friday the thirteenth

Starts with a massage.

My occasional luxury of choice. (Which really isn’t a luxury at all if you talk to Hippocrates.)

No complaints there. Even though the massage therapist tells me she’s not a morning person. I worry momentarily about cold stiff hands and lethargic moves, yawning from above, but she turns out to be great. Even gives me a couple of tips:

1) buy a timer to remind myself to stand up at my desk now and then, move about, roll my shoulders, breathe, etc.

2) get a new mattress every ten years.

So I go to the dollar store and buy a timer in the shape of a pear and while I’m in line I think about evolution and wonder if humans accidentally stopped evolving a lot sooner than we were meant to. I mean, everything else in the universe seems to have the sense to remember to roll its shoulders without the help of plastic fruit.

The woman ahead of me has two baskets filled with what I recognize as the fixings for loot-bags and I remember the first birthday party I organized for my stepson. He was nine. We did the usual: cake, lunch, games, arts and crafts, then a trip to the bowling alley for some five pin action. At the end of the day, as the parents started arriving to pick up their kids, and as we waved and said bye bye now, you little darlings, one of the kids said: so where are the loot bags? I had no idea what he was talking about. Last kid party I’d attended I was nine myself and the only thing I brought home was a piece of cake wrapped in a soggy serviette.

From there I take my still squishy, flushed, massage face with its massage table indentations to the library where I hope not to frighten small children. I smile the smile of the freshly massaged who have three books waiting to be picked up:

Gould’s Book of Fish: a novel in twelve fish, by Richard Flanagan
Indian Horse, by Richard Wagamese
We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, by Joan Didion

I wander over to the free-giveaway shelves where I find a bumper crop of Canadian Gardening magazines. It would be selfish to scoop them all so I sit down and flip through each one in order to choose. Then scoop them all. (I paint a rosy cast over this unbecoming behaviour by telling myself I’ll return them to the giveaway shelves once I’ve finished reading them and have become a brilliant gardener; it could be a while…)

There are also a number of French books, including dozens of Harlequins, which remind me of a friend who once told me she learned French by reading stacks of Harlequins while living in Paris. I grab one for her for old times’ sake and one for me, as a learning aid.  Also find a copy of Gabrielle Roy: De quoi t’ennuies-tu, Eveline?  The cover shows a matronly woman in feathered hat and fur collared coat, a snow-covered field and two small houses in the background. I like it already. Er, that is… Je l’aime deja. (BTW, I had to google translate that, which tells you all you need to know about my French; I can only pray the Harlequin will do its magic.)

I should be heading home now but instead find myself entering a little second-hand clothing shop. The woman sitting by the till is covering for her daughter who has pleurisy. She’s taking care of her grandkids also. She looks tired. She lost her husband in February and helping her daughter keeps her mind off things, she says. I tell her she must remember to look after herself as well and she nods, smiles, says no one sails stormy seas forever. When I knock over a display with my shoulder bag she calmly fixes it while I apologize and worry about any teacups in the debris. She says no, nothing breakable, laughs, says it happens all the time. She’s one of those people. I’ll bet it doesn’t happen all the time at all.

I buy a floral print jacket in lime green and pale pink. An odd choice given that I mostly wear black with occasional splashes of white or grey. Never prints. Especially flower shaped ones. (Could it be that I picked up some weird pourquoi pas? c’est printemps! vibe among all those books with their covers of feathery hats, heaving bosoms and holiday themes…?)

By now it’s almost lunchtime so I decide to get some rotis and fish cakes from the Carribean place next door, and a new thing called ‘doubles’—a spicy chick pea wrap.

At home I pick dandelions in the garden, sorrel leaves too, make a salad and watch The Big Bang Theory, which I admit I’ve developed a slight addiction to.

I write.

I hang sheets.

I tidy the yard and make a note to buy more seeds.

Later I will have a glass of chardonnay on the patio and eat grilled salmon and Peter’s double baked potatoes, which we will douse with butter and sprinkle with garlic chives.

We will talk about the day. His, mine.

There will be reading.

Some gossip about the neighbours.

Plans for tomorrow.

And—despite the possiblilty of evolutionary glitches—very big chunks of gratitude.

8 thoughts on “friday the thirteenth

  1. Sorrel leaves can be eaten in a salad? I’ve always been told they’re too bitter. I stir fry them–when I can find them which is rare even at the market–with cooked potatoes and onions. A Trinidadian dish I learned from my sister-in-law.
    I’ve been wondering if adopting strange patterns and colours is a kind of middle years awakening from the black of my youth. Lately I surprise myself with royal blue, purple, lime green. Even glitzy bits.

    1. My mother taught me about sorrel. (Sauerampfer) She said it grew wild in fields and everyone would nibble the leaves as they worked, for the zing. I always mix them with something: dandelion, mesclun, spinach, whatever I’ve got. But yes, they’re great raw. In sandwiches too. The funny thing is I’ve never cooked with them… So you’re teaching me as well. I love the sound of what you’ve described!

      You can probably grow a big pot of them pretty easily on a sunny deck, from seed. As greens, they’re lovely, because after you cut them, they grow back, so you’ve got a supply all season.

      I think you might be right about colour. I’ll always be most comfortable in neutrals, but I’ve opened to the pleasure of ‘other’… Where I used to walk past it, I stop now, and enjoy it, consider it more, resist less. Even reading “royal blue, purple, lime green…” makes me strangely happy…

      1. Sauerampfer… never heard of it. Looked in my three Austrian cookbooks and find only one recipe for Sauerampfersosse: a sauce made with browned onion, chopped sorrel, and sour cream.
        I love sorrel fried with potatoes, Trini-style. The green leaves get creamy when cooked.
        Did I really never taste it fresh? What a dullard. I’ll try to find some at the market, though it’s not popular in Quebec where it’s called oseille.
        Growing it in a bushel on the deck would mean contending with the vandal squirrels who have foiled my each and every attempt at city gardening. Arugula, tomatoes, raspberries, pansies, even yellow daffodils which are supposed to be toxic for squirrels.

        1. I have only one Austrian cookbook (a situation I feel I need to remedy…), ‘Karntnerisch Kochen’, sent to me by an alpine cousin. I find no sauerampfer recipes listed (although it’s reminded me that I have yet to do my dumpling feast!). All that aside, I will definitely make your Trini-style fry-up. Sounds wonderful. I’ve just remembered that I also make sorrel soup once it starts growing faster than I can eat it raw. The creaminess you mention when cooked brought that to mind. They just sort of melt, don’t they? Anyway, delighted to know more ways of using it. Grows like a weed. Too bad you have such badly behaved squirrels… :(

          1. Cousins gave me two of my cookbooks too. Another, my favourite–a big fat tome called Hauswirtschaftskunde or The Art of Keeping House–was given by my great-grandmother to my grandmother, who gave it to her daughter when she emigrated to Canada. I took it when I moved to Montreal. Someday I want to write about this book.

          2. What a treasure that book must be! I have a small, motley collection of housekeeping books. My favourite, from the 40’s I think, shows a plumpish woman in pearls (and fashionable shoes of course), sitting in her living room mending something while her well-scrubbed children stand watching, smiling, in a semi-circle around her. The whole idea of home care has been so misrepresented and devalued. I expect this wouldn’t be the case if men had been the homemakers throughout history. No small subject, this. And the loss of HomeEc in schools… very sad. And stupid. Seems to me boys were only just starting to sign up (and girls were allowed to take shop) when they decided to scrap both. We’re not too bright as a species, are we?

  2. The book is a treasure because it was passed from one generation to the next. Also because it’s filled with all kinds of arcane knowledge/nonsense. In my book the pictures are of the housewife standing beside her seated husband, pouring him coffee as he stares indifferently before him. The cooking instructions pre-date electricity. Beat egg whites 45 minutes until stiff.
    The inside joke in our family is that all the women, including myself, are allergic to homemaking.

    1. Love it!

      (And only 45 minutes for the egg whites? Plenty of time left for starching collars and shining shoes…)

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