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May 2011
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July 2011

My Someday Something Blue (Four Years)

I'm perched on the edge of your bed, fingers traipsing through your jewelry box, admiring this piece and that. It is strange looking through your necklaces and rosaries while you lay in the living room.

I find a St. Francis medal and laugh. We had been in the kitchen as you washed dishes and I dried. You told me you were praying to St. Francis on behalf of my marital status. The patron saint of lost causes. I might have been offended but you reassured me that this was who you prayed to while you were waiting for Grandpa to propose. Since you've been married for almost 57 years, I'd say it turned out all right.

Even though I don't believe in praying to saints, I tuck the medal away. One more reminder of you and that day. It seems a lifetime ago, instead of a few months. I can't wrap my mind around these changes or think about all that you will miss out on.

How is it possible that you'll never witness my walk down the aisle or cradle the babe I hope to someday birth?  No matter that I'm not guaranteed either will happen. I just thought you would be there, the way you always have been.

It's almost two months since Aunt Teresa died. We are only now getting around to going through her clothes, photo albums, life. Making the piles doesn't ease the loss but we still open drawers and file items away. We say we are making things easier for Grandpa, for after. But maybe we're making it easier for us too. It seemed a natural progression to move on to other rooms.

Still, I knew my place. I could go through Teresa's belongings but not yours. Not until Mom summoned did I peer into your room and collection of baubles.

I don't remember noticing your jewelry before, though these bits and pieces are somehow familiar. How to pick out that which you hadn't yourself bequeathed to me...what was here that would remind me of you?

This is a rare moment in which I'm glad to be the only girl living in-state. Always outnumbered by the boys, today I have no competition and there is no rush.  Mom and the aunts have had first choice and now it's my turn before Clara and Emily arrive by plane.

And then I see it, lopsided from its weight, a large spot of unexpected turquoise. It is not your style but it is perfectly mine. No one remembers seeing you wear it.  But it's here, in your jewelry box.

The design is faded, indicating it was well-worn by someone. All I want to do is to wake you up and ask you about this ring. Did someone give it to you? Did you buy it while out in Arizona visiting your twin? Did you ever wear it?

You might wake up but your mind would be too hazy to remember.  The season for asking and talking and laughing with you is over.

I know with certainty that this is my ring now and I hope that no one else wants it, sighing with relief when it's mine to claim. It fits on my ring finger, which is strangely apt, as if you and St. Francis were conspiring.

It's not a fair trade, you for this ring, but the cancer didn't ask for our opinion.  I wear it for the rest of the weekend, the week, and then your funeral.

I don't know why this not-you turquoise ring speaks to me so. On days that I'm missing you, I put it on and feel a little more OK, a little sassier, a little more me.

And that's what I've needed this past week. You've been gone four years now, Grandma. I wear your unexpected ring and remember all of our talks, how you led by example and taught me so much. How faith in God was your greatest priority and then your family and friends. You deeply loved and were loved deeply in return.

If your then prayers to the patron saint of lost causes someday pay off, this ring will serve as my something blue. I know you won't be looking down on me that day; that's not how heaven operates. But I'll look at this ring and remember and hold you close in my heart just the same.

My Famous Baked Mac and Cheese

The roots of this recipe go back to my first Dinner Club.  It was Kibibi's turn to host. The star of the show was her baked mac and cheese. I'm sure the rest of the meal with amazing but we are all enamored by this cheesy decadence.

I begged Kibibi for the recipe, which she gladly passed on.  I believe her aunt was the one who came up with it.  I've tweaked it in the years since and made it my own. If I happen to mention that I'm making this mac and cheese, friends invite themselves over or mention they're drooling over the memory of the last time I made it for them. 

It is that good.

Now you may wonder why I'm posting a hot dish recipe when it's been in the 90s here.  All I can say is thank God for air conditioning!  I was in need of comfort food last weekend and this fit the bill.

Baked Mac and Cheese
1 lb. any type of pasta, cooked and drained (I prefer penne (big) or ditalini (small))
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1/2 c. mayonnaise (do not substitute Miracle Whip)
1/2 c. sour cream
4 c. cheddar cheese
Reduced Fat Cheez-its, crushed, about half a box's worth
1/2 stick butter (optional)

While the pasta is cooking, prepare a 13x9 casserole dish with cooking spray.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together mayonnaise, sour cream, and cream of mushroom soup.  Once blended, add cheese and mix well.

When pasta is al dente, drain the water and then add to the mayo-cheese concoction.  Then spread this into the casserole dish.  Sprinkle the crushed Cheez-its on top, as much or as little as you'd like. This will add a nice crunch and texture to the mac and cheese.  If desired, cut the butter into pats and place these at regular increments on top of the Cheez-its. The butter takes it even further over the top!

Bake for 45 minutes or until Cheez-its are slightly browned.  Prepare to be delighted and then adored by all who enjoy the Mac and Cheese!

If only there was a way for you to see just how cheesy delicious this is!