“Kerri! Kerri Eiker!” I heard my name called by a voice I didn’t recognize. I had just gathered my things, packed up what was left of my caesar salad (with extra anchovies), and had given all my friends hugs. I love my Sunday night ritual, a light dinner and drinks with my family/friends at the Braddock Inn. I often walk to the restaurant humming the tune from Cheers, (sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name…).
Whenever I hear my first and last name called out I figure I’m in trouble. I looked around. There was a woman beckoning me over to her table. Her hand high in the air. Her head down. “Hi” I said with a bright smile, a residual effect from both the wine and the hugs.
“I don’t like what your writing in your column lately.” I paused, my smile froze. “I don’t want to hear about your dates, or restaurants you go to. I want to hear about your family and your description of how YOU cook in YOUR kitchen. I want to hear about food that YOU’VE made.” She was adamant. I stood there, thinking of how to respond, she did not invite me to sit down.
My first thought was: yeah, me too! If I had things my way I would still be married, my children would be living at home, or at least very near by and we would have dinner together at least weekly if not every night. But that’s just not my reality anymore. When my heart was broken with my husbands abrupt departure from our lives the “Heart of the home “sort of fell apart as well.
I thought about my dining room table in the past. It used to be set every evening; six plates, the “good” silverware, wine glasses, a couple of bottles of sparkling water, and fresh fruit on the table.
“Whats for dinner tonight?” My son Jamie would always be the first to ask. And his response was always the same no mater my answer. I could say; Chicken pot pie, or tilapia with red coconut curry sauce, or baked stuffed avocados with crispy marinated tofu and his answer was always “Great! I’m so hungry!”
At our regular family dinners we would talk about our day, about the beach house we would be renting months away from that moment. Jamie would usually have his guitar handy and entertain us with his hilarious improv, usually picking on his sister with a song about the way she chewed her food, how she missed her mouth, and how she slurped her soup. Elizabeth would scream at him, which just made it all that much more funny. Laughter is a pleasant and healthy way to digest dinner.
I thought about my dining room table as I stood holding the top of the wooden chair at the restaurant. My table is now covered with anatomy text books, colored pencils , 2d anatomy drawings waiting to be colored. There is the substantial Gray’s anatomy book in the center of the table where the fruit bowl used to be. Index cards, 25 different colored pens, marbled composition note books and a bottle of ginkgo biloba (a tincture to help me focus).
“You know,” I finally spoke, my gaze down, looking through the table as if it were some sort of crystal ball showing me moving pictures of the heart of my home from the past all the way up to this present moment. I continued to stare through the table at my dining room table seeing my school books. “transitions are hard, and life would be sort of boring without them. Right?” I asked. I didn’t get an answer just a raised eyebrow. ”Its like a bomb went off in the heart of my home and while we all survived, the blast hurled each of us in different directions. My writing hasn’t changed. I just have a new story.” I assured her I’d be eating/and writing about plenty of awesome restaurant food. “The Braddock Inn is my favorite.” I threw into the conversation.
She smiled, sort of sadly, looking at the table as if she could see the image in my head.
“Oh you ordered the special!” I commented with excitement when her food arrived. Even though I was full my stomach growled at the Seared salmon with mango pineapple salsa, drizzled with a deep burgundy colored basaltic reduction. “Enjoy your meal.” I said with a smile.
I went back to the bar to order the special, “Pack it up for me okay?” I said to the bartender. And my school lunch was packed with gourmet food and material for another food story. “Heart of the home, right here now.” I said to my reader friend and held my hands to my own heart while holding tomorrows lunch. “I’ll look forward to your column.” she said in-between bites and with a big smile.