One would think focusing wouldn't be an issue with all the deadlines looming this week. It's a sunny day though, and the rays streaming through the window are teasing me, coaxing my inner procrastinator.
I stopped for what I thought would be a quick lunch break, figuring if I gave into my grumbling tummy, perhaps the words would come easier. I thrived yesterday in the kitchen, testing two new recipes. That is where I'm at my most comfortable these days. I understand my ingredients, and we have an unspoken trust that I will never do wrong by them.
As I sat at my desk slurping some leftover matzoh ball soup from Monday night's Passover dinner, I decided to take do a Facebook check in. There on my screen, my eyes caught sight of a photo. I recognized the guy in it. I clicked the image for a larger peek, and realized it was my dad.
Facebook has allowed his daughter and I to keep in touch.
In the midst of a busy workday, where focus was already elusive, that picture was a punch to the gut. Of course I browsed around to see more of her memories. Replicas of ones I'm sure my own mother has sitting in photo albums. A father holding his daughter, cheeks pressed together, smiles a mile wide. Candles being blown out on a first birthday cake.
But this one was different. They were in a field somewhere, forest green trees in the landscape, tufts of grass popping into the bottom of the frame.
And his smile seemed genuine. Not induced my Jack Daniels or a joint.
Her memories of him are what I wish mine could be.
The house he bought her mother before his death is a life-size version of the dollhouse he built my mother a good decade before.
Yet her memories of him are fleeting. She was only six when he died rather suddenly.
I'm still not sure who got short changed—there is no neat phrase for what I feel at the moment. What clings to my heart every day.
Is it better to have had a short time together filled with good memories, or 23 years where the highlights are not worthy of sharing with your own daughters?
I'm slowly accepting I'll never know this answer. It is a question I'll put out to the universe and will always ricochet back into my heart.
vegetarian matzah ball soup
adapted from Joan Nathan's The Jewish Holiday Kitchen
Some days I feel like I've lived a thousand lifetimes. The past has no doubt made me the resilient creature I am, but it all feels like a lot for just one person to process.
This week, though, has been a kind one. It started off with celebrating the Passover holiday with the Mr.'s parents, and will be bookended by Easter brunch with my Italian clan. It reminds me that while the memories of my childhood can't be changed, my life is far from what is was then. The life my girls are surrounded with is filled with a loving, gentle man whom they call daddy.
This life, the Mr., my girls—perhaps they are my reward for the early challenges I faced. Maybe the first half of life was a test. If so, I think I passed with flying colors.
And so, this soup represents my future. My own remaking of my life, of my family—of new memories that will one day outnumber all the old haunting ones.
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup matzah meal
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoons chopped dill
6 tablespoons seltzer water
4 quarts vegetable stock
4 carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
Cooked spaghetti, if not serving during Passover (optional)
Fresh chopped parsley, to garnish
In a deep bowl, beat the eggs and olive oil together. Stir in the matzah, salt and dill. Pour in the seltzer—the mixture will foam up, and stir well. It will be very loose, but don't worry. Cover the bowl with plastci wrap and store in the refrigerator overnight.
The next day, bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a 6-quart pot. Form the matzah mixture into 8 even rounds. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and add the matzah balls. Cook until light and airy, at least one hour, making sure the soup never reaches a rolling boil. The key to fluffy matzah balls (says this Italian Catholic girl) is a long, slow simmer. Feel free to se the pot on the back burner and cook for a few hours, adding more water or stock if the level gets too low.
Thirty minutes before serving, add the carrots to the pot. Raise the heat to bring the soup to a gentle boil, then immediatelt reduce to a simmer again. Let cook until the carrots are tender about, 25 minutes. Add cooked pasta two minutes before serving, if desired.
To serve, ladle into deep soup bowl and sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley.