Saturday, March 31, 2012

Tomatoes, lemons, and remembering Clay

Please don't take offense at this:
I don't like tomatoes,
Normally, as a general rule.
But you are certainly the exception.
See, you are MY tomato,
And that changes things.

When I put a few vegetable plants in the ground,
Just a corner of the yard, two weeks ago,
I was only half-joking when I said aloud,
"Be fruitful and multiply"
As I covered your roots with compost and soil,
Hoping but fearful.

The problem is that I kill everything.
Keeping plants alive is not one of my skills,
And I told the man at the garden center as much.
"Not to worry," he said. "These are hearty."
I'm not sure I believed him,
Which is probably why I spoke my blessing as I planted. 

And now, through some strange alchemy,
Some miracle of sun and water, soil and fertilizer,
Time and luck, God and me,
Here you are, proof of life.
Small, green, promising ripeness in a few weeks.
By then, I may learn to love tomatoes.


      I reached in the onion bin to pull out an onion to chop for the Greek pasta salad I was preparing for dinner with friends who are staying with us.  It had been a busy week with two rounds of houseguests, leaky faucets, disappointing news, critters in the attic - plus the normal rush of work, church and life.
       But when I reached into the bin, I found not onions - but lemons.  In my hurried  absent-mindedness, I put the lemons in the onion bin - instead of in their proper place in the fridge. I've done this before - putting the cereal box in the fridge and the milk in the cabinet.  It's a cue to me, a red flag, that I've got too much going on in that moment or even in that day.  Absent-minded.  Those two words say it all.  My mind has gone AWOL and is off thinking about yesterday's worries or tomorrow's future stress.  I"m not at all focused on the present moment and the lemons end up in the onion bin. 
        Luckily, hiding under the pile of lemons was one yellow onion, just enough for a big bowl of pasta salad.  And the good news is that the dressing for the pasta salad used, you guessed it, fresh squeezed lemons.  Sometimes, life really does give you lemons,  and if it does, I have a great pasta salad recipe for you.


I Remember
      This week is my brother’s birthday. Happy Birthday, Clay!
      He would have been 52, but he’s eternally 33, always young in my mind. He asked me for two favors when he was dying. One was to help save him from the melanoma ravaging his body. Two was to not forget him.
      Of course, I could do nothing to save him, other than be there for the rough journey.   But remember him I have.
      Unlike my Mom, I don’t visit him at his gravesite. He’s not there for me. But when my boys play their sports and score a goal, I can hear my brother, who was an awesome athlete, cheering them on with me. I know he’s ecstatic that his frilly, ballet/jazz/tap sister ended up with three boys who can wield a Barbie as a substitute gun toy. He’d love that I sometimes wear camouflage instead of pink and have bruises from fending off his nephews.
      When I went to the movie, Hunger Games, I smiled at a gory scene he would have liked. He loved action, fantasy and horror movies. Sometimes I go to one just because I know he would have loved it. I'll laugh at jokes I know his mischievous self would have liked. I can still hear his deep, rich laugh.
      I have a friend who also lost her brother, but she says she rarely thinks of him now that so many years have passed. We all have our ways of coping, but for me, to remember is good – bittersweet and soul enriching.
      You mattered, Clay. I probably wouldn’t have had kids had I not lost you. My oldest son is named for you.  I remember.
      And I forgive you for calling me egghead, bookworm and apestink.


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