Tuesday, November 1, 2011


I tasted my first margarita in a dimly lit dive in Amherst, Mass.  The usual story.  A lazy winter afternoon.  Two friends, now faceless in memory, did not have to work hard to convince me to skip my women's studies class for a more productive lunch of burritos and margaritas. I was a beer girl back then, beer or screwtop wine, and their margaritas seemed excessive in huge bowl glasses with lime adornments and salty rims, as bad as those plaid elbow patches affected by certain English majors. But one sip and I was reborn.  My feet ceased their cold ache.  My nose quit drizzling.  My worries about essays, that pesky graduate thesis, rent payments, a far-away boyfriend - all hushed while I embarked on a brief yet potent tropical vacation.  And then those friends ordered guacamole, another first for me, and I might have married either one of them that moment if they'd thought to ask.  Never mind the far-away boyfriend whose heart may or may not have been broken by my sudden elopement.

I had a margarita last Saturday night while dressed as a witch and accompanied by a ghost, a geek, a German beer wench, a driver and a zebra.  And though the wind cackled and battered the window panes and my feet were damp in their high-heel boots from the short trek up the storm-struck hill, that cool margarita made me warm.  As did the friends around the table in various stages of giddiness.  I usually leave Halloween for the kids and dip into their candy bags as if they were my own but this year we shucked our true selves and went out dancing, drinking and laughing.  Another margarita, waiter. No worries about the faces of these friends turning ghostly with time.

Dear P,

We only met once and perhaps it seems an odd thing to write now, yet something told me I should. I always wished that we had had more of a chance to get to know each other, but for some reason it wasn’t meant to be. I tell myself that it’s not as if you’re completely gone, your legacy lives on in your children and grandchildren. This November marks the seventeenth anniversary of your death. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of you. This time of year I am reminded of it was like to be a stranger amongst your family. Trying to comfort them for their loss, all the while trying to make that Thanksgiving seem as normal as possible. I’ve always wanted to thank you for all that you’ve done, and this week just seemed like a good time to put down these thoughts.

I’m sorry that you didn’t live to see your son become a father. He’s done such a wonderful job, you would be oh so pleased and proud. Hard to fathom how quickly it happened, but your grandson is a teenager now. He’s very tall, though you probably expected that. I would describe him as witty and talented, with his own unique sense of style. He seems so confident and comfortable in his own skin. I
sometimes imagine the two of you having a chat over tea and scones, I’m certain you both would enjoy each other’s company. You would smile at his wry sense of humor. Raising him as an only child, especially one without grandparents, has presented its own set of challenges. When I think about you raising six children I am in awe. I often consider what it must have been like when your family sat down to dinner at the very same table that now resides in our kitchen. I think about you using the blue and white canisters we inherited as you baked something special or put together yet another meal. Perhaps once you got sick you wished for the routine of everyday life. Hoping to roll out a pie crust or sprinkle the salt onto some freshly baked Parker House rolls.

Those rolls are some of my favorites. Who can resist that soft, pillowy dough? The kiss and bite of the crystals, ensuring you will reach for another. You can never eat just one. Did you know that your son is an amazing cook and a talented baker, making us dinner each and every night. His willingness to try and replicate any meal I discover in a magazine or online is one of the reasons I absolutely adore him. He’s thoughtful, kind and caring. I know it’s due to your influence that he became the loving husband and father that he is today.

Thank you for all that you’ve given us. If I had my way we would have had more time to talk and chat, for you to give me advice about being a wife and a mother. I often revisit the one afternoon we had
together. You brought out your quilts to show me, as I was what you called “a captive audience.” Many years after our meeting we still have some of your smaller quilts hanging on our walls. Everyday I am
reminded of your artistry and dedication. Someday these will be passed along to children and great grandchildren, along with canisters, furniture and other memorabilia. It’s the stories though that I hope to preserve and pass down. In this way we keep your memory alive for generations to come. Thank you for all that you accomplished as a wife and mother and for helping to give my little family a strong
foundation on which to grow, shape, structure and grace.

Love always,
Your daughter-in-law


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