thoughts on a clear blue day

I attempted to read A Year of Magical Thinking this summer, but knowing I am living a similar reality—trying to make sense of something for which there is no logic, made it to hard to turn past page three. What did stick with me in those first few pages, though, is Joan Didion’s comment that every tragic story starts with “it was a clear blue sky”…I may be paraphrasing that somewhat, but you get what I mean. And good heavens, why is that always true? It was supposed to be a rainy, gloomy day that Sunday last August. Instead the sky was plentiful with sunshine and cotton candy-like clouds.

I thought about Didion’s words today as I remembered it was September 11th while walking home from dropping the girls at school. Truth is, I shouldn’t even be here. I’m pretty sure Simon is waiting for me to bring a waffle iron to the photo shoot for my cookbook. We’re on day two of the set to further bring Homemade with Love to life—and to a bookstore near you next March. Yes, it’s a new title, and yes, March is only seven months away. In many ways, life feels like a dream state, and while many moments the past thirteen months have felt like a nightmare, this moment—well, it’s the dream Mikey and I both shared coming true.

But back to my thought, and why I decided I needed these fifteen minutes to be here, in this space to share something with all of you. I remembered how calm and still that morning was back in September 2001. It was the first anniversary of my uncle’s death and I was on my way to the cemetery to meet my mother and aunt. My uncle was like a father to me, and his death was a very deep loss for me. I often look at my girls and think of how much fun he would’ve had with them.

I made my way to the train after the first plane hit. None of us knew what was really happening, and my thick New Yorker skin figured it was just some accident with a helicopter. I needed to be at that cemetery. Mikey thought I was crazy, but knew he couldn’t stop me. As I stood outside the station waiting for the train. Mikey called me on my cell. When I didn’t answer, he walked to the train station to come get me.

We spent the rest of that morning watching the horrific events take place on television. Mikey was on the roof of our building checking on something when the second plane hit. He later told me he felt the force of it. That afternoon he went out with our car and drove along Atlantic Avenue offering people rides home—all public transportation had ceased. He asked me to stay home so I would be safe, and it would also make room for one more passenger in the car.

That is just one example of the kind of man Michael was—kind, gentle, caring and selfless.

As I was packing up our old apartment recently to prepare for the sale, I came across a piece of paper with the edges burnt away. It still has a vague scent of that day. It was an invoice from Cantor Fitzgerald. The paper had scattered, along with so many others, in our yard after the towers fell, and the plumes of smoke rushed over the river towards Brooklyn. We later looked up the gentleman’s name, in hopes he had survived. He didn’t. Mikey kept that piece of paper all these years, and now I hold it in my box of important memories. In some way, we both felt it kept that person’s memory alive and in the present.

The kindness all of you have shown this last year, writing about our story, leaving comments about how me and my daughters are in your thoughts—that keeps a little part of Mikey alive, transcending time, space and even death. I just wanted to say thank you.


  • Cheryl Arkison

    How kind of Mikey to have done that on 9/11. So generous of his heart. (And it sounds exactly like something my man would have done, including telling me to stay home.)
    Good luck with the rest of the shoot!

  • Y

    Thank you for taking the time to post this. I grew up in NY but no longer live in the city and it’s so hard to be far from home today. Reading your beautiful post made me feel so much less alone.
    Take care

  • Mary

    Jennie: I have followed your journey since Zoe requested everyone bake a peanut butter pie for Mikey but this is my first comment/note. I so admire you for your strength, perseverence and the love you share with your girls. I anxiously look forward to your posts hoping to see you finding happiness along your difficult journey. You and your girls are in my prayers and I think I can speak for your many readers; no thanks are necessary.

  • Natalie

    Thank you. This was a beautiful post. Thank you for taking 15 minutes out of your busy day to share it. You have, once again, reminded me to be mindful and grateful. I was introduced to your blog through the peanut butter pie video on white on rice back in August 2011 and I have read each of your posts since then. I can not wait to buy your book. You are truly and inspiration.

  • Karin

    That is a gorgeous picture above, Storm King Art Center. What a great place to think and dream. I cannot wait for your cookbook, I’m going to have to figure out a way to get it in Belgium! I came by your site today to look up the chicken pot pie recipe that I have used with so much success before, and once again I am reminded that although I love your recipes, I also love reading the stories you tell us. Thank you for sharing these glimpses of your life with Mikey.

  • Patty

    Your words tough my soul each and everytime I come to your blog. Thank you doesn’t seem to be enough. So excited about your book! 🙂

  • SuzyMcQ

    In my thoughts today as you have been on many days. Why did it not surprise me that your MIkey was giving rides to others eleven years ago? What an incredible lesson and legacy and blessing he is both to those of you who knew and loved him, but to those of us who wish we had.

  • Eva

    I’ve been reading your blog since Bakerella posted her Pie for Mikey and today I somehow feel I need to comment. I just returned from a two week vacation last Saturday and the first thing I did was reading your posts I’ve missed during that time…
    I love your writing, your stories always make me smile – no matter how busy my day seems to be! And they always remind me to tell the ones I love how important they are to me. You even inspired us to eat healthier than we did before 🙂
    I can’t wait to buy your cookbook, hoping amazon US will ship to Germany!
    Wishing the Perillo-Girls all the best,

  • Kay in GA

    This morning as I was walking my dogs, I too was remembering how clear and bright and beautiful that “other” Tuesday was in 2001. I was actually packing that morning for a trip to NYC that was supposed to be the next day, but obviously never was. I watched from my home in Atlanta with horror and sadness all the events of that day, and the days that followed. What a wonderful gesture from Mikey to try and help as many people as possible get back to the safety of their homes and families. Thanks for sharing that small glimpse into the heart of the man you loved! You and the girls are never far from my thoughts.

  • Rose D., Frenchtown, NJ

    Thank YOU for sharing such beautiful stories about Michael with all of us. I don’t feel like an admirer of your blog, I feel like a friend. Keeping you all in my thoughts and prayers…

  • Mary

    No thank you for sharing and always being honest and real. My thought 7 prayers are with you and the girls. Can’t wait for your book! Mary in NY

  • lauren

    After reading your post, I’m struck by the capacity of the human heart to hold a person it’s never known. Like you did for the man who died in the towers, and like I do for you and Mikey. Thank for you for that reminder.
    The words of EE Cumings are echoing in my soul today; “I carry your heart with me, (I carry it in my heart)”.
    I’m carrying your family in my heart today.

  • Monica

    Beautiful words on a somber day of remembrance. You are a wonderful women and thank you for sharing your life with your readers. Thank you! Blessings to you and yours.

  • Anna

    I am moved by you with every word you write. How much writing (non-cooking related) did you do before 13 months ago? Your writing is a gift. We don’t get to know the ins and outs of your every day. What we do get are snapshots in time that tie a knot between former versions of you and the person you are now. I hope your writing does that for you too. I started from the beginning of the journey you’re now on, that day when people were posting pictures of a pie for Mikey. You make us all want true and fierce love. You make us all believe that no matter what comes, it is worth it. Believe me when I say there is no doubt you’ll have a different fierce love again. Thanks for sharing something even you can’t completely understand. I bet your waffle turned out great!

  • Leire

    You deserve so much more than what I can give you…I have no words. Please don’t thank me/us, I would like to know someone would pray for me too.

  • kelly

    p.s. – Didion’s “year of magical thinking” worth struggling through. It is brilliant and may comfort.

  • tara

    Even though I lived in southern CA on that day in 2001 and I now live in Idaho, I still think of that sept often and especially today. I can’t imagine how much a part of your lives it is living near it. I never knew your husband and didn’t find your blog till his parting, but just from what you’ve written about him I can totally see him offering the rides. He reminds me of my husband. Gentle, kind, and serving. By the way, love the new title of your book!

  • Glenda

    I think of you when I think of my mother. She too lost her husband of 28 yrs when I was 13 and my younger sister 9. She was 47. Young. Too young. We moved a year later. She loved to cook. I lost my mom in 2004. Your story reminds me of my mother. Growing up without my father. Now that I’m a mother myself I feel my moms heartache. My heart aches for your two girls. My heart aches for you.
    Best to you and the girls always. Peace & strength!

  • Nancy Gillard

    Jennifer, what a beautiful post, as are all your posts. I organize the 100+ blogs I subscribe to and have put you in the “cooking” category. Of course, your blog is so much more. Whenever I see your posts, I go to them first. Your struggles and strengths fill my heart. I appreciate your honesty and your hanging in there. Know that there are folks out there like me, whom you’ve never met, but care about you. Keep on keeping on, Jennifer. Grief is so hard.

  • Maria in NJ

    your welcome…
    I love the title of the new cookbook… I made a custom vinyl lettering piece in my kitchen, you know that little panel under your sink, it reads, “Maria’s Kitchen is Seasoned with Love” when my kids were little and they said something that I cooked was good, I would always tell them it was my secret ingredient, and when they asked me what my secret ingredient was, I said it was love…
    passion is a wonderful thing…
    I’m off of work today and when I took the dogs out this morning I didn’t see a cloud in the sky, its going to be a nice one, enjoy…m

  • lori

    Jennie, I’ve recommended your blog to my friend who lost her 43-year-old husband suddenly on May 18, but with some trepidation just as I would recommend finishing “A Year.” I think you will appreciate it just as Nicole will appreciate your story, but I think in time. When all of your emotions are so raw it can be comforting to know others share similar experiences, but at the same time difficult to fully absorb them.
    As for the clear blue sky thing, it’s true. When my brother died it was one of those days and I was literally finishing my first cookbook that day and was wearing my uniform for that summer–shorts and a bathing suit. My sister and I left so quickly for my father’s house when we got the call that I was stuck in that outfit all day. It’s one of those memories that has lodged in my head of that time along with the taste of a potato salad someone brought over. It was one of the best potato salads I’d ever tasted–only because everything was so heightened that day. Crazy.

  • Malkie

    Mikey really captured the essence of NYC through his actions that day, and you have captured his with that beautiful tribute.
    Thank you.

  • Rescie

    What a sweet and giving gesture, and one that was sorely needed that day. I was 3,000 miles away when I saw my beloved Towers going down. Hard to imagine, even today. Why is it the good, sweet and loving people seem to be lost to us much too soon. I think you’re a very brave woman, but a very lucky one too to have had Micky in your life even if it was too short.

  • Tracey Alvernaz

    I think of all of those people, the victims and the family of the victims. How many lives and loves were touched, ruined, and turned upside down. How many still can’t get over their deaths, tragic and meaningless deaths…ones that left way too early, the fault being on hateful and selfish people.Tom and Mike left too soon yes, but these people were taken because of the wicked. No one should have to die in misery, having to leap from a building because they fear the fire or the crumbling building around them. How haunting those unknown memories are for the surviving families. The bodies of many that were never found. 9/11 reminds me again, how precious and valued our lives are meant to be. How we must regain our compassion for our fellow man and to give love even when we don’t know why. I cannot forgive those that caused such havoc, but I do continue to pray for us as a people. May God be with us all….we certainly do need it.
    Hugs, reminders and rainbows,

  • Jody

    I have been reading your posts since Tasty Kitchen encouraged us to make a pie for Mikey. I look forward to your raw words and encouragement to face the day. And I have been praying for you and your girls. Thank you for this post. Happy Wednesday!!

  • Diane

    Wow….How kind of Mikey to have done that on 9/11 It proves yet again what a wonderful choice you made to marry that man 🙂
    I to love the photo you posted the girls are growing so fast!

  • Andrea Merrigan

    What a moving story of your memories of 9/11. I have been a silent follower of your blog for over a year and find your writing inspiring and it always draws me in. Looking forward to getting your cookbook!

  • Gourmet Goddess

    I have been following your blog since the tragic events of last august . I am looking forward to your cookbook release next year , I am in the process of putting my cookbook together.
    To your readers who left comments wondering how to purchase your cookbook in Europe , try they ship around the world – I am sure they will be able to help your readers.
    Your post about 9/11 is poignant and thoughtfully written .

  • Whitney

    I am a 20 year old music student in Hartford, CT. I have been following your journey since I saw a link to Mikey’s Peanut Butter Pie and this is my first comment. I have cried with this blog, I have smiled with this blog. I always return to this blog. Thank you for writing, I know I don’t have much in common with you, but I do admire you. This blog reminds me what strong women are, and I appreciate reading every single thing that you post. So, so much. Love to you and your girls.

  • Claire

    Thank you. I always look forward to your posts because they are real. And they are you. And they remind me to stop, breathe & gather my blessings close to me.
    Much love from South Africa x

  • Janice Nix

    Thank you for letting us all see your life with your girls. And Mikey. I started following your blog after Mikey’s death but I now see, feel, know that he is still with you.

  • Kathleen in Missouri

    I can’t tell you how honored I am to travel with you on your incredibly personal journey these last 13 months. I was thinking of you the other day as I was cooking breakfast and wondered if you ever feel the heart thoughts I send your way. I hope you do.
    I cleaned my freezer out last week & found the last slice of Mikey’s Creamy PB Pie I had saved. I ate it right then in honor of both of you and your girls 🙂 Namaste.

  • Kim Gross

    I’ve read your blog since the beginning. I’ve often wondered about your love … about the hurt of loss … about being that painfully in love.
    I’ve shared your story with many friends. Some said they hope never to be in love like that because God seems to take it away … others like me just hurt for you.
    Last week I lost my sister. I was going to donate a kidney to her in October. Unfortunately her potassium level was sky high and her heart gave out … instantly … on a clear day.
    She was to live a long life with my kidney; instead I live with a missing piece of my heart. I finally understand that love you had for Mikey. My relationship with my sister is forever changed, however she will always be my sister … she will always be part of my life.
    I thank you for your diary. Although I read it through a different lens now; it is still as poignant and wonderful as it was before.

  • Laurie

    Hi Jennie, that was a wonderful story about Mikey and 9/11. I will definitely be buying your book! Not just getting a cookbook, but investing in your family’s’ future, too. (And this is also a very early plea to visit Dallas on your book tour.)

  • Sami Veloso

    Beautiful post Jenny, and what a wonderful and caring man your Mikey was, offering a ride home to strangers on that unforgettable day! All the best for you and your girls. xx

  • Bevi

    Thank you, Jennie, for reaffirming the power of creating comforting food in the kitchen to lift the spirit and to heal the soul. It really does help me during my feelings of being overwhelmed by my sister’s terminal illness, and my parents’ failing health.

  • Candace T

    I don’t think you realize how much you inspire me to be better. Even though I am a stranger I adore you … your girls and Mikey!
    Thank you for being willing share this piece of you.

  • amber

    I was thinking this morning about your struggle with the empty place at the table. If you have a round table, it might help to just remove the chair and make a little more space between each chair. It might help.

  • Maria in NJ

    oooooow, I like the new look! It is very streamlined and crisp!! So when is that book signing?

  • Cyndi

    Jennie, I also have been following you for over a year now and am moved at your ability to reach others through your writing. “Watching” you slowly put your life back together piece by piece with the biggest piece being missing has been a painful and joyful experience. I delighted in your small victories of joy in the midst of pain, and agonized over the grief and helplessness you have fought through.
    As you work through this second year, all of the “firsts” have been done, the shock has lessoned and the reality is sinking in, be proud of yourself and your girls – you have proven yourself stronger than you ever should have had to be and have come through with so much grace and love, it shows in everything you write.

    The dreams you have with Mike are coming to fruition with your book coming out in March. I hope the dreams that are developing for your future are full of laughter and bright with love.
    Blessings to you and your girls!
    Bonney Lake, WA