Christmas can be such a tough time of the year. It’s such an emotional rollercoaster. Tears just come out of nowhere. You’re minding your own business, getting on with the business at hand and then out of nowhere…BAM!!! The floodgates open. And all is lost. Last week I took our housekeeper to her next job, the family she takes care of after she leaves us. I try to always take her in order to make her day shorter and easier. That way she doesn’t have to wait for the bus nor walk the few miles down Las Olas. I had Christmas carols playing on the radio as she got out of the car. We had already exchanged our small gifts and mutual warm wishes for a blessed and peaceful Christmas. As I backed out of the driveway I looked at the brilliant blue sky and marveled at how there wasn’t one single cloud. Not one! It was a gorgeous day. Just as I came to the bottom of the Fiesta Way bridge I looked left and right at the stop sign. I had the wonderful idea to go visit Mom. A vision of her flashed in front of me…Mom smiling joyously, her hair in soft, dark curls around her face. She was kind of flying thru the house going way too fast for anyone’s good. Boy, did she love this time of the year! She didn’t care WHAT Dad said she pulled out ALL stops! Growing up in the Wattley home was pure magic at Christmas, pure magic. And that’s when it hit me. She’s not there. She’s not at home. Well, her body’s there but her mind is gone. There’s just no response. I have no mother. I have NO mother. My body suddenly felt completely hollow. How else does one explain profound grief? I rounded the corner onto Las Olas as my eyes flooded with tears; the palms, the water and yachts, the big, gaudy homes became wavy and wobbly and distorted. My vision became cloudy as the tears spilled forth. I couldn’t breathe. I could hear myself crying and the analytical side of me thought I sounded kind of stupid. But it was too late. The levee had been breached. I sobbed and sobbed, my shoulders heaved up and down uncontrollably as my nose ran all over my face and clothes. I couldn’t go home; to be alone would be complete and total destruction; so I went to the next best place. Publix. I sat in the parking lot and wept and wept and wept. After a while I called Pamela and invited her family over for dinner and told her to let Cynthia and her people know about dinner. I carried the whole conversation in that fake happy tone. No need to bring HER down. Inside Publix I gathered my needed ingredients and finished up on the pasta aisle. Oh, dear. That’s when it hit me again. Dolly Parton’s “A Hard Candy Christmas” came on over the store’s sound system and that’s one of the saddest songs in the world! AND, I love me my Dolly! I totally caved. My basket carefully put down, I sat with my legs pulled up, my arms wrapped around them and sobbed as quietly as I could into my knees. Thankfully, no one spoke to me or touched me. You know when you’re sad the WORST thing is when someone is nice to you! You just can’t control yourself when someone’s kind to you. RayBans still on I paid and beat a hasty exit. I cried all the way home, carrying the groceries in and continued through prepping for dinner. Needless to say, no one was home. Pamela and Chris had some party to go to so they wouldn’t be coming. And I so needed my sister. I started the marinara sauce for dinner and then proceeded to make some comfort food. For me. This is Latina-girl comfort food. Rice. Any number of ways. But rice. White, not brown, and steamy hot. That’s what I wanted. I lit some candles. I prayed. I prayed a lot. And I cried. Oh, yeah. And I poured. As I felt the numbing effect of my liquid anesthesia Jimmy and James came home. Minutes later my family started arriving. My nieces came thru the gate laughing and poking fun with each other, voices boisterous and happy. They spilled into the house like the morning sun. In came Christopher. I hadn’t seen him since he came home from school. And behind him were Pamela and Chris! They decided they’d rather come over for pasta and caesar salad than go to some silly party. In the middle of all the hugging and kissing and teasing and laughing in came Cynthia, Wash and Elizabeth. It was the perfect solution for my breakdown. I still felt profound grief. But that’s the way life seems to be unfolding for my mother. I say it all the time. “THESE are the good old days.” We don’t have yesterday. And we SURE don’t have tomorrow. But we have right now. And that’s about all we have so, I, for one, am going to continue doing my best to appreciate yesterday but not dwell on it. Yes, tomorrow’s bound to be a better day but you can’t dismiss right now BECAUSE IT’S ALL WE HAVE. So when you’re feeling blue pour yourself a stiff drink and have a good cry. Then put a pot on for your rice and move on. Because THESE are the good old days.
This is a simple but satisfying recipe for Herbed Rice Pilaf. Not only is it great when you’re down but it pairs beautifully with fish and chicken! It freezes well also.
Herbed Rice Pilaf
Yield: 1 big pot
- 4 1/2 cups water or chicken broth
- 2 1/2 cups medium grain white rice
- 1 scant cup angel hair pasta or thin spaghetti broken into small pieces, about 1/2 inches
- chicken bouillon cube, optional
- 1 bunch chopped fresh dill
- 1 bunch chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
- 1 bunch chopped fresh mint leaves
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- salt to taste if not using broth or bouillon cube
- In a heavy medium-sized pot bring water or broth to a boil.
- Add all the other ingredients, cover pot and bring back up to a boil.
- When boiling drop temperature down to a gentle simmer.
- Rice is finished when all the water is absorbed and the rice is soft but still has a bit of firmness to it. Add a bit of water is needed. Total cooking time is between 30 to 45 minutes depending on the heat of the stove and weight of the pot.