Monday, October 27, 2014

Plastic Pumpkins to Fill

There are many things to worry about when we mother- too many to count. We are mortal, the news and neighbors tell us we must beware, and maybe sometimes we should; we want to keep the ones we're mothering safe.

I remember vividly the warnings of my childhood Halloweens- razor blade candy bars, drug laced tattoos, don't let the cat out, stay in groups, the urban legend of the year... and like any good worrying mother, I now remind my children not to eat any candy that is opened or looks suspicious, and we talk about the amount that will be consumed, the dinner that must be eaten, the balance I hope, though know I won't secure. 

This weekend we walked through the McCormick's Creek campsites, collecting sugar treasures, pencils, and bouncy balls, and I remembered, as I do every year, why despite the worry (valid or not), the blood I drew dripping down my four year old's chin, images of death; despite the sugar crashes, constant begging from now until the new year for one more piece, the Red Dye #5 in everything, the GMOs, the who knows what toxins my son is breathing in with that mask on his face-

this tradition, one of the few where community still gathers in good spirit to ooh and ah at creativity and cuteness, to chat with strangers, give and receive willingly, and TRUST (because we can look at every piece, but we don't know), I will miss when my children decide they are too old to carry plastic pumpkins. 

Each witch we visit and graveyard we pass, I begin to put my worry away for another day. Surrounded by laughter, squeals, guesses of who is who, and admiration for the creatures and characters we walk amongst, I relax into the sugar I too must try. GMOs and dyes are ignored, blood is reapplied, and best of all we, friends and strangers, talk to each other, face to face. 

Smiles and story are abundant as we walk and walk way past when little legs would be tired, to find more, yes, candy, for them, but for me, I'm there to gather visions of what it looks like when we mortals put aside differences, let go of a little worry, and come together to smile.


Monday, October 20, 2014

The Layer Cake of Heritage

  How many more years of Rouladen?
Thin shaved beef circling layers of hot, tender pickles and bacon.  Touch of mustard and gravy.   Meat melts like fudge on our tongues from stewing all day long; aroma hangs from the simmered pot of bacon based purple cabbage, with a touch of apple. 

Our standard, our center, our every Christmas Eve dinner.  The twelve dishes, the must eat a bite of all twelve for good luck, dinner.  Enter Karlovarska Becherovka, stomach medicine.  Face wincing shots of the mini liquor bottles set in rows beside the forest green Jager.  Half egg glasses handed painted with Devil’s Table (Hinterweidenthal) filled up to the edge.  Shots and sips precede dense layers of Black chocolate cake. Coffee just before goodnight.

I was born into Rouladen, Becherovka, Black cake, and cabbage.  Parades of taste, thick, sharp, distinct, bitter…..dangerous.  All were burned.  No one left dinner without some kind of fire.

The cake, a tribute to grandpa’s mom. She is the cake.  Her favorite food now the vessel of her remembrance, ritualized into our interpretive evening.  We eat the cake and think of her like an icon. 

Great grandma died right after I turned three. 

I remember the layout of her living room and the piece of peanut butter taffy she gave me when I was two.  It got stuck in my teeth and she laughed at me.  The fire burned, a gooey mess.  When she died, my grandmother never took on the taffy ritual. 

She fills her candy dish with M and Ms.  Constant, unspoken offerings always available, every holiday color M and Ms displayed in the crystal dish.  Sky blue and lemon for Easter, crimson and green for December.

The depth of ritual, decorating, food offerings – one of the last living gestures of grandma’s reverent Catholic past.  Altar to the Virgin Mary gone. The floor to ceiling tribute is left only as memory, way way back - left like the Sudatenland moons ago. 

My grandma’s father left the seminary, but never left religion.  He never left his passion for carving Jesus Christ crucified: dioramas of the crucifix in glass bottles.  Glass bottles, other people built ships in.

“How’d he do it,” I asked.

How do you make the crucifixion of Christ, diorama style inside a glass bottle?

“With a long toothpick” grandma said.

Rouladen, Becherovka, Black cake, and cabbage…add a couple of crucified Christs’ in bottles.  Ingredients that traveled over miles of ocean baked for 60 years into the dense layered cake of heritage.
Allison Distler for PGM

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

When the Revolution Comes


True conversation at my house this morning:

Him:  Can you please clean up your desk today?

Her: I'm sorry, I just really don’t have the time. There’s a million other things that take priority over desk cleaning.

Him: Then let me clean it. 

Her: No way, you would  throw away all my papers.

Him: I would, but I would scan them all first. Nice and neat. All organized, they would all be there.  No clutter. No papers. No junk.

Her: Yes, but if all my papers  were scanned and put into the cloud, and the revolution comes, I would never have access to my poetry again because the cloud would be gone. 

Him: Honey, if the revolution comes, poetry will be the last thing on your mind.

Her: Oh no, I say, that’s exactly the moment when you need your poetry.  When the revolution comes.

Him: Is that right, you’ll need poetry at the revolution?

Her: Duh!