Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Ties -- And Bracelets -- That Bind.

I have a special bracelet.

My bracelet is so special that some 360 days of the year, it remains nestled, safe and snug, in my top right dresser drawer. On those rare annual occasions that I release it from captivity and dare to parade it out in public, it is my piece of jewelry that friends and strangers notice and admire the most.

About an inch and half wide, my special bracelet is silver with pearls and aquamarine crystals. It hugs my wrist. Although it wasn’t all that expensive, it is absolutely precious. Utterly irreplaceable. And it comes with a great story.

I always – and I mean always -- receive lavish compliments when I wear my special bracelet. No other piece of jewelry comes close. This is the winner. Hands down.

Such a special bracelet, as you might have guessed, is custom-made. As you might not have guessed – as no friend or stranger ever guesses – my special bracelet was carefully constructed from a conglomeration of silvery safety pins. The aquamarine “crystals” are pressed from plastic. And with each wearing, the fabricated “pearls” lose their iridescent finish, one shimmering flake at a time.

I’ve had the privilege of knowing the artist for many years. He made the bracelet when he was eight years old and in elementary school. It was a Mother's Day gift. He is now 18. And graduating from high school.

This Friday, one of us will be processing to Pomp and Circumstance, as one of us will be weeping in the stands. One of us will be looking, eagerly, toward the future.  One of us will be looking, wistfully, at the past.  One of us will be bedecked in a cap and gown. And one of us will be wearing a deceptively inexpensive bracelet.

Made of safety pins.

Not the world’s most powerful fastener, but in my mind, yet another way that me and my firstborn will remain pinned together.

Please, please, please. Please pass the Kleenex.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Crying At The Drop Of A Cap. And Gown.

I can cry at the drop of the hat.

That’s not always been the case. At least, not since I was a hormonal teenager and could cry over spilt milk, Coca-Cola commercials (remember Mean Joe Green?), unappreciative siblings, unthinking classmates, and the possibility that I’d somehow disappointed my parents. Even 30 years later, navigating the wretched waters of divorce and single parenthood, I wasn’t much of a crier. (Which is a good thing, because although my beloved fiancé can handle many, many things, tears aren’t among them.)

But that was then. This is now. Now, now, now, now. NOW.

Carter graduates in a few weeks. (Eighteen days and 22 hours and 56 minutes, because, yes, I’m counting.  And because, yes, there’s an app for that.)

To be certain, Julia and DB and I are over the moon to know that Carter will attend the University of Georgia this fall, particularly when the deal has been sweetened with a scholarship. I’m in awe that Carter earned the rank of Eagle Scout in this, his senior year. I’m grateful that he’s handling this period with grace and diligence and, more important, patience and humor. Our home bubbles with laughter. I should be reveling.

But then, I look out my bedroom window, and glimpse a shiny-eyed Carolina Wren cautiously flitting into the eaves of my back porch with tidbits of mown grass and dog hair, and my eyes well. As she prepares for her babies, one of mine prepares to leave.

So yes. I can cry at the building of a bird’s nest. And that’s not all. In recent days, I’ve cried at the addressing of graduation announcements. At the humming of Pomp and Circumstance. At the purchasing of graduation gifts. And at the dropping of a hat. Particularly when that hat is part of a cap and gown.

As Julia once said, I need to “build a bridge and GET OVER IT.”  There is, after all, an upside, right? ‘Cause let’s face it, when a hat drops, I am the only person in the family trained to pick it up. One fewer person in the house probably translates into me picking up 13 fewer hats.

When Carter goes off to college, I’ll only have to run the garbage disposal for one other person, not two, because, after 18 years, I remain the family member who has unraveled the mystery of how and when to flip that switch.

When Carter goes off to college, Julia and I will be able to speak freely about “girl” stuff, like who’s going to prom, who wore the best dress to the Oscars, who needs to put down the hummus and eat a cheeseburger, and who is plainly having “that time of the month.” OK. Truth be told, we do that already.

When Carter goes off to college, DB and I won’t have to keep count of the beers in the fridge. (If you have to ask, please don’t.)

And let's not forget that, when Carter goes off to college, so will his friends, whom I’ll no longer have to simultaneously regard as fun-loving-18-year-old comics with fabulous taste in music and potential-18-year-old predators in a house with my 16-year-old daughter.

Sigh. Who am I kidding? I can’t “build the bridge,” much less “get over it.” I love these guys. I love my son. I love witnessing this time in his life.

Eighteen days, 22 hours and 42 minutes to go.

Anybody have a Kleenex? And for Pete's sake, can't somebody pick up that hat?

Cream Of Cauliflower Soup
Although Carter is an adventurous eater (octopus sashimi comes to mind), vegetables in general, and cauliflower in specific, are not his favorite. Julia and I, however, love this soup and will enjoy it much more often -- when Carter goes off to college.

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 rib of celery, chopped
1 carrot chopped

3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf

1 quart of chicken broth

1 head of cauliflower, cut into bitesize pieces
1 potato, peeled and diced

½  cup cream (optional)
Fresh chives, minced
Curry powder (optional)

In a large, lidded saucepan, heat butter and olive oil over medium heat. Lightly sauté onion, celery and carrot until softened, but not browned.  Stir in flour and seasonings. Sauté a few minutes, until thick and pasty. Gradually stir in chicken broth. When fully incorporated, drop in cauliflower and potato, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until vegetables are very tender.  Remove about a cup and half of cauliflower florets and set aside.  Use an immersion blender to purée soup. Taste for seasoning. Return reserved cauliflower florets to pot, and stir in cream, if using. Serve hot, garnished with fresh chives and (optional) curry powder.