Monday, January 29, 2007

Coming Up For Egg Yolks ...


The past few days have been a bit of a blur.

Mom turned 65 on Saturday. My mother is a terribly hip woman. No one believes that she's 65. She wears nearly no makeup but is strikingly beautiful with a mane of silvery hair she keeps pulled back in a ponytail. It used to be a braid, but two months ago she had 10 inches cut off and donated it to Locks of Love. So she's letting it grow out again. She has a simple, unique sense of style. She's often complimented on her clothes. She's the kindest person I know, always willing to lend a hand. Everyone she encounters on the street is left with an "Enjoy your day." I believe many people are taken aback by her friendliness in this world in which so many seem not to care.

Instead of cake, mom wanted tiramisu. Well, I'd never made tiramisu before, but she had and promised it was easy. So Thursday night, I bought the ingredients, and Friday afternoon, I made it. A lot of it. Tiramisu recipes have rather large yields, I now know. And there was a moment when I thought, "Ah, crap, that can't be right," after I'd cooked six egg yolks and a cup and a quarter of sugar over a double boiler. But it all came out OK in the end.

Tiramisu, if you hadn't already surmised, is not good for you. Health-wise. A lot of egg yolks and heavy cream and mascarpone cheese. Yes, health-wise, it's a nightmare. But it's terribly good for your soul.

So, with a vat of tiramisu in the fridge, I headed out to my favorite florist to pick up some flowers for her. Mom always buys me flowers for my birthday. I don't always buy flowers for hers. But this birthday was especially special. I took the vase to her house, a simple little arrangement of roses and her favorite fillers, and mom, being mom, almost started to cry. She's inordinately unaccustomed to kindness, despite being so kind herself. She never expects it in return.

I picked her up an hour later and headed downtown. I have a subscription to The Goodman Theater and Friday was the second play in the series. Mom wanted to go. We walked down Dearborn, past the theater. Mom pointed to the building. "Aren't we going in there?" she asked.

"No," I said. "We're going to dinner. Curtain's not until 8."

Her face brightened. "Oh! Where are we going?!"

I took her to The Grillroom Chop House, because it's relatively close to the theater and because I can always get a reservation there without much notice. And, there, lamb is on the menu. Mom loves lamb.

She ordered chicken.

We both loved the play, August Wilson's Radio Golf, his last play. The set design is amazing. The best set I've ever seen. I must drop a note to the set designer with my compliments.

The next morning, I called her early. I headed to the bakery that makes her favorite long john (an oblong donut with vanilla glaze, for those who've never heard of them) and thought, "It doesn't look open." Oh, no, it wasn't. It's so closed, it's for lease. So much for that idea.

But another bakery was able to meet my needs, and provide an apricot cheese danish, besides. Mom loves apricots. Mom loves cheese danish. Score!

I took her presents and cards to her house along with the treats. Dad had already procured chocolate donuts and an almond crescent. It was a weekend of food. She opened her presents - a cookbook I knew she'd like (because I want it, too) and a book on learning to meditate and a CD to aid in such, and a book on creativity (because hers needs a jumpstart). Her favorite thing? One of the cards.

Card shopping can be a joy or a chore. You have to be in a card-buying zone. Friday, between the tiramisu and the flowers, I found the perfect card. Doreen's rule - a good one - is one funny card, one mushy card. I found a suitable mushy card, too. A "Mom" mushy card, not "Mother." Do that many people really call their moms "Mother"?

But back to Saturday: I came home for a bit while Dad got ready and mom ran to church. As I was leaving to pick them up, I noticed my mail had arrived. There was a large padded envelope from L.A. Dave. He sent my mom a card and CD. I put them on the passenger seat of my car, facing the door. When mom went to get in, she saw the card and looked at me. I shrugged and smiled, as if to say, "Gosh, I don't know how that got there." She was very touched that someone she's never even met would take the time to send her birthday wishes.

We headed to our favorite Chinese place. It's New Life on Irving Park Road, but we call it Mama's, because every time I go in there, the cute little Chinese woman asks, "How's your mama?" Mom took Mama flowers. Mama returned the kindess by sending home extra takeout. We ordered three things. She sent home five (the extras were egg rolls and an order of pork fried rice, because she knows I love it). Mom wanted to buy boxes of tea. Mama wouldn't let her pay for them. And she included three packages of almond cookies, too. We left her a big tip. "Why you leave me so much?!" she asked. "Because you gave us so much!" we said.

What goes around truly comes around.

She told my mom, "I love you!" and hugged her, five times.

Mama, by the way, told us that she might have to close, that business just isn't the same since she moved to that location. She used to be on Waveland and Halstead, right by my first apartment. I've been going to Mama's for a long time. We cannot fathom a Mama-less world. So, if you live in Chicago, start going to New Life. It's truly the best Chinese food I've ever had. Help save Mama's!

After an afternoon of shopping (Dad was thrilled, I'm sure, acting as our bank!), we headed off to my friend Nick's coffee house, Humboldt Pie (at the corner of California and Augusta, if you'd like to go - free wifi and great pizza, but the pizza's not free) to see Nick and have a beverage.

Once home, and hungry, mom decided she wanted pizza for dinner, so Dad called to order her favorite and we came to my house to have tiramisu while we waited for the pizza to be ready. Dessert first, as it should be.

And then we ate pizza and watched "Superman Returns."

Yesterday we had leftover Chinese food and pizza for brunch. And we finished the movie (we were all falling asleep Saturday night and threw in the towel). Mom and I attemped to do some shopping, but the snow that wasn't bad at her house was nearly a blizzard near the mall, so we headed home. When you can't see stoplights until your practically on top of them, you shouldn't be on the road.

So, the marathon birthday weekend is over. And I've returned to my blogging duties. I was telling my friend Jeff yesterday that I try to write every day. Jeff bookmarked my blog while we were on the phone. So if he checks, there will be something new for him to read. I used to work for Jeff, many years ago, when he was an advice columnist for the Sun-Times, a job he got when he applied to get a good angle for a Wall Street Journal story. Today, he's back at the Journal. He keeps telling me that I should be writing something that will pay.

As soon as I think of what that is, I'll do it. In the meantime, here I am.


Blogger Markbnj said...

I'm sure I said this before Beth, but I do like your writing style...


12:52 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Well, thanks, Markb. It's sweet of you to take the time to pay a compliment.

3:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like your mom is wise to Winston Churchill's advice: "We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give." Kindness costs so little, but pays such large rewards.

5:43 PM  

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