I stood in the middle of the parking lot, in near darkness. I just stood there. Taking a deeper breathe, now listening to the mixture of night sounds and the muted conversations and laughing of the people just over the other side of the dune. I took a panoramic scan of the scenery that surrounded me, and then closed my eyes like a shutter of a camera, quickly burning the image into my memory. What I captured was my paradise, the farwell traces of a gorgeous lake michigan sunset, the timed arrival of a glowing moon and my children 20 steps ahead of me whispering plans of how to catch fireflies and put them in a jar. A classic summer's eve.....
A sweet musical melody of a voice beckoned me away from my trance, "Mama, did you forget where the car was parked?" came Lauren's giggling concern. She had obviously turned around and noticed I had stopped forward motion. Her natural instincts to question my interesting stance, her curiosity is rooted in the fact that she will be an outstanding mother someday. She's always very alert to what is happening and her caring attention to everyone's well being around her is endearing.
I waited a quiet moment to answer her which peeked her interest even more... and now her brother wanted to know what was up too. The shuffling of sandy flip flop feet began to make there way back to me and I answered while they were in route in a whisper only they could hear. I said "look all around us, this is like a dream come true don't you think". I love Lauren's reply... "Mama, do you want me to pinch you? You know, to make sure it is really real?"
Everyone snickered and then I think we all spent the car ride home really thinking about what I had said. It was a really wonderful day for us, full to the brim and flowing over with all our favorite things. The kids let me get my work done on the computer and the phone early since it was a rainy morning. At lunchtime I closed my computer up and declared the rest of the day would be all about us! This announcement was accepted with lots of cheering and an out loud tally of all the wonderful things we could accomplish in a day. We were bound and determined to take advantage of a beautiful summer's day.
The coolest part of the day for me I confess was the opportunity to spend some time in the kitchen and over our new weber charcoal grill. For me it is a complete step back down memory lane to when I was their age and would watch my mom make our family's Armenian traditional dinner favorite. Its a meal that is truly the best when done in the hottest days of summer and after a full day of family together time. I have written about it before
Lauren and Riley's enthusiasm to learn and be apart of something culinary that is special to me is another reason why I am so thankful to have chosen my career as a chef. Some of my favorite life memories have been centered around food. Its these certain moments that have defined my adoring passion for food and this particular one I am going to share with you is in the top 10 for sure:
~Whether the beautiful woman knew I was watching or not, I'm not sure, but I picked up quickly on her organized process. I noticed how she had not done any food prep until she was sure the grill charcoals were lit and heating up, except to make sure she had all the ingredients beforehand. This preparedness is what I now lovingly refer to as "mise en place" since finishing culinary school. My sister and I laughed while she got the fire going because the cat always came by to try and lick the grill grate she had propped up on the ground. He never got much satisfaction since she wasn't about to let him contaminate the food cooking surface. He would retreat quickly, his tail up in the air and obviously ticked off about her swift rescue of the grate as she lay it over the black briquets.
This meal my mom was preparing usually equaled our Grandma Rose to be sitting on the white deck chairs outside too. She was a full blooded Armenian beauty and I was always so proud to tell people so since I had inherited her olive skin tone and dark hair and eyes features.
Its easy for me to imagine and remember Grandma's big black purse on the ground next to her feet, full of all kinds of things including a novel type book and her cigarettes. She had on a comfy blue and white striped tank top and white linen slacks with her ballet flat type slippers and seemed so relaxed. Grandma would come to stay with us every summer and I always looked forward to sitting outside with her and chatting... especially when I was still young enough that I didn't have to help with dinner- we would watch my mom seemingly float between the house and the patio... looking like she could use a cold glass of lemonade. Our only job at the time was to set the picnic table while my mom got the shish kabobs on the grill, made the rice pilaf on the stove inside and put the freshly shucked corn in the water pot to boil.
When we all sat down to eat the food.... it was amazing, delicious, satisfying and yet so simple. That's really all I have to say about it.
Yet more than the food it was the scenery I think. All the sensations including the aromas of lighter fluid, sun screen and my mom's Le aire du temps perfume. The evening sunlight filtering through the aspen tree shadows. The sound of a neighbor mowing their lawn two doors down, and my friend Janelle's dog Shasta barking across the back alley. The humidity in the air creating little sweat droplets on the sides of our noses and under our eyes as we ate our armenian feast. Dinner wasn't even finished and my sister Jen was already asking when we would get to roast marshmallows on the last of the hot charcoal. My mom would excuse her once she had cleared her whole plate to go find a branch to use as a marshmallow poker. This was a classic summer's eve....
I love how some of my experiences new and old overlap from different decades and create a unique and beautiful decoupage of love and happiness.
These are the bountiful memories of my life when I have truly just stopped to pay attention. Wonderfully its what I am still doing more than I probably realize. I've gotten much better at slowing down to purposefully take in my atmosphere, my life experience. I have noticed whatever it is that makes me so completely aware of the "right now" is always followed by a silent command to take inventory of every thing happening around me. In these moments a peaceful internal narrator speaks my story. A story about a girl who is deeply thankful for so much in her life, everyday, all the time
check out an older story if you like
Blog Post on February 3, 2010: