Bowl Game

A bowl of beef bibimbap, with veggies. There's a pair of chopsticks and some red sauce on the side.

Shopping on Christmas Eve has different flavors. Some pick up a last item or two–like the roast for the main event. Some frantically pace and pounce because they didn’t shop and are without inspiration. They will likely settle for anything within budget. Then there are those who are simply celebrating the season.

The market was crowded with all of those people, and more. Strollers blocked walking space and the bar counters were lined with people having a drink. The cafe tables lining the walls and tucked in underused nooks were mostly filled. A big man was seated at one of the tables. He moved with great deliberation, slowly pulling his bowl closer to the edge of the table. He stopped to check the progress. He pulled it just a little closer.

He was likely six foot five or six foot six if he were standing. His head was rectangular, not a definite point to his chin, but he had one. While he was big, he wasn’t heavy. In his youth he may have been athletic. But his youth was decades behind him now.

He still had some hair on his head, and it wasn’t white. It was a sandy brown that made him appear younger. His hair should have been white, or gone. His gold framed aviator glasses held thick lenses. If you looked at his eyes through the bottom bifocal, they were magnified to bug level. He was wearing a button down plaid shirt. It wasn’t flannel and the plaid wasn’t wild. He had a camel colored ribbed sweater vest neatly buttoned over his midsection.

He wheeled in a little closer to the table. The armrests of his chair hit the tabletop, keeping him a little further away than he wanted to be. He pulled his bowl a closer. His hand trembled just a little bit when he picked up his spoon. He carefully aimed the spoon into the bowl. He leaned in to meet the spoon with his mouth. Some of the rice missed his mouth.

A woman with a dark, wavy bob maneuvered through the holiday crush of humanity. She had a lidded bowl between her hands, her pinky finger hooked around a bottle of spring water and two pairs of chopsticks wedged between the bottle and her ring finger. She was unhurried and without stress, unlike every other person in the market. She wore a holiday cardigan that was not ugly but that was a little warm for the day. It swung open offering people a glimpse of an “H” with an arrow and her checked politics. She wore smart walking shoes that didn’t look like walking shoes.

She used to hike with him when she was a girl. They’d go for long walks along the stream. Most Saturday’s they’d be in his boat, doing the morning fishing. Their discussions were mostly practical. Sometimes there’d be a lesson for her. His rule? If you want to eat it you have to clean it. He’d shown her how. When it wasn’t summer, she might tell him about school. He’d listen more than talk. She grew up and went away, but still walked with him and fished with him when she was in town.

She brought the lidded bowl to the table and took off the lid. It was pretty hot. She moved his bowl away from him. She pulled napkins from her bag and nestled one under his chin, draped over the top button of his shirt. He slowly moved his tremoring hand to his chest, where he methodically tamped the napkin flat. She blew across the soup in the spoon and moved it toward him. She looked into the lower part of the lenses of his glasses, her right eye asking a question. He nodded ever so slightly, his mouth starting to open. She put the spoon near his mouth and he tasted the soup. He nodded more definitely. It was good like she said it would be.

Now he was in her town. She put the spoon down as they sat next to each other surrounded by the frantic bustle of holiday. They were both content, to sit with each other as if they were on a small boat in the middle of the lake sharing the silence and enjoying time with each other. Later, she would stand behind his chair and push, and they would take their walk.

Gardenia of Eden

Gardenias. Pretty, no?

Holidays–including the made up Hallmark ones–are different for each of us.

I, for example, do not care for either Halloween or New Year’s Eve. Dressing up like a hot dog or a bird or a sexy fill-in-the-blank has very low appeal to me. I don’t like to be scared. I have too active an imagination to participate in the paranormal without imperiling my ability to walk upstairs when it’s dark. Forget the basement.

As far as NYE goes, there’s always too much anticipation for too little payoff. It’s supposed to be a magical night, but it’s more like a worn card trick than disapparating at an electrified finger snap. Increasingly holding up through midnight is a challenge for my peer group. It’s yawn, clink, kiss and goodnight.

You can like those holidays if you want. There are others that I really like alot–Thanksgiving, Christmas and Fat Tuesday, for examples. You, of course, have your own feelings about those.

Mother’s Day is one that confounds me. It’s a holiday of expectations.

I remember going to see my Grandmother when I was little. I have memories of sometimes dutifully and other times ardently creating cards or noodle necklaces or tissue flowers for my own mother. There was my own first Mother’s Day and the yearly boon of my own either dutifully or ardently crafted gifts. There were flowers sent to my mother and the Spouse’s mother for a number of years until one, and then the other, left us.

Mother’s Day photos and wishes fill up my social media streams. As the middle-aged people take over The Facebook, I’m seeing pics of our mothers from when they were younger than we are now. Glamor shots from their high school yearbooks or square prints from your baby albums with you nestled in your 20-something mother’s arms or bouncing on her lap. I see your eyes, your smiles, your chins and your noses in your mother’s sepia or faded kodachrome face. I see generational shots with long lost greats next to your baby whose grown cap and gown picture you posted this past week.

I feel the losses that you are posting about not being able to call her, or about her looking down on you from heaven or simply a “miss you.”

Absent is the other feels of people who don’t have moms, who aren’t moms, who have lost their children, who hate their moms, who are estranged from their families. There’s waiting by moms to be acknowledged by their kids. The dawning recognition that this will be another year that your family fails to recognize this day–and a lurking envy of people you see with breakfasts in beds, brunches and bunches of dozens. It’s like bittersweet jam, this Mother’s Day thing.

Last year, Baby Bear and I went to see The Avengers: Age of Ultron for Mother’s Day. We bumped into one of his old classmates leaving the theater with his mother. They also saw The Avengers, because what else says Happy Mother’s Day like a super-hero movie? This year the Bear is almost two-thousand miles away.

Yesterday I picked up a gardenia plant at the grocery store. It was a pretty unusual find next to the blueberries. Gardenia’s were my mother’s favorite flower. She would tell of her dates buying her corsages, and, if it was a quality guy, he’d have a gardenia. One year, for Mother’s Day, we bought her a gardenia bush. The scent from the flowers was intoxicating. It only delivered two blooms, but they made me dizzy.

I smelled the gardenia before I saw it with its dark green leaves and bright white flowers. I breathed it in, got a little woozy and put in it my cart. It seemed to me that I was buying a gift for my mother. I bought myself some flowers, too.

Today I got up and watched the yelling shows. I padded around in my pajamas until the afternoon. I made a second pot of coffee. Before The Big Guy went to work, he asked me for a date. We’re going to see Captain America. Because what else says mother’s day like a super-hero movie?

Have a happy day, no matter your position on moms or this greeting card holiday. And, for us, it’s Team Cap, mom and apple pie all the way.