My Italian grandmother

When I arrived, one of the first things she said was, “Siddown, I make you eat.” So for posterity, the menu is below:

1) Green bean and artichoke casserole
2) Tossed salad with pepperoncini, fresh mozzerella and olives stuffed with feta
3) Sliced kiwi and pineapple
4) Angel hair pasta with homemade sauce
5) An oven-warmed roll
6) Chocolate pie heaped with whipped cream
7) Butter cookies shaped like turkeys, and coffee

This was all just for me, mind you, so there were plenty of leftovers, which she packed carefully in take-out containers, labeled using scraps of paper and Scotch tape, and piled into a shopping bag from The Limited. The bag was so heavy that I had to carry it from the bottom, which we rehearsed several times before she would let me leave the house.


“We can’t go out. We’re dressed like whor-” — my mom, who then clapped her hand over her mouth


For more than fifty years, my grandmother has saved a dime taped to a circlet of wire. My grandfather made it for her when they first started dating, a “dime on ring”. As they tell the story, my grandmother giggles and my grandfather chuckles, and they both sort of look shy about it.


“Punch is soooo good. You can do whatever you want with it.” — my dad, pouring Hawaiian Punch


“If I were in the mob, I would make a great mobster.” — Janelle, who had coffee with me this morning

Home in Buffalo

A weird panic has settled in. It started when we were outside the movie theater, after seeing Stranger than Fiction together. My mom had driven with me in one car and my sisters and dad had driven in the other. My mom asked if anyone wanted, instead of going straight home, to go to Home Depot and look at dryers. We said no. My dad walked over there as if to go with her, but in actuality he was walking in the direction of the car. I can’t explain what happened, but for an instant I thought he was going to go with her, and it would be my two parents going to Home Depot to look at dryers. How perfectly fabulously normal. When I realized that he wasn’t, I just took a crazy spin and started insisting that he go with her. This escalated into a bit of shouting, then all of us shuffling, disorganized, to our respective vehicles, not sure why people were suddenly angry.

Therapy, take 2

Work was a little wonky today. I am often affected by others’ moods and whims. I sense the prevailing current. So instead of holing up at my desk for lunch, I went to Svea, a Swedish diner down the street, for eggs, potatoes, and pancakes with ligonberries. I read a new book and sipped diner coffee. And on the way back, I stopped into a clothing shop and ended up with a big blue plastic ring. I’m thinking about getting one of those manicures that’s dark dark red, so dark it’s almost black. The ring looks lost on my otherwise-unadorned hand.

Eliina’s gone, Jeff’s gone, I’m going home tomorrow morning for Thanksgiving, so I’m in that weird zone where I need to pack and get ready to switch lives but I would really rather curl up with some wine, throw Henry a tennis ball, and gossip with Eliina or call Jeff and dig for chunks in my pint of Ben n’ Jerry’s. This feels like a lonely in-between state. Tomorrow I will be in Buffalo. That makes no sense to my brain, my Chicago-centric brain.

It’s easy to feel a little melancholy, until I remember that this time last year, I was literally hauling home 150 spiral notebooks full of ungraded work and poring over each one. I also had a giant stack of midterms. We were studying House on Mango Street, and it was not going well. I spent all day for four days straight reading these ninth-graders’ notebook entries in my drafty, mouse-infested one-bedroom. Thankfully that is no longer my life.