Saturday, June 20, 2009

June 2009 Write-Away Contest Entry- The Smell Of Love...

The Smell Of Love
By Celita

It is back. A deep, nagging, and overwhelming longing has come upon my heart, like a haunting memory that is somehow sweet, though barely recognizable. In an attempt to distract myself, I glance at my unmanicured hands with their unpainted nails and am momentarily disgusted by the deeper, drier lines that have formed across them. An image from ten or so years before slinks tauntingly before my eyes: my young hands, smooth, lotioned, well-kept, with nicely shaped nails which are long, strong, and glowing with two coats of my favorite nail enamel, "Pink Pearly Haze".

With a dejected sigh I drift back to reality. No matter. I brush at a stray hair that has caught firmly between my glasses and the eyelashes of my right eye, and after having conquered the offending strand, I promptly grab a dab of lotion from the tube on the shelf above the sink and distribute it skillfully into the innumerable and miniscule crevices of my hands.

As I stand leaning against the cool, dark-speckled granite counter, a breeze from the open kitchen window playfully teases a coffee-stained, dog-earred corner of a fruit-and-berry bordered recipe card that is clipped within the grasp of a springy- winged butterfly magnet on the refrigerator. The card waves in gentle response, and peaking words beckon for my attention between each sway of the prodding zephyrs.

Decidedly, I step forward and remove the card from its haven amidst the clutter on the freezer door-front. A sigh, this one full of desire, escapes my lips as I read the recipe for "Bread Pudding" which has been carefully scrawled out in loving detail. For a moment my breath catches, and I am transported back in to Memory's time.

I watch her while seated at her dining room table. My Abuela ("grandmother" in Spanish) scurries around her shallow-and-narrow kitchen gathering ingredients for our afternoon snack. She knows exactly which items she needs and how much to combine into the large, clear, Pyrex bowl, even without taking a single glance at the recipe card she has resting against her dormant microwave. It is present for Tradition's sake, not because of necessity. It is a pretty, rectangular card that has bright-colored plums, peaches, and strawberries perfectly scattered along the border. "Taste and see that the Lord is good" is printed within a narrow box along the bottom, just above the border. Thin lines guide the columned phrases from the list of ingredients to the very last cooking detail.

Abuela chatters on as I observe. While I was busy noting each element printed on the four-inch-by-six-inch piece of paper, she had joined half of the items needed in the bowl: bread, milk, sugar, and eggs.

I watch her hands as they deftly complete each step of the directions. They are not delicate hands, but ones dotted with age spots; and they have time and hardship pressed into them. From experience I know that they are gentle hands, just as adept at and at ease in carressing my chestnut tresses as I rest my head comfortably on her lap as when she is busy cracking eggs open to include in a dessert.

After Abuela adds and stirs together the salt, cinnamon, vanilla extract, butter, and raisins, she pulls out a baking pan, greases it, and pours it all out evenly and perfectly into the confines of the teflon container. I am amazed because she does not drip one bit. A wonderful thing to a nine year old.

Once it is baking away in the preheated oven, the apartment is inundated with one of the most wonderful aromas I have ever savored. It is what love smells like, a sweetness not just appealing to the belly but also to the soul.

Mesmerized by its apparent deliciousness, I can only sit and count along with the tick-tick-tick of the food timer. I stalk the moving arm with my eyes and anxiously wait for the "ding" to sound. When it does, I jump for having been concentrating so intently on the circling arrow.

Abuela notices my anticipation and beams with pleasure. After the allotted time, she retrieves her favorite oven mitts, the ones with the roosters on them, and checks for "doneness". A prick of a toothpick confirms that is has baked thoroughly and is pleasantly honey-brown on its surface. She removes it and places it on the stove to cool. Oh, how my mouth is watering!

Content, Abuela pulls out two glasses from one of her cabinets and fills them with milk. Once the bread pudding had cooled enough that it does not cling to the knife when being cut into wedges, it is time to indulge. Both of us have a slice in hand, and we aim to take a bite at the same time. This mutual enjoyment only adds to the memory of the tradition.

As I chew and swallow that first bite, I think of how I wish I could preserve this very moment and remember it always, in full color, with senses precise and recalling each portion. In that moment, Abuela leans towards the recipe that is still propped up dejectedly against the microwave. She turns, looks at me with a smile in her eyes, and hands me the card. She explains that she wants me to always remember her love for me and the moments we have shared together. I hold the not-yet-coffee-stained paper close to my heart and feel as if I have been handed a wonderful treasure.

I remember that day with fondness. Not only did we make special memories and just enjoy each other's company, but Abuela gave me a gift of her trust. That simple, fruit-bordered recipe card was written out by her very own hand, and so it was part of herself. And, she had willingly shared that part of herself... with me.

I long to call Abuela and see if she is making her "family favorite" bread pudding, but... I can't. I have the memories. I have the recipe. I have hands that are looking worn like hers used to. But, she is gone now.

Now I am the one who rests the recipe card against the microwave. I gather the ingredients needed without looking at them because the words are ingrained in my heart. I mix each item together, watch the timer arm make its rotation, and remember the old times while still anticipating with joy.

When the bread pudding is ready, I take it out with my red oven mitts and let it cool on the counter. I prepare a tall glass of milk, slice out a piece for myself, close my eyes, imagine Abuela sitting next to me as before... and bite.

To me, it still smells like love.


Scribbit said...

I felt like I was right there in the kitchen with your Abuela. If only I'd been able to have a bite!

WonderfulWire said...

That was beautiful... thank you :)

Beverlydru said...

So beautifully written. I have a grandmother like that. Sweet memories. She no longer cooks at 102... and her hands are worth a post. Hmmm - I'm inspired. Thanks.

perilloparodies said...

Thank you. :-) It is a very personal post to me... My grandmother had a huge impact on me, more than any other person, besides Jesus, on this earth. I did not realize how big of an impact until after she was gone. Still miss her even after nearly 9 years. :-)

Cindy said...

So beautiful and evocative. I was not so close to my grandmother but the kitchen was certainly the place where she felt most comfortable and where my happy memories of her reside. (came over from Snippety Gibbet)

perilloparodies said...

Nice to have you stop by, Cindy. Thank you for your sweet comment. Have a great day.