i must have made something besides that baby in 2009…

December 6, 2010 § 2 Comments

today’s prompt is what was the last thing you made? what materials did you use? is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

at first i got real nervous. is the last thing that i made that kid in 2009? was it those out of the box cupcakes for Jack’s school christmas party last year?! ah, no. i remember it now. the last thing i made (pb&j’s, bowls of cereal, beds, 10 different cups of milk a day and cinnamon raisin toast again aside…) was pesto. are you thinking “well gee, that was short” it’s not. this is not just any pesto. not your run of the mill restaurant mess of too much oil, probably dried basil leaves and where the heck is the cheese pesto. this is the recipe i grew up on. i can remember loving pesto for every moment that i’ve been alive. truth be told, i remember nothing of the years i lived with both parents. my dad says my mom had a garden. but i don’t remember. i don’t remember much at all. which is something i struggle with a lot…but i digress. my mom and i moved into a little ranch house in cumberland, RI when i was almost 5 years old. that’s how i remember it at least. i’m sure my mom will scroll all the misconceptions after i post. my childhood, which i consider to be the time i spent in that house, is a salt and pepper mix of really amazing memories, and some sludge. but one of the things that i remember most, most clearly and vividly, is the garden my mother kept. she never claimed to have a green thumb, and enlisted the help of a professional. this woman, who i remember to have had curly hair which she probably never used a drop of product on and reminded me mostly of Carrie’s mother. yes, from the movie Carrie. she had boots and shorts that looked like my mom’s grammicis and a hat and this belt to hang some gardening tools on. her socks came above the ankle of her boot. even in the hot summer. i remember all of it. i remember her coming and helping us pick the best spot. we picked two. there was a row of bushes that lined the front windows, and along that was a part of ground sectioned off by bricks. that was the lettuce spot, a few different varieties. some with leave so dark you couldn’t tell if they were purple or black. others vibrantly green. some herbs and lambs ear. this totally random plant, which as far as i knew, served no other purpose than to give me something to touch that felt beautiful. the main part of our garden was sectioned off using chicken wire at the top of the little hill that sat beside our house. carrots and sweet peas and green beans, a bounty of basil, radishes, and i’m sure i’m forgetting a host of other things. i loved going up there with my mom. on this little hill, in our little chicken wire garden cage, creating this thing together. and with the basil, we’d make pesto. my mom would make as much pesto as the basil would make. i just remember plastic containers of green cycling through the fridge as long as the basil would grow. i remember my mom teaching me how to pluck the basil off the plant, at the base of the stem, crack it with your nail and tear, gently. pick the big green leaves, let the babies grow. tear off the bad parts. if the plant is growing flowers, tear them off, it helps the leaves grow.

we would stuff the leaves, pack them down, we were never skimpy, into the glass pyrex pitcher my mom used for practically everything and may even still have. crack and peel the garlic and mush it slightly. pine nuts, olive oil, salt. i’d pour each ingredient into the blender and watch as they were all thrust together. the leaves torn to shreds and in practically an instant a beautiful, silky, vibrant green liquid. transfer to faded red bowl with the wheat decal circling it’s girth. grate the cheese onto wax paper (easier for the cheese to slide off my mom said) and soften the butter. add both, slowly, into the bowl and fold, fold, fold. pesto. voila. dip the finger, just to be sure it’s as delicious as you already know it’s going to be. the final product is thick and creamy. tiny lumps of white cheese that didn’t quite blend, look like those dandelion seeds dappling a green field.

ok, but this is about the past year isabel! way to go off on a tangent…

in the past 4 years, my mom has endured a few more bumps than we’d all like on her road to health. it’s hard for me to articulate how it has felt to be in the caretaker position of a parent. it has changed our relationship for sure, has added layers to its complexity, has strengthened it, made it a little more comfortable. feels a little softer these days, like a really well-worn in baseball glove. one of these particular incidents, that happened in the early fall, required my tending to my mom post-op. i can’t remember anything about the day before or the day after, if it was a busy day or just busy with worry. all i can remember is that before my mom went into surgery she told me she wanted me to make pesto. i’ve since tossed a few extra cloves of garlic into our recipe, but it’s still the same. the best. my garden wasn’t producing a bounty of basil and i remember being heartbroken that i had to use filler basil from whole foods. in that moment, on that day, it felt so important that i make this remedy with my own home grown materials. i rushed back from whole foods. i had to be at my mom’s by 2:30 to relieve her friend, who had been able to fetch her from the hospital. i had picked jack up from preschool and sped home to meet my mother in law, who was waiting to take over childcare. i can’t remember conversation. i remember my mother in law asking what i need and all i could say was “i need to make this pesto for my mom” and she said “great, what can i do to help?” and so she helped me. with this thing that felt like the most important task in the world. that felt like something sacred, something i never thought she’d be a part of. she grated the cheese, onto wax paper. i asked her to do it that way. and Jack helped me toss everything into the blender. i poured the green into a bowl and added the cheese and butter. fold, fold, fold. and then i ran. i ran to get my stuff, and ran to the car. i wanted my car to be a matter transporter, i wanted to be there now. and when i walked in, the pesto clutched in my hand, she was sleeping. but she was ok, and she was sleeping. i cooked the pasta while she rested. and when she finally stirred and requested food, the first thing she asked for was pesto. only a little…just a taste. she said she loved it, she closed her eyes for a moment and held them that way. maybe she was thinking of that little patch, caged in with chicken wire, on that hill.

december. you are going to be quite a month…


§ 2 Responses to i must have made something besides that baby in 2009…

  • Amy says:

    Oh Isabel, that was something I did with my mom too – thank you for sharing that… It was beautiful and the tears are sweet…

  • ifurie says:

    thank you Amy, for reading, commenting, and liking! i am amazed still that anyone besides me reads this and endlessly thankful. i love the way words and stories can connect us.

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