canoes and hikes and a good meal served when he's hungry? I suppose I could because that's what we have together, canoes and dogs and boys and hikes and twenty-five years on the same property in the woods?

And I can't forget the good meals. Mike loves a good meal. I'd guess his favorite are what his mother cooked for him, chicken fricassee, macaroni and cheese, and pink potato salad. We both loved that potato salad. Oh, I've learned to make those for him along with his other favorites, chicken Parmesan, Louisiana meatballs, halloumi chicken, and my calzones. My calzones are a vision with their ricotta, red sauce, pepperoni, and mozzarella cheese spilling out on the side that was cut in half and the braided look of the homemade crust where I press edges together. If all that weren't enough, I'm good with pie too, apple, pumpkin, even lemon meringue with lightly zested lemons and a tall meringue that tastes like a marshmallow.

But I know I'm not perfect. I can't tell him I've solved all of our problems, Nick's binge video games, my struggle to keep the yard from growing weeds as tall as the house, my rickety health. I wish I could, but that wasn't part of the deal.

"Did you know I was this way when you married me?" I asked him once in the kitchen when we stood on opposite sides of an old debate. Should the yard look like a forest or a golf course? I've always voted forest and you know where that puts him. Neither of us has ever won except for the summer my mother came to visit and we needed things to look acceptable in a short time. It turns out that the landscapers voted with Mike. But we debate from the same old standpoints anyway. And once in a while I ask him if he knew who I was when he married me.

"Yup," he said looking over his glasses at me.

He wasn't really angry and neither was I. And after knowing the man for thirty years, I know that this, by itself, is worth a great deal to him.

Plus the calzones. Don't forget the calzones.

Thank you for listening, jb

Friday, July 1, 2016

Chelan's Lake Haven Part I

We just got back from a Vacasa vacation. It's going to sound so good, you'll think it's an advertisement. It's not. I really just loved it. We all did.

When we were still packing on the morning we left, I kept losing my balance and generally looked like a pasty whiner with great big saddlebags under my eye slits. Mike stopped packing for a minute, looked at me, and frowned.

"You're not well enough to go on vacation."

I've been dizzy and sleepless and generally feeling awful for weeks. I felt so bad, I didn't have energy to see a doctor. I kept crying around Mike, Nick, and my friends. Everybody was worried about me, but I couldn't imagine losing this one chance in the past two years in exchange for a trip to urgent care. I couldn't see staying home with a nephew and fuming about things he wouldn't do to care for himself, let alone the things he wouldn't do to contribute to the well-being of our family. 

I looked at Mike through my eye slits, doing my best to glare.

"I'm not well enough to stay home." I said.

He looked at me with doubt evident on his face then finally went on putting stuff into the cooler.

"Oh, I'm feeling okay, not good, but well enough to manage." I resolved to fake it until we got to the cabin, even if it killed me.

Mike packed and loaded most of the stuff, but still I wrestled with a bag or two and talked Nick through his last-minute packing. When I got into the back seat of the car with my pillow, we were only a half an hour past when we said we wanted to leave.

Nick drove and Mike monitored him. I didn't even have to look out the window if I wanted. So, I fell asleep until we approached the exit for the Cle Elum Bakery.

"Starbucks?" I asked.

"No stops for Starbucks," Nick said. He sounded like the soup nazi on Seinfeld.

"Do not become that man," I said. "Starbucks!" Already, I was feeling better.

But there were no Starbucks in Cle Elum. See, I love the fruit bars at the Cle Elum Bakery as much as the rest of the family, but I can't eat the fruit bars any more because of my sugar levels. I wanted a sugar-free decaf treat. So, we walked across the street to Owen's Meats for spicy pepperoni. That's a treat. Then, Mike gave Nick directions for Pioneer Coffee and I got my sugar-free decaf treat.

Then, I settled into the back seat of the car for daydreaming and doodling. I haven't had much time for daydreaming or doodling lately. It turns out that car doodling is pretty awful, so I stopped after one attempt and got on with my daydreaming. I fell asleep again and didn't wake up until we hit the turn for Leavenworth.

"Fruit stand!" Mike sang. "Millions of peaches. Peaches for me."

"No!" Nick said. "Do not get Mom singing that song!"

I'd had an ear worm last summer when we bought a flat of excellent peaches and I guess I burned out my options on that song.

"But I can sing. I really can."

"Anything. Just not that song. I won't stop if you sing that song," Nick said.

"Don't turn into that man," I said again. You know the man I mean, the one who will never stop when you have to pee. We were really having fun now.

Mike gave Nick directions to Peck's Orchard. For some reason, it had to be Peck's. I guess it was his go-to place when he used to be a raft guide on the Wenatchee. I missed those trips down the Wenatchee and I remembered stopping at Peck's but I didn't know that had to be the place. I came out with a couple of bags, peaches, cider, Walla Walla sweet onion mustard, and some peach and mango jelly.

The two of them were standing there, trying to look casual but failing utterly.

"There's nothing to see here," Nick said. I tried to look around him and he shifted. I held out a bag to Nick. He didn't move. He was trying not to smile and nobody breathed for a minute.

Finally, Mike reached for the bags.

"Dad! You failed your mission. You broke formation."

And then I saw it. A fabric store. Yay! A fabric store. Nick groaned. I walked past him into the lightly cooled interior. The Leavenworth Quilt Company. It didn't take long for me to find three or four sweet fat quarters even though I don't really need more fabric. As I checked out, the ladies behind the counter laughed when I told them Nick's blocking ploy. This was beginning to be a great vacation already. Pepperoni, iced coffee, peaches, and fat quarters. It was still an hour and a half until we got to our Vacasa vacation. I wondered what we would find there, but no matter how rustic it was, I knew I was going to have fun. Mike had packed my kayak and my paddle. I had plenty of books. And I had my sun hat and a swim suit. What's not to like about a cabin on a lake?

When we finally got there, the environment had turned to desert. The mountains were nearly naked. It was hot out and the air conditioner of the car was barely keeping up.

"There!" Mike said with excitement. "Turn here!" And there it was, a lovely brown cabin with red trim and a long covered porch on two sides overlooking Lake Chelan.

Mike and Nick ran around, counting TVs and claiming beds. Mike shouted out amenities - a great kitchen, a Jacuzzi, cozy blankets, a breakfast nook, an outdoor shower - while I sat down on extra-wide couch in the shade of the porch and looked out over a stunning lake view with desert mountains on the other side. This was no rustic cabin.

I had made it here alive. I was ON vacation and everything around me was set to luxury.

Thank you for listening, jb