Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas HO-HO-HO

In my former life as a pastry chef, Christmas was always hell. Lots of eighteen hour days. When I worked at the Il Fornaio commissary, it was nothing more than a warehouse with refrigeration units and ovens and it didn't have any windows. I'd arrive at work in the dark and went home when it was dark and it was a little crazy-making. Not to mention the bone-chilling exhaustion, let's not forget that. One memorable Thanksgiving holidays I made 279 pumpkin pies. That was on ONE day alone. It was years before I could even look at a pumpkin pie without feeling slightly queasy and many more years before I could actually eat a slice of it.

But I made some very good friends when I was cooking. I'm shouting out to Kate and Michael and Toni and Norman. Lots of people I've lost track of over the years, but these four I'm still in touch with to varying degrees and am so lucky to call them friend.

Christmas now isn't nearly as hectic (THANK GOD!), and this year it's sad because my MIL died the year before last and my step-father died this year and there are now permanent holes in the emotional landscape.But we have traditions that carry on and my mother is cooking up a roast beast and my children are both home for the holidays and the world is as right as it can be right now.

My best wishes for the holidays. May you read a ton of really great books in 2014!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Book Review: The Suicide Index by Joan Wickersham

This is a good, no, a great book. A non-fiction account trying to come to terms with the suicide of her father, it's set up like an index. It is one of those books where I would read a paragraph, a sentence, a chapter, and the words were so right, so true, so well-written and so painful that I would put the book down because it just physically hurt to continue, only to pick up the book a minute later. This book came out in 2008. I wonder if from the distance of five years Ms. Wickerhsam now recognizes that she is rather harsh on her mother, who comes across as somewhat spoiled: her refrain, "How could he do this to me?" reverberates throughout the book. Of course, they are all asking that, only her mother voices this out loud.

I have one small quibble, and that is I kept wondering how her father's suicide affected her relationship with her sister, who is largely absent in this narrative. Perhaps this is deliberate, a pact that I am sharing my grief but I don't have the right to share yours, but it feels like a chapter, a "citation" is missing. 

This is a painful read at best. There aren't any answers, and yet how can you not keep asking? One things kept nagging at me while reading this, and that is how even as adults (even as we age that child never truly eclipses the adult), we have such a hard time acknowledging that other self in our parents. That self that has an unhappy marriage, that self that is disappointed, beset with self-doubt, unsure, and angry, so angry. That other self that isn't the parent you love. It's a part of them you can't touch, a stranger, and why I think we have such a hard time acknowledging that it's there. It's a betrayal. Of course, suicide is the ultimate betrayal. She quotes Flaubert: "We want to die because we cannot cause others to die, and every suicide is perhaps a repressed assassination." Parents always carry the secret fear that we will fail our children. But what if the child fails the parent? A powerful and beautifully written book that I very strongly recommend.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Pearl Harbor Day

Today is Pearl Harbor Day. My stepfather died this February. He had been a POW in World War II, captured in Java in 1940. He survived five years in a Japanese prison camp. I cannot see any headline regarding Pearl Harbor without thinking of him. I saluted him every December 7th when he was alive, and I see no reason to stop that tradition now that he's dead. Hope this current journey is a blast, Ken. I thank you for your sacrifice.

As always, much love, Claire