Just Desserts

lamb cake
Take me to your Leader.

Lamb cake is one good thing that came out of the B days. My brother R and his wife started inviting L and B for Easter a few years ago, and they started bringing a lamb cake. The first year L got a fancy one from a bakery, all fluffy and perfect. But she left it in the car while she was at work and it froze, and all the buttercream frosting shrunk. So when it thawed, it tasted good but looked like a wizened, ancient lamb.

Was B out of the picture after that first year? Or was it the next? I don’t remember. Like the lamb cake his fluffy good nature hardened and staled, and today he graces someone else’s table. Probably in a diner and complaining about the service. Single again, L started making her own lamb cakes. She found  a mold, I think of her mom’s, a smallish, upright lamb. Very English. Very delicious but the head kept falling off. So when she served it the first year, the head had to be displayed separately. R’s wife froze the head and hid it in our freezer at Thanksgiving. I passed it on to L’s freezer sometime after Christmas.

This year L made two lamb cakes, using that same mold. One regular yellow cake and one chocolate-zucchini. The yellow head had stayed on, but the chocolate-zucchini head fell off. L solved this by sticking it on with skewers which she decorated with mini-marshmallows, so they looked like fluffy antennae.

The lambs lay on a bed of green coconut grass and gazed at each other. It was hard to decide which one was uglier. Both bodies were perfectly molded; it was their faces, where L had only her cake-decorating tubes and imagination to work with, that things went so Halloween.  The white one – actually, they were both white because the chocolate one was covered in mini-marshmallows – the yellow cake one looked drunk, while the chocolate-zucchini one had more of a stricken, please-don’t-eat-me, I’m-new-to-this-planet expression.

They were the perfect centerpiece for post dinner discussion about weird religious bits that no one really talks about. Why didn’t anyone recognize Jesus when he came back from the dead? If you believe that, is it an argument for reincarnation? And what exactly happened between those few recognition moments and His ascension into Heaven? Shouldn’t there have been some kind of festivities, gatherings, sermons-on-the-mount where He could be like, I’m back, now do you believe me? No, He just sort of faded up to Heaven.

L said she’d called our Auntie M this year for advice on decorating the lamb cakes. Auntie M said the lamb should wear a blue collar, that there was some religious significance to that but she couldn’t remember what it was. L didn’t have a blue decorating tube so her lambs are collarless. Like Jesus and B, they’re free. Except they’re made out of cake, so actually the rest of the chocolate-zucchini one is in my fridge and I’m going to eat some right now. Unless some Martian-lamb miracle has occurred and this is just a verse in someone else’s bible.

Weather bug

iphone temp readout
I'll be here all week.

Yesterday I felt my mother’s body pass through me. Not her ghost, her body. It happened when I was sitting on the radiator, putting my boots on. It was another cold, rainy morning and the light in the kitchen was gray. I was feeling tired of feeling hopeless. I knew it was just the weather, the resurgence of winter we’ve had after all the pretty spring flowers started to open and now we wake up with snow on the roof.

So my brain knew this was the cause of my ennui but still. It was hard getting my coat and scarf and hat on. It was too hard to pull my boots on standing up, so I sat on the radiator. I pulled them on, one and then the other, and then leaned back, waiting for the will to stand up and go outside.

Then, just when my body was leaning back and my legs were stretched in front of me and I stared into the gray kitchen light with some indefinable combination of resignation and defiance, I felt my mother’s body. Like I was in her body looking out. Like I felt what she felt on those days she had that weird expression on her face and said annoying things like, “Come on, Cozzola,” to herself. I held myself still and felt it. It wasn’t happy, it didn’t feel good but it felt precious. I wondered if it was just because half her genes and stuff are in me that I felt this, the way you feel a creaky elbow and know it’s your dad’s arthritis. But this was physical and not physical. It felt like a body that had paused, briefly, inside my outline.

I spoke tentatively into the empty room. “Mom? I know how you felt. I wish I could tell you I know exactly how you felt.” I wondered if this was why people had kids, to know they continue after death, in other bodies. I was relieved I wouldn’t be passing this on. The moment passed and my body was mine again, so I got up and went outside. I really hope we get some sunshine soon.

Two Goodbyes

Empty billboard structure
Ready for the next thing.

Yesterday I said goodbye to the play I’ve been working on since February. For days I’d been telling myself I was close to finishing because I had more than 70 pages, but I admitted that what I actually have are a cool idea, a couple of good scenes, and a bunch of what I’d call bridges — scenes without conflict, without action, that just get us from place to another. Some bridge scenes are okay, even necessary, but somehow I’d boxed myself in with them and felt incapable of freely imagining different characters, locations, or situations that could make the place stay alive.

I felt so discouraged, and yet so unwilling to give up. Dave came in on a break from his work and I said, “Tell me it’s okay for me to give up on my play.”

He said, “Maybe you just need a break.”

“No,” I said dramatically, “it’s awful, it’s terrible. I’ve worked and worked on it and I have nothing to show for it.”

“Well, it’s one hundred percent your choice,” he observed. “If you’re not enjoying it, it’s probably not worth it.”

“True,” I said, not really believing him. It seemed so important. My Play. The one I bragged about when people asked what I was up to, the one I worried would upset the family when it hit Broadway and suddenly everyone knew our fictionalized business, the one I’d poured my heart and soul into. Or maybe I hadn’t, if here I was trying to figure out how much crappy dialog I could cut from a scene and still have enough to get my characters from the living room to the bus depot.

Dave added, “Maybe you’ll re-purpose it for something else later.”

“Maybe.” I closed the file and we took the dog for a walk.

Yesterday we also went to a wake. It was for a cousin of my late dad’s, Fred. Fred was a tall, handsome sweetheart of a guy who’d worked for Sears, had fought in World War II and been captured by the Nazis but escaped after 18 days (for which, I learned from a scrapbook near the coffin, he received one dollar per day from the US Government; I’m not sure if that was instead of or in addition to his regular army pay), and was an avid Sox fan.

After 92 years, he went very suddenly. Joking on the phone at 7pm, a stroke an hour later, a night in the hospital surrounded by his tall, handsome family, and gone by morning. Fred’s last words to his kids were, “How did the Sox do tonight?” This was funny in one way to all the baseball fans at the funeral home, and in a different way to people like me, who know little and care nothing about sports. I can’t imagine being on my deathbed and worrying about some guys who don’t even know I exist. It just doesn’t seem real that sports fans care as seriously and intensely as they seem to.

Which reminds me of my brother, who doesn’t understand why anyone would watch a play, much less write one. To him, it’s all just a bunch of pretend reality that has no point when you’ve got real reality all around you. He, incidentally, is a huge hockey fan. And that makes me feel better about abandoning my play. Not because I think plays are less important than sports, but because if his obsession seems as dismissible to me as mine does to him, it’s possible that we could both be right.