Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Fallon Hotel – Chapter Thirteen

Coupe Glass

At the name Adelaide, Andy glanced up at the women, but said nothing.  He turned his gaze back to a box of mini cars that Ruth had thoughtfully placed on the floor for him to play with.  Slowly and methodically, he began to pluck out all of the red cars.  Once he assembled a pile of every red car he could find, he started to line them up along the edge of the blue and yellow Aubusson rug in front of the fireplace, occasionally stopping to rock and stim, rapidly wiggling his fingers in front of his face.

Witnessing the abnormal behavior that had become the new normal, Jeri sighed and silently asked the universe if Andy would ever be able to drop the odd idiosyncratic tics of autism.  When she turned her head back toward Gwen and Ruth, she received a warm smile and nod from Ruth, as though she were in the middle of commiserating with Jeri and understood completely the silent question and answer to the prayer she’d just uttered.  Jeri felt guilty.  She wandered off in her mind to worry about something as trivial as a physical quirk, while poor Gwen admitted she was orphaned as a little girl because of a catastrophic event.  She quickly asked the universe for forgiveness before addressing Gwen.

“I’m so sorry, Gwen.  That must have been horrible.”

Having caught her breath and recomposed herself, Gwen closed her eyes and continued her story.  “Well, ‘twas and it wasn’t.  I was awfully young and have very few memories of ma’ parents, but I always felt a bit empty – not having both a mother and father around.  My Great Auntie was sweet, but sort of emotionally… not there, I guess you’d say.  She never said anything of the sort, but I felt she would have rather been someplace else with someone else, as if I stood in the way of her having a different life.

Again, hearing Adelaide’s name, Andy looked up, this time locking eyes with Gwen as she leaned forward and spoke directly to him, in an almost apologetic tone.

“I think maybe taking care of a child was never really what Adelaide wanted for her dance card.”

Almost perfectly mimicking Ruth’s earlier expression to his mother, Andy smiled warmly and nodded at Gwen.  He sighed and turned back to his cars, humming a bit then softly singing “…what will poor robin do then, poor thing?”

Patting her chest, Ruth shook her head.  “You, darling girl have the strength of a lion and the heart of a lamb, to have come out on the other side of such a tragedy with that kind of understanding and tenderness.  I’m so sorry that the painting upset you.”

Gwen smiled.  “Oh, don’t apologize.  I’m sure it’s considered beautiful, but I can’t look at it.”

Ruth shrugged her shoulders.  “Art is such an interesting thing.  I do believe much of it is created to simply be beautiful, but there is plenty of art that I believe is made to make us think more deeply or to get an emotional response, you know… pulling the other senses together to form an opinion about what’s in front of you.  I can only imagine what it must feel like to see a work that lands so heavily on top of already existing emotions about a subject.”  As she finished, Ruth stood up and walked over to Gwen and hugged her.

Gwen fanned her face with her hand.  “Thank you, Miss Ruth.  I appreciate that.”

Feeling like the room was in desperate need of a mood change Jeri decide to address the previously unaddressed, but overwhelming scent that filled the entire house.  “Ruth, in addition to having so much to see, I cannot get over whatever it is that you’re cooking!  What IS that?!”

Shaking her head, Ruth chuckled.  “What that is, is an old woman’s version of Company-is-coming-to-dinner, combined with the efforts of my overzealous neighborhood gardeners and their offerings of a thousand vegetables – and I don’t believe I’m exaggerating by more than a dozen.  We’re having autumn harvest crockpot soup and using a recipe from Mr. Brosemer over at the Angels Camp Mercantile: homemade creamed corn cornbread – two kinds, one with jalepenos and one without.

Over by the fireplace, Andy contributed a gesture that was completely and totally appropriate, but shocking to Jeri because of how normal it actually was.  Andy smacked his lips and hummed his approval.

Resigned to all that the evening might offer up, Jeri held up the unopened bottle of sparkling apple cider.  “Well, here’s to a dinner with lots of character, in a home of colorful characteristics, being served to the equally colorful characters who will consume it.”

Ruth stood up and placed both hands on her heart.  “Ooh!  A toast my Irish soul heartily approves of!”  She motioned to the small dining room.  “Now, you three head on in and find a seat.  I’m going to go fill our bowls.”

“M’am!  Let me help you with that!”  Gwen jumped up to help, but Ruth waved her off.

“No-no.  You’re a guest tonight and besides, serving is simple.  But, I tell you what — I won’t turn you away when it’s time to do the dishes!  I always welcome the help and conversation that takes place over a warm kitchen sink full of dishes.”  Ruth clapped her hands and disappeared into the kitchen, with Jeri close behind as she made her way to the dining room.

Feeling a bit lost, Gwen found herself fiddling with the hairpins at the top of her head.  Heading toward the dining room, she stopped in front of a large photograph of Mt.Shasta, the top of the mountain covered in snow with streaks of soft lavender and yellow light surrounding it.  She gave a little gasp at the beauty of it then very softly started to sing to herself, “The blue mountains glow in the sun’s golden light…”

Silently, Andy stood up and walked over to Gwen.  He looked up at her, smiled and held her hand.

“Right-o, now there’s a lad.  Shall we head in to eat?”  She patted Andy on the head, bit her lip and shed a quiet tear.

With everyone seated at the table, Ruth came out of the kitchen carrying a large tray with four large ceramic soup bowls with handles.  Each bowl was beautifully glazed in a different deep jewel tones and each setting at the table had a complimentary bread plate in four completely different colors.  To set off the darker ceramic plates, one corner of the table had a tray with hobnail drinking glasses in soft pastels and a tall blue pitcher filled with lemonade.  Jeri found her heart buoyed by the colorful table, as it had to be the most cheerful dinner scene she’d ever seen.

Setting the tray down on the Hoosier, Ruth began to pass the bowls of soup to Jeri and Gwen.  “You should know there is plenty more where this came from, so don’t be shy in this house about asking for seconds.  You’ll be helping me out if you do.”

Snapping open the lower cabinet doors on the Hoosier, Ruth pulled out four small etched champagne glasses.  “These were my great grandmother’s glasses.  While they’re called a champagne coupe or saucer, they’ve only ever served what my Bubbe called ‘twinkling cider’ or seltzer water.  Tonight, we continue that tradition with your sparkling apple cider, Jeri.”

Suddenly Jeri flushed, remembering that the cider wasn’t chilled.  “I’m sorry Ruth, it isn’t cold.  Staying in the hotel, without a refrigerator and all, I…”

“My dear, nobody here is going to fault you for that.  After all, we’re only interested in the bubbles!  They don’t have to be frosty bubbles.  Go ahead and open it.”

Jeri was grateful for Ruth’s kindness and immediate acceptance of the oversight.  It pained her to think that she’d become so used to Brian’s criticism and negative responses to simple mistakes or minor faux pas that it was foreign to think that not everyone was going to react as he did.  It was going to take some time to get used to the idea that people can and will roll with the punches, adapt to changes and move along without flipping out.

As Jeri poured out equal amounts of cider into each glass, Ruth sat down and raised her dainty glass into the air.  “My turn to propose a toast: May the sound of happy music and the lilt of Irish laughter, fill your heart with gladness that stays forever after.  Cheers!”

The women gently clinked their glasses, each echoing “Cheers!”  Andy, who had been gobbling down his cornbread, quickly grabbed his glass and tapped it against his mother’s glass, then went around the table to make the musical chime against Ruth and Gwen’s glass.  He then went all the way around the table to repeat it, the second time also echoing “Cheers!”

***

Will Brosemer’s Creamed Corn Jalepeno Cornbread

[You’re welcome to leave out the jalepenos, but why?]

 

2 tbls. Chopped Jalepenos

One 17 oz. Creamed Corn

½ Teas. Baking Soda

½ Teas. Salt

1 Tbls. Sugar

2 Eggs, beaten

¾ Cup Buttermilk

1/3 Cup Oil

1 Cup Sharp Cheddar Cheese

2 Cups Yellow Cornmeal

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heavily grease a 17 ½ by 12 inch baking pan.  In a big ol’ bowl, mix the first six ingredients.  Add the buttermilk, oil and then whisk in cheese and cornmeal.  Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the top is brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool and serve.

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