Saturday, December 17, 2016

Kitchen Blizzard

Clic. Clic. Clic. My sandals sound as I walk across the kitchen floor. We’ll surely win first prize for The Absolutely Stickiest Kitchen Floor. My black pants wear white smudges. Flour. Powdered sugar. Blue food coloring adorns my fingers. Cookie dough has worked its way under my finger nails.
            I give each of my three granddaughters a job.
            “Who’d like to measure the flour?” I show Manuela how to bang the measuring cup on the counter to settle the flour.
Colomba flings her long hair in wide circles for several minutes. Then volunteers to separate the egg yolks.
Oh-Oh. Two yokes. Oops, the yokes break into the gooey whites along with pieces of shell. I demonstrate with the second egg. Again, two yokes. Tricky.
Pascuala has her hands on the glass sugar jar. I’d best give her a task with the sugar.
“We need one-and-a-half cups. Up to this line.” Crunchy sugar grains join flour on the floor.
They correct my Spanish. This is a first, but I don’t mind. I tell them, “It’s a deal. You correct my Spanish and I correct your English.”
Our first attempt using their great-grandmother’s cookie press is a disaster. Butter oozes from the press. An 85 degree day is not ideal for achieving the right consistency of cookie dough. We manage to pop one tray of cookies into the oven. The rest of the dough goes into the frig and we take a time-out for lunch. They wolf down spaghetti. Pascuala demonstrates her skill at counting from one to ten in Mapundungun, the Mapuche language. We devour the first batch of cookies for dessert.
Colomba suggests we start again, forget the cookie press and make patterned cookies with fresh dough. I send them off to put some ornaments on the Christmas tree, while I make a new batch of dough.
Manuela calls from the living room, “Sue, what’s your password?”
“For what?”
“Your computer,”
“We want to show you something on YouTube.”
“Please! Let’s get the cookies finished first.”
  They return to knead the dough into a compact ball and take turns with the rolling pin while Pascuala sings a song in a squeaky voice over and over again.
While they cut out the patterned cookies, I snap photos. Cookies in the oven, I get out the ingredients for the glaze. Pascuala yelps, “I burned myself!”
“Where?” I grab an ice pack from the frig and apply it to her elbow.
“We need Ziploc bags and rubber bands for the glaze,” says Colomba. They clearly have more recent practice with patterned cookies than I have and work well without my supervision. Soon the table, chairs, clothes and hair are dotted with globs of blue, red and green frosting.
While I’ve dropped my guard, they managed to take a dozen photos with my cell phone, photos of elbows and headless cooks.
“Damn! These cookies are stuck to the pan.” I pop broken chunks into my mouth.
Grandpa arrives and surveys the scene. The cookies are finished, and we all drift into the dining room. Pascuala trips and lands on the Christmas tree, her arm tangling with the tree lights. The girls want to play a new game with us, Mannequin Challenge, which requires us each to hold a body position while one films us. When the video maker sweeps the camera in another direction, we must change positions. No talking. No moving. Someone giggles. Then another. Soon all of us are laughing. Video maker gets frustrated. Try again. After five or six takes, we’ve had enough.
We sit down in the back yard, and I pass around chocolate ice cream bars. Manuela and Pascuala smear melting chocolate ice cream on their faces.
 Don’t know if I’m capable of standing up again.


Sunday, December 4, 2016

My Days

Tendinitis in my hip has me in the dumps. I’ve had to slow down, limit my walking. But the days go on; things happen to me or I make them happen – good and not-so-good, expected and unexpected.
My favorite moments are the good and unexpected. My neighbor-friend, Isabel, rings the doorbell. She holds a covered bowl in her hands.
“I’m hoping you’ll receive this.”
Is she bringing me food?
“My cat was about to kill it.”
An injured bird?
“Come in,” I say, “What is it?”
She removes the cover. “It has the most beautiful colors.” In the bottom of the bowl lies a multi-colored lizard – chartreuse, yellow and cyan – with part of its tail missing.
“I’ve seen these before,” I say,” but never here in the city. In fact, I’ve never seen any lizards in my backyard. Let’s check my “Wildlife Guide to Chile” to see what it is.”
We identify our visitor as a thin tree lizard “… females are always found within the confines of a colonized tree or fence.” This brightly painted fellow appears to be a male.
“Isabel, he may feel lonely in my garden. There must be a mate where you found him.”
“I’ll watch for another, if the cat doesn’t get to it first.”
“Shall we name him?” I ask. “How about Iggy? He is related to the iguana.”
I go outside and release Iggy into the shrubbery, wishing him luck.

The next day my clothes dryer breaks down. Oh, oh, is this the start of a chain of bad luck? A Chilean superstition has it that bad things occur in a series of three. The bright side of this incident is that I have a reliable repairman. The problem is just a disconnected wire, but… (isn’t there always a ‘but’?) the fan belt is about to break. He brings the part the next day, and charges me the minimum. Bless him.

Since I’m in the fix-it mood, I decide to take my car to be washed.  (Its last bath was about six months ago.) Opening the driveway gate, I notice a semi-flat tire. Sh--t. The tire has a faulty valve so I can’t put air into it. Off to the tire repair shop. The helpful man replaces the valve and inflates the tire, but…there’s a nail on the inner wall of the tire.
            “We can’t fix it here. It has to be vulcanized.”
“Where?” I ask.
He describes a place a considerable distance way, which I spot amidst road work and mall construction. I pull up to the open air garage.
“You’ll have to wait while I fix that lady’s tire.”
She has driven in RIGHT before me. I’m glad I remembered to bring my I pad.  I turn the ignition on and off to get some AC. Did I mention it’s noon by now and a very hot day?
When it’s my turn, I sit in a greasy, grimy red plastic chair trying not to touch anything. The fellow tells me it will take about half an hour since he must apply heat. My eyes tired,  I close my I pad and study my surroundings: advertisements for motor oil, an old calendar page of an Alpine scene, oil stains on the concrete floor and assorted tools scattered about.
At last, it’s ready. I zip home and gobble down a salad, just barely to making it to my physical therapy session – a wonderful, painful deep massage. Ricardo knows all the key points on my half-exposed butt, reassuring me that we will beat this.
Back in the car, heartened, I think maybe I can still make it to the car wash. It’s 5 p.m. Friday, a very busy time, but, what the heck, maybe I’ll be lucky. There are five cars ahead of me, but I decide to wait it out. At least, I’ll have accomplished what I started out to do in the morning. Two of the young workers at the car wash are Haitians. I know this because an influx of Haitian immigrants is adding some diversity to this insular country at the bottom of the world. Outside a building construction I spot two signs reminding the workers of the safety measures – one sign in Spanish, the other in French.

My week ends with a joyous occasion – a reunion of my husband’s family, fifty-three including twenty four children ranging in age from 6 months to 21. Two sons can’t make it, including our New Yorker, Nico. Several of the smaller cousins barely know each other but a swimming pool and water pistols break the ice. The day is recorded with a plethora of photos.
            In the waning light we all agree that we’ll have to do this again next year.