Monday, January 31, 2011

Days of Wine and Roses

I woke up this morning knowing what I was missing.  I felt a bit of guilt in this revelation I had.  (I hate that word guilt.)

*Disclosure:  While I have been writing some utterly honest difficulties with my mom and our relationship....there have been some amazing, wonderful times as well.    

I miss the dinners out.  Oh how I miss the fine food and expensive wine.  My mom pretty much stopped fixing dinners at her home, except for Christmas dinner every now and then after Papa passed away.  We went out a lot when he was alive but after he was gone there were no casual family dinners at her home. No BBQ's.   She gave the BBQ away even though my Love had offered to do the BBQing for her at her home.   She wanted to go out and she would call us to do this almost every other week.  No wasn't really an option.  If we had plans she would make it clear that by not going we had disappointed her and surely we could alter our plans or go the next night to dinner.  Frankly I became unable to make plans.  Just knowing my mom would call me and want to go out prevented me from making plans.  Over months and years I just expected her to call to tell us we were to go out to dinner on the weekend.  Looking at it now, I know I should have just said No and let her deal with it, but you would have to know my mom to understand how hard this is to do.  No is not a part of her vocabulary.

On one hand you could say what a treat to be able to go out to these wonderful restaurants, but all the invitations to dinners were annoying because I would have much rather gone to her house like we use to.  I would have liked her to come to our home for dinner which she didn't really want to do if she could help it.  She would tell me "You don't want to cook. We'll just go out".  Here we could have relaxed and not have to get fussed up in fancy clothes.  Following her stroke, her speech was much softer making it quite hard to hear her at a restaurant.  She would be talking but unless I sat right next to her with my ear next to her head I couldn't really understand her.  I attempted to explain to her that if we were at home I could hear her better but that didn't amount to enough reason to not go out for her.  Sometimes we would go back to her house after a dinner out and sit downstairs, try to talk though most of her talking centered around her life and friends.  We listened, nodded our heads and tried to be good company.  After an hour we would leave.  Our bellies full but our thoughts muddled.  

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The food, the glorious food at some of the best restaurants in the Bay Area!  We couldn't afford these places she would choose to go to.  She always paid the bill, always.  If we wanted to go to some place less expensive she would blow it off and say that she would rather go to a place she had in mind.  We tried, because at some point we would have liked to take her out to dinner but well, we do have to pay our mortgage and electric bill.  Paying the tab at her choices would have put us on the street.  If she resented that we didn't pay she never said a thing.  I felt like she wanted us to go as her chaperones so she had company.  All we could do was thank her profusely for taking us out.  Of course there were times we did get her to go to a less expensive place but one still in the Zaget book of which she wanted to consult.

It must be hard for a widow to still want to go places when you no longer have your significant other.  She would go out  with her friends and pick up the tab at their evenings out too.  Her friends claim they tried to pay but she would insist that she was paying.  It was non-negotiable.    Sometimes she would slip the credit card to the waiter before the dinner was over.  Sneaky mom.   

She loved putting a dinner party together at a restaurant.  She has done so many special evenings for her friends as well as for her family from time to time.  She gave me several very large surprise birthday parties at Trader Vic's with one time having Hula Dancers with their musicians.  We had the entire back of the restaurant with waiters all over the place, cocktails and wine flowing.  It was quite a show she would put on.  She would give one of her speeches and all of us would be captivated by her ability to create such an evening so effortlessly.  For my 5oth she did another big birthday bash but it wasn't my 50th but my 49th.  It was really funny for me to have to tell everyone that I loved being with all my  family who were flown in for the event as well as friends I had not seen in awhile, but that I was not 50 yet.  We joked that we could repeat it the following year.  All of her friends thought her so generous, and she was without a doubt just that.  Still it was almost embarrassing with all her extravagance.

Even if it was just the four of us she insisted we order a bottle of red and a bottle of white wine.  Now R. can't drink and most time she was the only one drinking white wine.  No matter, we must have a full bottle.  Never just any bottle either.  My Love made the sad mistake once of just ordering her a glass of white wine and she made it clear that it was not good wine.  

There were the dinner parties that she had the chef especially prepare a multi-course meal for friends and us.  She would call ahead to plan the entire meal from appetizers to dessert and several varieties of wine for each course served.  Yes, it was good. Very, very good!  Still, inside I just wished she could just contain herself and let us order from the menu. The chef would come out and ask us how the meal was and both my mom and the chef would ingratiate each other. 

A stroll down memory lane of  dining....Lalimes,  Prima,  Trader Vic's, Tourelle which became Postino (which was just as delicious) K. celebrated her 16th birthday with a special birthday dinner along with a magician, One Market, Mudd's, Citron, Garibaldi's, Tommy Toy's, Pican, Oliveto, Big 4 Restaurant before we saw and met Ravi Shankar and Anoushka perform, Clift Hotel's Redwood Room before we saw Phantom of the Opera, Fleur De Lys for her birthday one year, ......some still here and some gone....but what glorious food we had. 

Pican....E. and I thought we had died and gone to heaven with the Fried Green Tomatoes with sheep’s milk feta cheese, radish salsa and spicy buttermilk dressing...(we have tried to duplicate because we had to!), their tasty Buttermilk Southern Fried Chicken served with smoked gouda "mac and cheese",  and heavens for the Sorghum Lacquered Duck...mmmmm.

Tommy Toy's....Seafood Bisque ~ Oven baked in a fresh coconut, with puff pastry on stood out because of the uniqueness of it...but every dish incredible....

Lalimes.....fresh organic food perfectly prepared...delicate Black Cod served with a luscious broth and perfectly trimmed petite carrots and fresh green beans....

Trader Vic's....we went there so much...every special occasion.  Harry waited on us hand and foot...making our dinners feel sort of like home because we usually had our own room.  Pupus...of Cheese Bings, Crab Rangoon, BBQ Spareribs and Crispy Prawns.   Crispy Duck with mu shu pancakes,  fresh fish from the wood fire, Halibut or Mahi Mahi,  Won ton Soup,  Chicken Chow Mein with almonds... and always tea with fortune cookies, almond cookies and Trader Vic's mints.   It seemed like we went here so much we all finally burned out on it, but I know the memories of our "special times" will remain...Papa's big 80th Birthday Party a stand out in my mind.  Those years when the men had to wear a jacket to get in.  My Love had to 'use' one of the restaurants early on since he didn't own one.  You see all kind of dress there now.  No dress requirements except maybe shoes.

Our last dinner with my mom was last May 2010.  Two weekends in a row we ate at Oliveto.  I don't really see the fuss in the place personally.  I don't know why she decided that this was her new place to go back to.  Because it is upstairs we need to use the elevator which is down a long corridor of trash containers and such.  It was a long walk for her to go using her cane.  Parking is difficult to obtain as well.  She was convinced that Trader Vic's had closed down though it was just being renovated.  Those last dinners were sad for me.  I would sit across the large round table and straining to hear her and looking at her silly wig that was put on crooked.  I knew that her future was heading down a path none of us would know or be prepared for.  We were together and that was what meant the most to her I believe.

She goes out to dinner with her caregivers or her friends now.  We don't.  My mom can't call me anymore.  She doesn't have the ability to do this.  I call her.  Eating out never comes up and I don't ask.  I don't want her to take us out.  I don't think I can handle the change in her nor that fact that there is all the pretending that nothing 'really' has changed in her manner.  

I well remember those days of trying to get the kids 'dressed' for dinners out.  So much hassle, so many times running around telling them to hurry up and put something nice on.  Someone asking where are we going, why do we have to dress up, why can't we eat somewhere else and so on.  So many times I just wanted to scream.  I just wanted to stay home.  I just wanted to be a normal family who ate at an ordinary place where I could wear my jeans.  I would do it for Papa....I don't know why but I would and did.  I liked watching him choose a wine for the evening.  Watching him taste it as it was poured into a wine glass..."Yes, it's fine" he would say.  I liked him smiling at the kids asking them what they were up to.  They would answer him with faces smiling.  He had this way of making everything better.

Eating together as a family is the most important tradition I stand by.  We always eat at the table together in our home.  No phone calls.   If it was quiet so be it.  It there was a discussion so be it.  If there was laughter all the better.  These days with most of children elsewhere or caught up in their own lives, eating together still holds a specialness to looking into each others faces and eyes.  Listening to what is new or going on in their lives.  Sometimes I catch myself just absorbing the time together.  Photographing it in my head.  

Maybe we can't go to all those places we use to but hey, maybe once in awhile, for a special time we could if we really wanted to.  Times change, people age, places close, new places open.  Forward we go....I could use a bit of dessert now.  Can't forget about the desserts.....


Ms. Moon said...

Wow. Another side of your mother. And of course it was so generous of her to take you to dine at such places but I have to say- very controlling behavior. No saying no. No saying where you got to go or even what you ordered...
Your mama is something. I can see that from here.

Ellen said...

Mary....she didn't order for us all the time. Just at 'special' dinners. Otherwise we could choose. Frugal me..I still looked at prices and tried to be careful of what I picked. Never chose the most expensive dish on the menu. Can't help it. We came from very little and she was lucky to marry well.

Sara Louise said...

It sounds like your mom really likes the company, entertaining and good food. What a force she must have been!


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