Since our insufficiently symbolicmourning dove experience, I've been living vicariously through my friend Deb, whose new friends Habigail and Nanook took up residence on her amazing Long Island City fire escape garden. Habby and Nanook produced two eggs, hatched them, and now spend their days nuzzling their clutch in an excruciatingly cute manner and taunting Deb's cat, Icky. I am so jealous.
The Medinilla magnifica started blooming last week, and every day it grows more magnifica and otherworldly. Sometimes I fear it might eat the rose geranium, which taunts it - fragrantly - from the windowsill, and which has also grown exponentially since Bonbon gave me a cutting to plant.
I haven't been around much, and my container garden has suffered. I've more of less kept up with the houseplants - the wild, ecstatic geranium, the Tiny Tim tomato plant that seeded itself in February from last year's crop (also from Bonbon), the Jasmine I bought from Trader Joe's. They sit on the sill and stare longingly at their breathern on the balcony.
But everything that lives outside is marked with neglect. This winter caused a bloodbath – several roses gave up the ghost, the Japanese maple went south, half the terracotta pots split open, and several of the IKEA wood deck tiles we put in rotted out. Considering that I've done the bare minimum of pruning, feeding, watering, planting, and tidying, the balcony looks a lot better than it should. Soon we'll have strawberries and clematis and whatever's left of the roses, with a tiny plot of arugula and lettuces (even a truant can open a seed pack, scatter, and hope for the best). I feel as though I'm being unfairly rewarded for horticultural neglect.
If I am home before dark, I climb out onto the balcony with a gin and tonic, survey what needs to be done (underplanting, staking, pinching), stare at all the bare patches of soil and the first signs of blackspot and...do absolutely nothing. Something in me just wants to sit for a while and appreciate that the sweet spontaneous earth has carried on very nicely without my poking and prodding.
Friends, it's been a while. Though I haven't been here much, I've carried you with me, and feel the warmth of your goodness and kindness, always. I owe you an update, but somehow I let things build up until they seem too formidable to tackle all at once, so today I'll just start with what's on my mind this morning. And that would be...eggs.
Huevos, Part I
A few days after my dad died, a friend brought us a dozen eggs laid by her chickens. Amid all the elaborate floral arrangements, gift baskets and gigantic deliveries of cold cuts we received through the generosity of friends and family, this offering stood apart in its purity, simplicity and symbolism. Eggs – the promise of life eternal.
Huevos, Part II
Then, Victoria and Albert, the mourning doves, made their nest outside my parents' bedroom window. We were so excited that they had chosen us, so touched by how content they seemed sitting on top of their eggs through snow storms and gale force winds. It seemed like my dad had orchestrated the whole thing to console and distract us during those dark days. It seemed like the universe had sent us the avian equivalent of my parents - devoted, steadfast, loving.
But then Victoria and Albert started to look confused and nervous. I told a friend about it at a party.
She thought for a moment, and said, haltingly, "I don't think eggs are viable. In a few days, the doves will probably realize they're not going to hatch and take off."
"Oh, God - are you serious? What am I going to tell my mom? She'll be so crushed."
"Shit, I don't know. Get her a puppy?"
I didn't have to tell my mom. The next day, Victoria and Albert abandoned the nest with one unhatched egg and one, teeny-tiny furry thing that didn't make it.
My mom peered into the empty nest. "So much for symbolism," she sighed. When you're down and out, it's hard not to look for signs everywhere.
Nature, I shake my fist at you. Why are you being such a bitch to my moms?
Huevos, Part III
Some days are harder than others. Today is a not-very-good day, for example. If my dad were alive, we'd celebrate him with birthday candles and chocolate cake that he'd inevitably get all over his moustache. My mom would buy him a pretty shirt and a bowtie and his grandchildren would climb all over their Poppi. We have no one to spoil today. It's hitting my mom the hardest.
"I need something to nurture." By "something" she means something small. Something helpless. Something cute.
"What about a puppy?" I say.
"I'd rather have a baby."
I know where this is headed. I was born a year almost to the day that my mom's beautiful sister died of cancer. Babies are consolation for the bereaved. The hints are becoming less and less hinty.
"But wouldn't a puppy be great?"
I try not to rise to the bait. I stall. Stalling is what I do best. See also: avoidance. Meanwhile, I have dreams that my eggs aren't viable. I wake up feeling bereft.
Huevos, Part IV
Strangely, all I want to eat for breakfast - or anytime, really - is a fried egg on a corn tortilla, smothered with hot sauce. Blowing up my sinuses with cayenne seems to be my preferred method of distraction, along with Game of Thrones. Sometimes I consume them together and speak Dothraki to my husband. In fact, these three things - egg tacos, Game of Thrones, and my husband distracted me from the dread I felt all last week.
Huevos, Part V
Part of the dread had to do with the prospect of asking my workaholic boss for a bizillion vacation days in a row to take a big trip this summer. I ran the idea by my friend at work.
"It's takes a huge pair of huevos to ask for that."
"Shit. I don't have any huevos. I'm working with a serious huevos deficit."
"You better grow some if you want to take that vacation."
I still haven't asked. I don't have the huevos. I need the huevos. I must have the huevos, otherwise I'll let myself down.
Huevos, Part VI
The other part of the dread was getting through our first holiday without my dad. Greek Easter is a big deal in my family, and even though he was thoroughly Protestant, my dad was always a big part of the proceedings. I always looked forward to taking Good Friday off from work to prepare for the feast, meeting him at Ninth Avenue International Foods to pick up Greek goodies, and then swinging by Poseidon Greek Bakery to buy tsoureki, a special Easter bread. This weekend, my mom and I quietly went about our preparations, pausing momentarily to sob over some detail that reminded us of his absence.
Mom: "I CAN'T FIND DADDY'S PLACECARD! WAHHHHHHHHHH!"
P: "I FINALLY DYED THE EGGS PERFECTLY AND DAD'S NOT HERE TO SEE IT! WAHHHHHHHHH!"
Mom: WHO'S GOING TO SIT IN DADDY'S CHAIR? WAHHHHHHHHH!
P: WHERE SHOULD WE PUT DAD'S PHOTO? WAHHHHHHHHH!
What can I say? Stoicism is not in our genetic makeup. But the eggs were unprecedented perfection – a deep, even crimson, polished up with olive oil - and a different thing altogether from the patchy, leprotic eggs of years past.
The eggs were my dad's domain. He would have been so pleased that after countless years of trial and error, we finally got them right. If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can almost hear his voice – I can almost make out the words he'd say. My God, Tata Baby. Those eggs are spectacular.
P.S. One of these days, I'll write a post that isn't about dreading death, dying, and being sad about death and dying. I may one day even get my sense of humor back. If you hang with me until then, I'll give you a baby panda wearing earmuffs, or a tiny baby kangaroo riding on the back of Simba, it's adopted lion mother. Your choice. xox