Monday, November 24, 2008

Mercy's Quill

From Mercy Hayworth's book of stories and poems — believed destroyed, recently discovered. . .

July 18, 1691

All my joy, all my sorrow
Meets me now, and will tomorrow
Memories sweet when she was near
Close beside me, always here
My mother’s touch, her voice, her song
Hidden deep now, but all is wrong
She who was the morning sun
Lies asleep with beloved son
Sword that sliced the whole in two
Made half to be old and half now new
Part in one world, whole but torn
Holding back the breaking morn
For every dream where she appears
‘Tis my life awake, no death, no fear

~ Mercy Hayworth

Friday, November 21, 2008

In the Kitchen with Esperanza

You will have to be patient with me. My recipes, they are all in my cabesa, in my head. I have no little cards in little boxes in my kitchen. I don't measure, either. If I say shake in some cinnamon, you are just going to have to trust me and do it. Maybe that means you will have to trust yourself. I don't use measuring spoons. I don't have measuring spoons.

This is okay, yes? If not, you will have to go back to your little boxes and your cookbooks and your magazine clippings.

So, Graham was here for dinner last night. Miss Abigail invited him at the last minute and I had only one lamb chop thawed - for Miss Abigail, of course. So I had to change the menu at the last minute. I made what I call Kingergarten Enchiladas. I call them this because my mother told me Abigail loved them when she was a little girl. She still loves them. I like them too but I don't tell my family because they are not authentic Mexican food. I made them because I happened to have all the ingredients. I made them because Graham at nearly 50 acts like a 5-year-old sometimes. I am trying to be patient with him. Not because I want to but because Miss Abigail asked me to. These are very easy to make. Graham liked them. Figures.

Kindergarten Enchiladas
12 flour tortillas
A carton of cottage cheese - not the tall one
Sometimes I throw in a beaten egg
Shredded cheddar cheese - like, one bag of four-cheese Mexican
Minced garlic - a clove or two or three
Cumin - six shakes?
Salt and pepper
Can of chopped chiles
Can of red enchilada sauce
Sliced black olives

So you mix the cottage cheese, and beaten egg (helps to bind everything), half the bag of cheese, the spices, the drained chiles - half a can for sissies, no can for true kindergartners. Put some of the mixture onto each of the tortillas and roll them up. Place them seam-side down in a baking dish. Pour the red sauce over. Sprinkle with the rest of the shredded cheese and the sliced black olives. Cover with foil and bake for maybe 25 minutes at 350. Don't overbake. Flour tortillas scorch easily. Everything should be nice and bubbly. Service with rice and beans.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Abigail on the Classics

My name is Abigail Josephine Renata Boyles. I am an 83-year-old retired librarian and the former owner of Mercy Hayworth's diary. Mercy was my cousin, eight times removed.

Some might call me eccentric; it is a word widely used to describe old women who aren't afraid to loudly express an opinion. I've seen many a three-year-old loudly express his or her opinion and no one whispers that the pint-sized troublemaker is eccentric. No, we are told they need a nap.

Call me what you will. What is an opinion for if not to be shared? What is an opinion's impact if it is not defended?

I've a library bursting with books, so Lauren tells me, and I've read everyone of them. I've an opinion on every one of them. I've been invited to share them with you. And I shall do it. Let this be my legacy then, since I no longer own the diary. I will share with you my vast wealth of loud opinions on books you should be reading. Now then. Shall we begin?

I've a handful of friends, not many, who prefer movies over reading a book. Slightly less than a handful, actually, and I guess they really aren't bonafide friends. They are people I know and wonder about.

Take Audrey. She loves the movie My Fair Lady with Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn. Adores it. A stuffy London professor (eccentric maybe?) transforms a Cockney-voiced seller of flowers into a beautiful woman who speaks like the queen. Surely you've seen it.

Did you know the movie is based on George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion? I mentioned this to Audrey once and she told me I certainly had my facts mixed up. There are no pigs in My Fair Lady. Perhaps I was thinking of Animal Farm, instead?

Dear Audrey, I said, Pygmalion gets its name from Ovid's Metamorphosis. When disenchanted Pygmalion finds himself fed up with real women with real flaws, he sculpts a statue of the perfect woman and falls in love with it. The goddess Venus smiles down on Pygmailion and brings the statue to life.

But tell me what happens when you take something square and make it round to fit in a round hole? All you've done is made transportation possible. When the square thing arrives on the other side of the round hole, and it is lying here on a vast plain of open space, it suddenly has no need of its newly rounded edges. It begins to grow its points again.

What? said Audrey

There is a line from Pygmalion that goes like this. Eliza says it after her outward transformation is complete and inside, she is still the same girl . . .

Eliza! That's the same name! Audrey interrupted.

Yes it is. It goes like this. Eliza says, "I sold flowers. I didn't sell myself. Now you've made a lady of me I'm not fit to sell anything else. I wish you'd left me where you found me."

But she and the professor fall in love at the end.

Do they? I said.

Abigail, you haven't seen the movie, Audrey said.

Oh but I have.

Then you've forgotten. Audrey smiled sweetly.

Audrey is 60-something. Younger than me.
She thinks I am eccentric.

Who can really say that all is well at the end. Who can really say Eliza stayed round. Learned to be round. Inside, where no one can see. Who can say?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ask Clarissa

Let's get one thing straight before we go any further.

I am not here to tell you what you want to hear. If that's what you want, you need to go call your mother or get a fan club or something.

I like to tell it like it is. I have never seen the sense of telling it like it's not. So you can expect a straight answer from me. All the time. That's just how I am.

You might be wondering what qualifies me to give advice. Here's the thing. We're all qualified to give advice, we're just not all qualified to give good advice. And the word 'good,' as you must already know, is a relative term. A book can be good, a child can be good, a day can be good, a pizza can be good. Advice is good if it helps you make a wise decision. Someone can give you really crappy advice but if it helps you make a wise decision, well, you see my point.

I grew up in a lower-middle class home, whatever that means. My parents have blue collar jobs, they own their home but every extra penny goes to make the mortgage payment. I have a brother and sister, both older than me, and I am paying my own way through college just like they did. I also had a younger brother. He died when I was 14. Leukemia.

I've been in love twice. Once in high school and once in college. But now I am out of love. Isn't that dumbest thing you've ever heard? In love one moment and out of it the next. Out of love. That just goes to show you it wasn't the real thing. I don't think the real deal is a space that is filled one day and empty the next. I don't think it's a space at all. I think it's a solid.

So there you go. There's my first conversation starter. True love is a solid. Got a question for me? An observation. A snarky response? Post it here.

~ Ciao,

Friday, November 7, 2008

Love, Lauren

Hey, Raul:

Finished all the corrections to Mercy’s diary. It was weird to press save, knowing I was really finished. Abigail was with me when I wrapped it up, sipping tea as usual. When I turned around and told her I was done, she said, “Well, that’s that.” But she and I both know that just isn’t true. Something is about to begin, not end. Prof Turrell’s editor at his publishing house has already sent me an email. It’s not like it’s a done deal - not by a long shot, but this guy is asking all the right questions. He wants to see the transcript. He wants to see the diary, too. If I am hesitant to travel with it, he told me he would fly out to look at it.

I asked Abigail what I should do and she said the diary was mine to do with as I saw fit. I really don’t think she cares one way or the other. She has fulfilled two life dreams that have been robbing her of peace for decades. She has given the diary to someone she trusts and she has the forgiveness of the one person she loved most and hurt the most. She has moved on. Plus, she is busy working on getting Graham settled here in Santa Barbara. He promised to get help with his gambling addiction and she is at a place where she wants to believe him. Esperanza is not so confident. She rolls her eyes at me every time Abigail mentions Graham’s name.

Anyway, I’m not sure what I should do. I know where the diary belongs. Ultimately it belongs to everyone. I suppose the best place for it is a museum like the Smithsonian. My dad says until I decide I should have it insured and transferred to his safety deposit box. He texts me everyday – I could strangle Cole for teaching my Dad how to text – bugging me about it. He’s right, I guess.

I think for now, for at least a few more days, I just want nothing to change. I want the diary to be mine and Abigail’s and Mercy’s – and no one else’s. For just a little while. I am already sensing loss thinking about how things will change. Makes me feel melancholy. Tell me I’m not being selfish.

I should go. Got a paper due tomorrow. How did your clinicals go?

Miss you,
Love, Lauren

p.s. Tom Kimura’s obituary appeared in The Oregonian yesterday. My dad told me. Texted me actually. I didn’t tell Abigail. Should I?