Saturday, January 3, 2009

Hope for a New Year

As my friend Larry recently pointed out when I mentioned on Friday evening that he must be up to date on my life as he is a regular reader, I haven’t written for almost a week. Time flies when you are having fun! On Tuesday, we relaxed, watched t.v., and, like good parents, tidied up Ari’s home a bit and did his laundry. Ari needed to work a full day, so Jess, Alex and the kids (Sami’s fever had disappeared) met us at Pita Plus in College Park for the shawarma. The owner recognized us when we walked in and was delighted that we had come back two days in a row and brought four new diners as well. We had the same waitress as the previous day, a beautiful Ethiopian woman who had grown up in Israel. Alex was in his glory with the shawarma laffa and ordered another to go. We also brought one back home for Ari who was as happy as we were to eat the same delicious sandwich two days in a row. We shared a hot appetizer combo plate that included tasty tahina, felafel, schnitzel, kibbeh, and Moroccan sausages. Izzy and Sami loved the matzoh ball soup and Izzy demolished the complimentary plate of sliced Israeli pickles. Dinner includes the typical Israeli condiments: pickles, olives, beet-dyed pickled turnips, and a pickled carrot and cabbage salad. In Israel, some of the restaurants advertise 24 different types of salads the way American ice cream parlors advertise 24 different flavors. Alex told us that after the drive home, he worked out in his gym for a half hour, rested, and then ate the second laffa.

We drove Ari to work on Wednesday, New Year’s Eve day, and then went back home to pack our bags and wait to see if he would be able to leave work in time to have lunch with us before we left for Baltimore. He had plans to hang out with friends, some of whom were coming to DC from Philadelphia for New Year’s Eve. Jake, a California-raised fraternity brother from GW, whom Ari later found out was a distant cousin related to us by marriage, has moved to Philadelphia this past year. We missed him in DC, but hope he will visit us soon in Philly. He was sleeping over at Ari’s on New Year’s and we were spending the night in Baltimore.

While we were having breakfast at Ari’s, the weather went from bright and sunny to a violent snow squall in a matter of minutes sending half of DC into a power failure. An hour later, the sun returned and the winds died down. We picked Ari up from work at 1:30 and decided to drive to Wheaton for dim sum, but the trip took us almost an hour in traffic snarled by backups at various traffic lights that were dead. Thank goodness for the Prius’s nav system that helped us avoid major intersections with Ari detouring us by back roads to our destination. When we arrived at Hollywood East Cafe, they were freaked out because their power had just returned a half hour earlier. We were able to enjoy a late lunch, but New Year’s Day is one of the busiest days of the year for dim sum and losing several hours of prep time was a big hardship for them.

After lunch, we stopped at a bustling liquor store in Silver Spring to pick up Scotch for Ari to take to his friends’ party. He chose a 12-year-old Glenlivet Single Malt and sent an extra bottle with us as a gift to Alex who adores single malts. We dropped Ari at home, loaded our bags in our SUV, and drove to Baltimore. When we arrived around 6 p.m., Alex had already prepared 8 pizza crusts and a large variety of toppings for us to make our own pizzas. After making our personal favorites and putting them in the oven for a few minutes, we sat down together to a beautiful cheese and fruit board that Jess put together, and Alex’s world-class guacamole. After demolishing the pizzas, we all got into comfy pajamas and settled down with the girls under warm comforters on sofas in the playroom to watch the On Demand animated movie, Space Chimps. The movie (which was light and entertaining) and some other cartoons kept the girls awake until almost midnight, but put Alex and Jessica to sleep almost immediately. Izzy fell asleep at 11:45 p.m., but Sami managed to stay awake to watch the ball drop in Times Square. We all went to bed by 12:15 a.m.

We slept late on New Year’s day and when I awoke, I went downstairs and improvised eggnog pancakes from a recipe on the net with the girls which we ate with beautiful fresh strawberries and blueberries, whipped cream, and real maple syrup. In the afternoon, we went for a brisk walk through the neighborhood with Zeek on a leash, while Izzy rode her two-wheeler (which she now rides without training wheels) and Sami, her scooter. Shortly after returning, we arranged to meet Ari in Columbia, Maryland, for dinner at a favorite Indian vegetarian restaurant, Mango Grove. Columbia is about halfway between Baltimore and DC. We had a varied and beautifully presented repast there, but although we all ate the same things, Alex became ill on the drive home. The reaction was so immediate and so violent, that we think he may have an allergy to one of the seasonings in the food. He uses so many of the exotic spices in his own cooking regularly, that we can’t imagine which one it could be. He recovered very quickly.

Saul and I left early on Friday morning, stopping for breakfast at a Cracker Barrel at Exit 80 off of I-95. We arrived home at noon, just in time for Saul to put Agnes on the train so she wouldn’t have to wait in the cold weather. It had just begun to snow. Mom had been telling us all week that she felt awful, but that Agnes was very attentive to her needs. There is very little we can do for her now, only try to keep her as comfortable as possible and try to keep her spirits up. During the time when we were all together here last week, Ari and Jess had gone into the attic to try to find some chapter books for Sami. They came down with an old photo album with family pictures ranging from 1945 until 1960. We thought they would make Mom feel good about her life, but she cried after looking at them. Knowing how life had turned out badly for some of the family members made her melancholy.

While Saul was dropping off Agnes, I prepared the challah dough, and when he returned, went to Assi Market to pick up some produce for Shabbat dinner. We were joined by Ken and Randi as well as Larry and Beth. Randi came with the ingredients and mixed up pomegranate martinis for us as we finished preparing dinner. Larry brought a gigantic box of variously flavored popcorn, some chocolate covered, and some caramel and chocolate drizzled, which we had for dessert with fresh raspberries and blackberries, ice cream and French press coffee. Along with the challah, we had devilled eggs; potato leek soup; wilted spinach salad with hot sesame dressing, apples, oranges, pecans and fresh mozzarella; black and white rice; salmon burgers; Israeli salad; and kohlrabi coleslaw. We decided not to wake Mom as she was sleeping peacefully, but towards the end of dinner, she joined us and ate a bowl of soup. She opened some belated Chanukah gifts from Jamie’s party and immediately went back to bed.

Saul and I slept late today and did not go to synagogue. Rabbi Addison is away visiting his family in Israel and we were exhausted. Dealing with Mom on an hourly basis is very draining even though she sleeps for long hours and is mostly living on Ensure through a straw. The constant awareness that a life is, little-by-little, drawing to a close is a strain on us, especially since we are not getting any younger either. The awareness of our own limited mortality is in evidence almost all of the time. I spent most of the day curled up reading the new Saveur magazine from cover to cover, my own form of escape, as well as finishing up the New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle. We are looking forward to this new year which, God-willing, will bring a healthy new great-niece and a healthy new granddaughter. I hope that if this is to be Mom’s last year, she will go peacefully to her final rest without too much suffering. I hope the changes in our government will return us all to a more peaceful, prosperous and productive time in the near future.

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