A few years ago our beloved blue-point Siamese, Isis, died. To say hearts were broken would be an understatement. Several months later the desire to share our lives with a pet overcame our misery and we went in search of our new companion, a dog. The decision to switch species was based entirely on the fact that I am terribly allergic to cats and was enjoying being medication free. But I digress.
With a “humane society friendly” extended family we had one choice – adopt. Despite several false starts we found our new best friend, Dodger, a beagle basset mix. The owner was ill and wanted to place him before her condition deteriorated further and very much liked the fact that he would be going to a family with children who would undoubtedly fawn over him. So a well-trained Dodger came home with us.
Dodger was in our house twenty-four hours when he stole an unopened raisin bread off the kitchen counter and devoured it in its entirety. To fully appreciate the absurdity of this it is important to note that he has stubby basset legs and the raisin bread was pushed back on the counter. But this hound’s determination to find everything he could possibly eat propelled him off the ground and far enough onto the counter to claim his prize. We changed his name to the Artful Dodger and vowed to keep things as far back on the counters as possible.
In the few years we’ve had the Artful Dodger we’ve pretty much destroyed any and all good behaviors he once had. He’s well loved, ridiculously well fed and probably the happiest member of our family. He’s had many “bad thief” episodes, though I’m sure that nothing he’s stolen has made its way back to Fagan. For example, when he got into my older daughter’s halloween candy one year I know he kept it all for himself because we were seeing wrappers, and picking them up with new incarnations of their former contents, for days.
But it’s the Artful Dodger’s new talent that has prompted this writing. His ability to catch the wildest toss has become legend. He can actually leap several feet in the air, despite his stubby basset legs. He can catch while in any position and has been known to launch toward a morsel only to fall backward in his nearly 100% successful attempts to obtain the object of his desire. So we fear he may be leaving us in April, having become such an amazing catcher that we expect a letter any day informing us he’s been drafted by a Red Sox minor league farm team.
Let me tell you about my husband, Jim. He wants a Sugar-Mama and I think he’s earned it.
Sixteen years ago I took a four month leave to have our first child, Emma. It was a joyous time until I started exploring daycare options. What I discovered was that the people in the “baby rooms” of the local daycare facilities were overburdened and the children that got the most attention were the noisiest and most demanding. Emma was a really good baby; I was afraid she’d never get any attention. And for that privilege we were about to part with a high percentage of my salary. So Jim and I assessed our situation, decided to do without … well, everything and he said, “stay home.” He’s borne all the financial responsibility for our family ever since.
When our younger daughter, Abby, arrived thirteen years ago, I began to write professionally. Writing has a long apprenticeship, especially when you’re trying to squeeze it in during naps and after bedtime. Through the exhaustion of two small children and an unpaid pipe dream of glory my husband supported me, cheering every success. And with each corporate move he was determined that I let him handle more of that settling-in so I could get my writer’s groups up and running and get back to the novel I set aside. Through these many years I’ve honed my craft, published numerous essays and short stories, won six awards and written two novels.
We celebrated our twenty-first anniversary in June, our blackjack anniversary, and I’ve been feeling very lucky. After all these years of working I’m on the cusp of realizing my dreams. Excited though I am, I keep thinking about Jim. He made it possible for me to pursue my dreams. He’s been an amazing support. He believed in me when I ran out of belief in myself. He never wavered. He just keeps saying he’s waiting for me to succeed so I can be his sugar-mama.
So Jimmy, with success on the horizon, I’m using this very public forum to tell you how grateful I am and how absolutely incredible you are. I am soooo going to be your sugar-mama!
In my novel, Poles Apart, Frieda cooks. A lot. Now this is in no way surprising because Frieda is Jewish and Jewish women cook. It’s required – in the DNA or something. And Jewish women are good cooks. Very good cooks. I’ve never actually heard of a bad Jewish cook. Oh, you hear of the occasional badly made dish… For example, I had an aunt whose matzo balls were so hard I heard they were licensed by the American League for world series play. But I digress.
So Frieda cooks because her family needs to eat. But that’s just the beginning of why Frieda cooks. Frieda loves to cook and she knows that the mere mention of her cooking sets the mouths of those who know her to watering. She’s that good. People don’t even need to catch a whiff of the aroma. She loves that. But she also cooks because there is no Jewish culture without food. Food is used in religious ritual but it’s more than that. It’s about coming together around the table. No matter what else is happening in life, in the community or in the world, everyone has to eat and you might as well make it a celebration.
But my favorite reason that Frieda cooks is because Frieda loves. Deeply and completely. No matter what she’s up to, matchmaking, meddling in her family’s lives, or creating a feast, Frieda gives her love through the food she feeds them. And they feel the love in the eating. And that’s what really makes Frieda’s cooking so delicious.