Dear Alice,

Creamy Coconut Cake

Creamy Coconut Cake (Photo credit: 3liz4)

Hey, Alice, did you see? I wrote about another lunch, this time it had bread and cheese and red grapes which is my all time favorite lunch combination but knowing me I should have added dessert. Yes, I know I should say something like a square of dark chocolate but who am I kidding? First, it would be milk chocolate that would melt slowly, (and not just one piece, mind you)  but you know THE real answer, now don’t you? Well, I’m not going to bring THAT up again, that’s for darn sure.  I have to limit myself on sweets because once I start I can easily continue and that can get bad. I didn’t say I was going to do it but I sure would be tempted with ONE dessert. Oh, don’t even bring up my diabetes, it’s just borderline. Hush.

It’s been a nasty day here, cloud covering, humidity, thick as if holding the rain inside as a hostage, we want it to open up and pour so we can get some relief but there is no relief coming. Not today and not for several more days.  I can’t stand the freezing cold and I am miserable in the extreme heat, basically, I get about two to three weeks a year when I am comfortable but my old bones hurt anyway. Stiff and sore, swollen. I can barely walk now without using that darn walker too. What a pretty sight I am!

It does seem unfair that life is wasted on young people and of course, we were the same way, weren’t we? We knew everything and our lives were just beginning. What happened? Where did the years go?  My it was their first day of nursery school just a minute ago and now they are both all grown up. It goes by too quick doesn’t it Alice?

I just had my after dinner snack and I can hear you laughing.  I had a huge bowl of cereal,  four different cereals mixed together. Someone bought skim milk instead of one percent and frankly that milk looks gray-green to me. It really does taste the same but I find the color just disgusting. I did add some of that half and half and that sure made it more tasty. Like old times when we drank hot coffee with mostly cream and sugar in it pretending we were so grown-up.

Do you remember all the good food we used to eat at your house when we were little? You had the best food of all our friends.  That cake, the coconut cake your mom would make, oh my, that was the most delicious thing I ever ate in my life. Every time I’d go to a restaurant if they had coconut cake I would order it but none compared to your mom’s home-made cake. I begged you to get that recipe for me, but you never did.  I still hold a grudge for that, yes I do and I always will. Yes, always.

It was bad enough that you had the cancer and died on me when we had our plans to live next door to each other in the retirement home, sitting in our rocking chairs, side by side, that was bad enough, that was real bad, Allie. But the only favor I ever ask from you and you never gave me that recipe, for that coconut cake that I loved so dearly. Why Alice, why did you have to die and leave me here alone.

rocking chair

rocking chair (Photo credit: grimescene)

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The Sweet Scent Of A Perfect Peach

Helianthus annuus (Sunflower). Taken at garden...

Image via Wikipedia

In my imagination I think we would be friends if only we lived closer together. I would give her, and only her, the true secret ingredient to my super moist banana chip/raisin bread. Her mouth would smile widely and crumbs would spill happily from her mouth as she ate it with delight; her big doe eyes would nod in agreement. I can’t compete with her cooking of course, she was born baking and cooking but there is no competition between friends. We laugh together at my lack of cooking skills and she constantly admonishes me and tells me she will force me to learn. Knowing her, I have a feeling, she will make me follow through.

On the side of her house I imagine her large garden where she picks her own deep, red  tomatoes from the vine and takes a big bite of one warmed by the sun. She has sunflowers, big tall, brown, vibrant orange and yellow, about fifty of them, near the rows of green peas and lettuce and carrots hiding in the moist soil. Next to them, sweet butter corn  grows tall and stretches to the sun like a morning yoga pose. Wildflowers grow nearby, purple, yellow, pink, white and the blue of a delicate robin’s egg. There are so many vibrant and intense colors in her garden, it’s like staring at a painting by Matisse.

I’ve never had the actual opportunity to meet an idol, someone I’ve cherished since I was a teenager, but I came close, by association, a few weeks ago. I spoke with her warm and friendly assistant and it was such a pleasure. Melissa, her assistant, told me something I will always remember. “She liked your writing and wants you in HER group.”  That lifted my spirits for days. While I could not go to the current workshop she was holding I hope one day to meet her and attend a different workshop.

I read her first book about one hundred times; a book that still sits on my living room shelf now,  forty years later. I share my house with my husband, a son who is soon off to college for the first time, a daughter who will now be a senior in high school and a nine-year old adopted shelter dog named Callie who is sleeping on top of my feet. That first book has been carted from my parents’ apartment to college to every city I have lived in.  We grew up together, she and I, for a forty-year time period, she just didn’t know me.

There’s no doubt in my mind, from her first magazine article in the New York Times that she would grow up to be an amazingly talented, gifted writer. True to herself and her family and friends. She grew as a writer and as a person, I wonder if people expected her to stay nineteen and if that was hard for her? We all change and grow, make mistakes, learn; stagnant is boring.

I think she would be warm and funny, intense about her work and friendly, she probably just baked apple muffins with a crumb topping and served it with sun tea. There’s a colorful tiled table that holds chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies that she whipped up in a spare hour;  sharp, white cheddar cheese and crispy pita chips would be nearby. Family and friends are always invited to her kitchen; there are always people and animals nearby.

I imagine sitting on a large white patio, rocking slowly on our rocking chairs and exchanging whispered secrets and watching the red sunset fall slowly into the water to form three lines of color, orange, dark green, ultimately black. I remember when my family and I used to go to Cape Cod, when our kids were much younger, at every sunset we would sit on the sand, other people around us, and we would wait for the sun to set. When it did, everyone clapped. That is my idea of heaven, living near the ocean, watching the sunset with strangers sharing stories, listening to Reggae music provided for free. Sitting still in front of nature as if we were in a theater waiting for the curtain to rise.

At night, in my imagination, we would creep down the stairs and meet in the kitchen unplanned. We would burst into giggles when we found out we were there for the very same thing.  I always snack after I am supposed to be asleep and I eyed a bowl of ripe peaches on a small, round table that she had recently repainted in pink-rose paint. That first bite of that juicy peach would make me happy, so happy I  can’t even describe it. This peach, this wonderful gift from nature was just perfect. It was ripe, juicy, sweet and had a silken texture. The juice rolled down my chin and I groaned with every bite of happiness. It was the sweet scent of a perfect peach with my new friend, laughing into the dark night.

Dedicated to Joyce Maynard and Melissa