The library-dining room has been initiated by two brothers and a sister-in-law. There is finally a table where one should have been all these years. For twenty years, there was nothing in the middle of the room. Just a rug. Chairs in the corners – a glider by the window, armchair by the bookcase, rocker in front. I’ve tiled over the old linoleum that was on the top of the drawers and under the shelves in the built-in bookcase so we can use it as a sideboard. The peel-and-stick metal tile reminds me of a chessboard, in memory of Mike. There’s a new light fixture, replacing the hideous 1970’s wicker circle thing that I hated so much I didn’t care when I smeared ceiling paint all over it.
I stayed up until 2 a.m. Tuesday morning painting the backs of the doors in the front hall, to finish it before the brothers arrived. I love how it turned out, even though I should probably touch up the smeary places and the parts of the professionally painted trim I marred with smears of grey. But it’s done and that makes me happy.
I had a lot less time to cook than I thought I’d have. The soup turned out more like squash puree. I forgot to add the curry to the onions while they sauteed, and I scorched them a little while I was peeling apples. I added apple juice to the soup and threw in some brown sugar to deal with a bitter taste probably caused by the scorched onions. My brothers deflected my apologies, but did say the soup was a little sweet. The chicken soup was scummier than usual. Maybe because I used a yellow onion instead of a white one? Or I boiled it too long before skimming it?
I didn’t have time to chill and roll out dough for pie, so I used a recipe where you pat the dough into the pan. I didn’t realize until after I’d patted all of the dough in that there was enough for two pies. The apples didn’t break down as much as I had hoped. It turned out to be more of a scorched-thick-crust apple tart. My brothers said, “who ever says no to apple pie?” and ate some anyway.
Oh well. The food wasn’t really the point. Having members of my family beyond just the two, formerly the three, of us, around a table in this house was the point.
By the time Angelic Daughter was about 9 years old, Mike had cut off all association with his family. He had already stopped seeing mine. From then on, we led an insular life, just the three of us. We never had family over. We never had anyone over.
I have always loved big family meals. All through my childhood and adolescence we had Sunday dinner almost every week, formally, in the dining room, in the middle of the afternoon. Someone would go pick up Grandpa, or our uncle would come or for a while some cousins who lived close by would come. Even if none of those relatives could come, there were still five of us. Not having that for so many years hurt. I felt like Angelic Daughter had been cheated of something, although I don’t think she felt that way – she doesn’t like crowds or noise much, and seems okay with Sunday dinners with just me, now. But I’m not OK with it.
One of the reasons I worked to finish and furnish this house after Mike died was so I could finally have a meal with members of my family, in this house. The week we moved in, my Dad had a massive stroke. He came over once after that, but stepping up a step to enter the kitchen was difficult for him, and I’m not sure he even knew where he was, but he liked watching the Christmas train go around in circles.
Mom never came for a meal, and I never asked her back after the time I proudly showed her how I had arranged the master bedroom with what furniture we had, and she sniffed and said, “pathetic, ” which was a criticism of Mike. She thought the sparseness of our home was Mike’s fault, for being a stay-at-home-Dad, instead of getting a “breadwinner” job. She never apologized for her open, constantly displayed contempt toward Mike. She just complained that he wouldn’t come over. She seemed to think that as my husband, he was required to subject himself to her scorn. If he wouldn’t turn into who she wanted him to be, he was supposed to let her make him suffer for it.
Not anymore. Brothers and sisters-in-law now welcome. Here, have some squash goop and “pie.”
Heating up leftovers, I remain,