Memories Are Made Of Meatloaf
started talking about it a couple of months ago.
roommate makes meatloaf," Daughter #1 said on the phone one night.
"But it just doesn't taste
same as yours." And she went on and on, at great nostalgic length,
about how special my meatloaf is ... how moist, how unique, how
sweet-and-spicy, how melt-in-your-mouth yummy.
think about it all
the time," she said wistfully.
I was astonished
to hear this.
Nobody felt that way about my meatloaf ten years ago! (Or if
feel that way about it, they certainly didn't act like it: I used to
find big congealed chunks of it stuffed under sofa cushions and crammed
into pants pockets.) Being informed that
somebody remembers my meatloaf fondly, a decade after the fact, is a
surprise. To put it mildly.
knows? Maybe they really liked my Food Bank Bean Soup, too, but
they just never got around to telling me so.)
you like me to make you a meatloaf while you're here?" I asked, and she
said yes, that would be very nice. So a week or so before she was
arrive here in
the Bay Area, I went to
the grocery store and bought all the ingredients I would need to create
Heaven in a Loaf Pan: ground beef,
ground sausage, bacon, brown sugar, onions, celery, eggs, a loaf of
sourdough bread, a jar of Skippy Extra-Chunk. I figured that in the
interest of time and convenience, I would make the meatloaf in advance
and then freeze it. It's a very time- and labor-intensive recipe -- mostly it's a lot of chopping and smooshing and basting and
antibacterializing -- and I knew that I wouldn't want to waste a single moment of our precious
Mother-Daughter Visiting Time slaving away in a kitchen. So I made
the meatloaf on a long lazy Sunday afternoon, while I split my
attention between war coverage and the Academy Awards. I served it to
David that night for dinner, and then wrapped up the rest of it and
tossed it into the freezer. The day before she was due to arrive, I
pulled it out of the freezer and allowed it thaw overnight in the
the time she walked through our apartment door on Thursday night,
suitcases in hand, the meatloaf was ready and waiting for her.
I joyously announced, waving the foil-covered lump in the air. "Just
the way you remember!" And I offered to
make her a meatloaf sandwich, right there on the spot.
She was properly
enthusiastic -- this is what she'd been waiting for, all these years --
but the truth is that we'd just finished stuffing ourselves with
enchiladas and refried beans at La Piñata, over on Park
Street: we didn't have enough room for an after-dinner mint,
alone a big hunk of processed pork products. So instead she contented
herself by opening up the foil and taking a good healthy sniff ("It
smells just the way I remember," she swooned), and then we
tossed it back
into the fridge for later.
got all weekend to eat meatloaf," we told ourselves.
actually turned out to be one of our nicest *California visits* ever.
The weekend wasn't completely without incident, of course: none of our
visits ever are. There was a minor Crisis Moment on Saturday morning,
when it turned out she wouldn't be able to get her contact lenses after
all. That was our Big Plan for this visit: I was going to take
her to the same groovy
went to, a few weeks ago, and pay for her contact lens fitting. Ten
minutes after she disappeared into Dr. Shiu's examination room, though
-- all jazzed and happy about finally getting her contacts -- she was
standing in front of me in the lobby again, fighting back tears. It
turns out that since she won't be in town long enough to come back for
a follow-up visit, they couldn't provide
her with the initial eye exam. Company policy. (I offered
to pay for a couple of Mother-Daughter tattoos, instead, but she
declined the offer.) But over all it was a weekend of unprecedented
good weather, good fun and good food. We shopped, we gossiped, we
walked around Berkeley, we watched the Christmas video together, we sat
on the couch and talked ... basically, we did all of the typical
Mom-and-Jaymi stuff that we like to do when she comes to town.
of course -- we ate.
Besides the Mexican restaurant, we also went to
our favorite Vietnamese place on Friday night (carrot chowder, the
world's best imperial rolls dipped in vinegar, spicy orange chicken)
... The Dead Fish on Saturday (no Hot
Biker Bitch Sauce this time) ... good old reliable
Berkeley on Sunday afternoon (messy burgers and salty french fries,
served by the requisite surly college dude). When we weren't eating in
restaurants, we were hanging around the apartment snacking on Asiago
and Fritos, chocolate chip cookies, fried eggs, sourdough bread.
somehow we never got around to the meatloaf.
is always the case when one of the Tots comes to visit, the weekend
passed entirely too quickly. One minute we were picking her up at the
airport ... the next minute it was time to take her back again.
was 6:00 on Sunday night before David and I got home from dropping her
off at Oakland International for her flight home to TicTac. I sat
slumped in front of the computer, feeling my usual mix of high and low
-- elated over the renewed connection I felt with my child, decimated
by our latest separation, already missing her painfully
immediately started the process of obsessively checking her flight
status on the Alaska Airlines website. In the 'old days' we used to be
able to sit and wait with her at the gate, right up until the moment it
was time for her to board the plane. But in these post-911 days of
security it's a hug and kiss at baggage claim, then goodbye.
When we dropped her off she had more than an hour to wait before her
flight was due to depart. Now I typed in her flight number to see if
she would be leaving on time. According to the
website, the flight was going to be delayed by a few minutes.
at my watch. If I was reading the website correctly, she would be
taking off in five minutes.
She'll be taking off in five minutes.
leapt up from the computer chair, jumped back into my shoes, and went
flying out the door with my camera in hand. ("Back in a minute!" I
shouted at a visibly startled David, who was standing in the bedroom
taking his pants off.) I ran all the way across the courtyard and out
the front door and around the side of the building to the parking lot
behind our apartment ... the parking lot that overlooks the portion of
San Francisco Bay immediately adjacent to Oakland International.
then I waited.
two or three minutes, I heard the unmistakeable rumble of jet engines
in the distance ... followed, moments later, by a tiny silver needle
appearing above the horizon. As it soared across the bay in my
backyard, I pointed my camera at the sky and fired the shutter: click,
click, click, click, click. The plane was too far away to see
Alaska Airlines insignia ... but I knew it was her plane. I took six or
seven pictures, as the tiny silver needle threaded itself through the
clouds, and then I stood there and watched it sail into the sunset. As
I watched the plane disappear into the evening sky, I comforted myself
with the knowledge that my beautiful firstborn daughter was sitting on
plane with her new clothes, her new CDs, her new puka shell necklace,
her new Amoeba Records postcards ...
and two foil-wrapped slices of her mother's meatloaf, tucked into the
bottom of her suitcase.