strawberry season

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the strawberries in this town are ridiculous. i don’t know if it’s just trader joe’s, or southern california, or maybe the entire state, but every box i’ve bought recently has been filled with berries that are ripe and sweet and flavorful. i was slated to bring dessert for a beach picnic yesterday, and had decided to bring some white chocolate-dipped strawberries. but as i was washing them into a colander in the sink, i popped a couple stray ones into my mouth, and they were so sweet and delicious straight out of the box, it was almost painful to dip them and disrupt the taste with a melted chocolate coating.

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but obviously i did anyway.

now i am inspired to make more of this strawberry season. i made a detour to the market earlier today to pick up more boxes of berries, and this evening i am making that strawberry pie that i posted about earlier. it piles a couple pounds of fresh fruit in a crumbly cookie crust, unadorned except for a saucy glaze made of more strawberries. the pie is for my dad, because today is his birthday.

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over the last couple months, i’ve found cooking is my ticket back home. i returned a while back and spent an afternoon in the kitchen with my mom, relearning how to make the fried rice and dumplings that had been so present in my childhood… and relearning how to talk to my mother. and now perhaps it’s my dad’s turn. i remember saying that this would be the year i’d remember to be a daughter, and for once i feel like i’m starting to do things right. strawberry season is magical in all sorts of ways, i suppose.

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traces

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i work not very far at all from where my parents live. i stop at home on a pretty regular basis to pick up this or that, but because of their work hours, i rarely see my mom and dad and often have the house to myself. sometimes i feel like a ghost in the house i grew up in, coming and going, leaving traces of my presence behind: the tv turned to a different channel, shuffled issues of magazines, or – when i’m feeling like a good daughter – a rack of just-washed dishes.

tonight i dropped in to do a load of laundry as i sometimes do. while the machine rumbled and whirred the week’s clothes, i went out the screen door to the backyard and sat at the patio table with a book. under the broad umbrella, i sat down to enjoy the warm evening. there, i noticed a large double-wick candle, a box of matches, and a couple grains of rice left on the seat. i put the pieces together and stitched an unfamiliar image of my parents’ life at home. they, too, like to take their dinner outside on a pleasant, almost-summer night? they buy heavily scented jar candles and sit by their glow?

sometimes it’s strange to think you are like your parents, especially when all you’ve felt these past years is the distance. then suddenly without even trying you find your habits tracing over theirs, effortlessly, with no thought to it at all. sometimes it’s the bad habits, like my mom’s stubbornly nocturnal sleeping routine, but today it was nice to draw the pretty lines back to my family.

bits of green

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i have a thing for this fig tree. when i signed the lease for this little apartment (my first, my only), it was not there. there was nothing but a square of cracked dirt that lay outside the living room window. but by the time i moved in, there it was. a good, kind neighbor had planted it with hopes of seeing a garden come to life, inner city smog and grit be darned. since then, it has grown to be quite a handsome specimen, and i like to watch it as the seasons grace its limbs with change.

summer is grand, of course, when the branches are ruffled with the broad, green leaves and the ripe fruit hangs heavy and deep purple. but the time – mere moments, it seems – before spring fully sweeps in… it’s something else. the slender, knobbled branches remain bare as can be, except for the cutest bits of green that miraculously crack their way out of the dry bark. in each baby leaf i can see its full-size future, and it’s thrilling in the simplest of ways.

as i prepare for a few changes of my own, i like knowing that this tree stands stately outside, quiet in its cycle of growth and steady just the same.

home for dinner

tonight, five of us decided to have one last get-together after our classes had ended, and one of the women offered to have the dinner at her house. it was a simple affair – a light salad, sparkling water, parmesan chicken, pasta tossed with fresh vegetables – but it felt so very luxurious to sit down before it. when i first walked in the front door, she was shaking vinaigrette together in a tupperware container, then spooning out petite portions of the salad onto little white plates to be set at each place at the table. i knew then that the salad would taste wonderful. maybe part of the charm was the candlelight, too; i am always a sucker for candlelight. everything bathes in that low gentle glow, and the bustle of the day quiets down accordingly.

it was also, i realized, the comfort – and utter relief – of being cooked for. i always manage to be surprised at what a tender thing that can be. weaving my way through every day as a 20-something, drinking in every moment and hoping it will lead the way to where i’m really supposed to be, i carry my independence around like a suitcase. it is a constant companion, teaching me how to pay my bills on time and get my car serviced regularly and eat at least two meals a day… and often i forget what it’s like to set my bags down. but sometimes, all it takes to feel like i’m headed home again is to be offered a meal in someone else’s.

we ended the night with brownies, deep and dark and topped with raspberries, and with gratitude for a bit of peace in the middle of the city.