Today's #TributeTuesday is a sweet remembrance from Ben Wedeking. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and memories of Claire.
"I was disappointed to break a dish of my late grandmother’s last Thursday night while I was cooking. It was a small bowl, off-white, with sides that flared out instead of rising straight up, and it was painted with a leafed oak branch. The issue was I had a teapot and a soup pot on the stove while I was cooking, even though they weren’t needed. The action was happening in the skillet and saucepan, and my foolish plan to perch the skillet’s lid on the soup pot resulted in a big mess when the lid fell, knocking my grandmother’s bowl from the stove to the floor.
I collected the broken pieces and left them on a plate on my kitchen table, still dirty with food and grime from my floor. Though I have another identical bowl, the thought occurred to me that I could try to find an artist who does Kintsugi, the recently-internet-popular Japanese art of repairing broken bowls with metal-mixed lacquer. My mother arrived on Saturday and when I told her of the bowl, she encouraged me not to worry, my life would be so different from my grandmother’s. I’ll probably get rid of the shards.
On February 18th a year ago, I made cinnamon rolls for the first time, trying to be affirmative about being more like Claire; cinnamon rolls were a specialty of hers. My father was visiting, and he was sitting at the kitchen table while I rolled out the dough on the table’s other end. Not noticing how close his water glass was to the table edge, I threw the rolling pin to the dough time after time until the glass fell to the floor and shattered. I grabbed some tools and got on my knees to start sweeping up the pieces. That glass, simple but cheerfully adorned with lemons, was one I kept from the time I lived with Claire. I cried, and Dad didn’t need to tell me my life would be so different from Claire’s.
Sometime in 2013, I was helping Claire cater a reception for a student recital at Indiana University in Bloomington. I would occasionally offer an extra arm to stir, but mostly I was entertaining myself in the living room while the alchemy happened in the kitchen. When all was prepped, I helped her load up the car and we drove off, a bit late. When we parked across the street from the venue, Claire loaded up her arms with so much that I warned her. She almost made it, but the sausage phyllo rolls fell and the dark blue serving bowl broke into pieces. I told her she tries to do too much, and it wasn’t until she apologized to the recitalist’s mother that she started to cry. I never apologized to Claire for scolding her, but I’m so glad she never stopped reaching.
My grandmother lived to be 95. She had six grandchildren and some of the next generation too. Sometimes I’m upset that Claire missed the opportunity to build a tree. I wonder about the dishes she would’ve passed down to her grandson. Other times I’m upset with myself, remembering easily that I scolded her, or that I broke up with her, leaving her to wander into a violent world. The pure loss settles in too, when I realize I lost my friend, someone who knew me fully, a great dancer, an imaginative mind, a musician, a dentist and all the other things she was.
Though I remember how heartbreaking it was to lose that lemon glass that fell to the floor a year ago, I’ve recently chosen to part with another gift from Claire, a heavy 12-inch skillet. The non-stick coating is long past the point that justifies continued use, and Claire herself would certainly disapprove of using the pan at this point, savvy as she was about public health concerns. So I went out and bought a new skillet, a brand new Calphalon one with a lid. Maybe it’s some solace that the skillet that replaced Claire’s was the one that broke my grandmother’s bowl and brought to mind all these memories. Even more so since I was using the new skillet to make a sauce from roux, a skill Claire taught me. She shaped my life by her gifts, her teaching, her words, and her love. As best I can, I’ll let her lessons and her life ripple through mine. For the few things I still have that were hers, I’ll treasure them while they last."