Had company over the weekend. An old friend whom I haven’t had a chance to visit with in about four years. It was great to catch up. As Rick would say, there wasn’t any stale air during the 48 hours she was here. Old friends are the best. Not that I don’t enjoy the new ones in my life. I certainly do. Fun to get to know their stories and learn more about them as your friendships progress. Old friends, however, know where all the skeletons are buried and continue to love you in spite of this. That’s a nice thing.
My oldest friend, Pattie, also my first sister-in-law, has been in my life since I was eighteen. Often in a leaky boat, she and I have weathered some impressive storms together. Over the years we have said goodbye to my husband, her oldest brother, shared quarters on two occasions, watched each other’s children, reveled in good times and survived the bad along the way. There is little she doesn’t know about me, other than what is still to be written. When we are together there is no necessity for pretense. We are, as they say, who we are.
Our youngest children, both boys, were born two weeks apart. At the time they were born between us we had a four year old, a two and a half year old, a one year old, and two newborns. Living in Southern California when I conceived, five months into my pregnancy my husband was offered a job in the Seattle area. Bellvue, Washington to be specific. A lovely place to be, if rainy. When he accepted the position we were unaware our timing was off. The aerospace industry providing jobs to Seattle and surrounding cities was about to hit a rough spot creating massive layoffs and a sinking economy. People were abandoning the Puget Sound like lemmings bailing off a cliff. Signs outside apartment buildings with too many vacancies read “free stereo when you sign a lease”, or “three months free rent”. Landlords were practically paying prospective renters to move in.
Already established with an obstetrician and a toddler at hand, we decided my husband would relocate first. Arrangements were made for my daughter and I to stay with my parents until the baby was born. At the time this seemed like a plan. However, having my mother fussing about me like a bee tending a freshly bloomed daffodil proved a bit daunting particularly with the mood swings prevalent when pregnant. If I burped she dialed 9-1-1.Both my children were born in the heat of summer. Those of you planning on conceiving in an area known for hot summer months need to think about this when orchestrating such an event. Contrary to rumors pregnant women do not blossom or glow in extreme heat. I’m just sayin. Well, your body blossoms. Oh, and your feet, though you rarely see them, would serve adequately as flotation devices. No glowing is involved in 100 degree heat other than if you count the glistening sweat extruded while extricating your bulbous frame from wherever you might be seated.
As the due date rolled around I found I was well past ready. Two weeks later I was eying the salad tongs. Perpetually late once born, my little guy didn’t disappoint when he was due to arrive. Three weeks to the day beyond his projected arrival date he issued the first signal he was ready to make an appearance. Thinking it was the brussels sprouts from dinner the night before rather than a labor pain, I tagged along to the market with my mother. Standing in the vegetable department my water broke. Mother, losing her mind, ran about the fruit bins screaming, “a baby’s coming”, “a baby’s coming”. Paul Revere couldn’t have alerted the citizens any better. True to her shopping gene she stopped at the cashier on the way out and asked if they’d hold her basket and it’s contents until later. Okay.
Six weeks after my son, a healthy 6 pound 13 ounce boy, came into the world my husband arrived to gather his new family and take us to Washington. A two bedroom apartment with a view was waiting for me. Just settling in, a pink slip arrived with his paycheck and fifty other employees three weeks later. There we were. Jobs at a minimum, moving once again had to be considered. Fortunately he had not signed a lease so our options to move were open. But where?
Once again I packed up a house, two babies, and hopped in the car. With thirty-seven moves to my credit now, though I did not know it at the time this was to become a familiar experience during my life. Not sure what our next move might be we accepted an invitation to stay temporarily with Pattie, her husband, and their three children in the Bay Area. While there we were to share expenses, look for work and a place to hang out hats.
Arriving at the small house in Sunnyvale, California it became quickly evident the job and the hat hanging better be sooner than later. For three months four adults and five children, four and under, cohabited the small three bedroom home. The noise level at feeding time rivaled a jet engine before takeoff. Pattie, a Tupperware dealer, had every kind of container known to man. We devised a system of feeding and shared housework that actually would have served a commune well.
Her husband, a police officer, worked the night shift. When he went to work, we took over the bed. Pattie, came to bed with him when he got home and I watched the babies while my husband scanned the want ads. Looking back at it now I get anxiety thinking about it, yet when we talk of those times it is with affection.
Three months after we arrived we all breathed a collective sigh of relief as the last of our belongings were packed into the car. Oddly enough I missed the crazy days there for a while before settling into my own life once again.
I have been fortunate enough to have friends over the years who I have received help from and been able to offer help to. People having your back make life a little easier when going through tough times.
This tilapia is crispy and delicious atop the greens. Yum.
Cajun Fried Tilapia and Spinach and Veggie Salad
4 tilapia filets
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1 1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4-1/3 cup yellow mustard
Oil for frying
Pat fish with paper towels. Whisk together remaining ingredients except mustard. Slather each filet on both sides with mustard. Coat with flour/cornmeal mixture. Place in refrigerator for 1 hr. to set breading.
Heat 1/2″ oil in large heavy frying pan over high heat. Add fish to hot oil and crisp to light golden brown on both sides (about 4-5 mins. per side depending on thickness of filets). Fish should be flakey but not dry.
Spinach and Veggie Salad
1/2 lb. fingerling potatoes, halved
1/2 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed
1/2 lb. fresh asparagus
3 cups baby spinach
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup green onions, sliced
Salt and pepper as desired
Red wine vinaigrette
Cover potatoes in large pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook uncovered for 20 mins. or until fork tender. Drain and keep warm or warm up prior to assembling salad.
Cook asparagus and green beans in covered water until fork tender but still crisp. Drain. Keep warm or warm up prior to assembling salad.
In large bowl combine spinach, tomatoes, green onions, cooked vegetables and as much dressing as desired. Season with salt and pepper and toss well. Arrange on plate and place fish on top with lemon for squeezing.