I tend to get caught up in things: everything always has to be big, expansive, and in-your-face. It’s probably a personality flaw or something. Well. I’m about ninety-five percent sure it’s a flaw. In all honesty, I think the reason I do this is because I never feel good enough, smart enough, or accomplished enough to do things simply. I always think and feel that ‘bigger is better.’ I always feel as though if I want to show people how great I am and what I can do then I only have to make the biggest, baddest, most taxing, most aggravating, and most nerve-wracking thing I can do. Once I achieve that, then we’re talking success.
But that’s just not the case.
All I’m trying to do is make myself insane. And I’ll admit, I do a pretty fucking terrific job.
This Sviata Vechera is a prime example. Instead of choosing some totally bitching dishes to make for just the Solstice, I thought it would be great to make it a three-day event. I was thinking full on meals each and every day. I mean, I was trying to force myself into this little Betty Crocker, Sally Homemaker box that I just don’t belong in. I’m sure there are people out there who belong there, but it just ain’t me, kitten. I’m a bitch; a snob; a snot; a hot-headed freak; weird; silly; retarded… The list could just go on (and on). So, it was today after a truly hellish day (the highlights: I was bit by a dog; filed a report with animal control; called a liar; filed a report with the police department.), that I just realized that I couldn’t fucking do the whole shebang I had already planned out. I was waning and tired and I was losing the focus of all of this: ancestors.
And even though I wanted to be big and expansive (like I want with everything), it wasn’t the fucking point to this whole shindig. The whole point was to be focusing on my personal dead.
And you know, I have a lot of ancestors. I’ve got a mega-shit-ton of personal dead out there, but mostly, I haven’t gotten around to knowing them. This is mostly because in my short life (if one can say ‘almost thirty’ as short) I have lost a lot of loved ones.
When I was seven, the man who raised me as his daughter died of AIDS. (Side note: I first met this man when I was two or three. My mom said that the first time I saw this man as he came in the door, I raised my hands and said, “Daddy.” This was and is the man who I love/d so very, very much.) So, his death happened back in 1990. I remember being unable to tell me friends why he died because everyone still believed you could catch it by looking at someone wrong. I think what shits me the most is that if he had lasted just a few more years, he would have been able to survive longer with the triple cocktail. Either way, it really just wasn’t met to be. So, at the age of seven, before any of my pets had gone to the Big Farm in the Sky, my mom got to sit me down and explain to me about Heaven and death. She glossed over a lot of it, but I’m sure that’s because it hurt her the most.
Then, my grandmother (the mother of the man who raised me and died) died two years later. It was sudden and unexpected… I think. If I’m reading the conversations that happened around me properly, everyone knew that she had a heart condition. And everyone snarked at her to eat right and all that sort of the thing. However, my grandmother wasn’t a real big fan of listening. That’s probably why she divorced my grandfather back before divorces were cool. My grandmother was a beauty queen (true story) who married my grandfather. They had five kids together, my dad being the eldest born in ’52. (Gods. He would have been sixty next year.) Anyway, Wilma was just not a fan of listening and that’s part of the reason why she never woke up one morning. Her death really split everything down the middle in my family…
…after that, I didn’t feel like I belonged anymore. This is mostly why I don’t associate with that side of the family. However, both Daddy and Gramma retain a place on my ancestral altar because they made me feel real and normal and human. They loved me from the get-go. Neither one of them ever made me feel like I wasn’t blood related to them (and I didn’t find that out until I was ten or eleven). They made me feel a part of the family and they deserve that fucking spot on that fucking altar because they helped me and molded me and loved me.
I know they still love me.
Everyone else that I listed on my altar (I wrote down names of specific people) are from both my side of the family and from TH’s family. Although, I didn’t bother to tell TH that I was adding them. I’m not sure how he’d feel about that, to be honest. Anyway.
After my Daddy and other Gram, my grandmother from my mother’s side got her spot. Heh. There are a lot of stories about my grandmother… For one, she ruled the world from her kitchen table. She had chronic bronchitis, heart disease, and emphysema so she didn’t go anywhere. I loved going over to her house because they had skeleton keys in every door. Her real name was Joan, but she hated it so much that she had all mail addressed to her as “Jo Ann” even though she never legally changed her name. She was a looker way back when. She swore that she had fine blonde hair for years and years, but the second she got her first perm, her hair turned pitch black. She and my grampa got married because she was in the family way: they hid it from the family with little white lies about when they got married. There was a reason they moved four states away after they got hitched. Heh.
I added a bunch of people after that… My Great-Aunt Florence and her son, Papa, who married Wilma after she divorced her husband. I added TH’s stepfather’s mother who recently died. I added his grandfather who carked it after a lingering battle with cancer this past October. I added his step-grandmother who I never met because she deserves to be remembered by more than just TH’s mom… and besides, I’m a part of her family, too: For my birthday last year, TH’s mom gave me her hematite and quartz pendant. After that, I couldn’t think of any more, but I knew I had to add something. So I added the ancestral lines of my family members that I could easily name: Hastings, Aubrey, Barrows, and Guilbeault. (I know I slaughtered that name.) I polished it all off with an invitation to any forgotten and unwanted dead: they could eat at my house, too.
But, I still had to feed all of these people first.
I started all of this with condensing of my original menus. I had to cut the booze out almost entirely. I am… completely and beyond dirt poor at the moment and alcohol is incredibly expensive. The dead were just going to have to contend with the tequila that I have lounging around. I haven’t had any complaints from anyone in my house, so I’m assuming, this is satisfactory. After that, it was pretty much a cut down of what I didn’t want in my brand-new menu: I had all of my desserts for later, but what for dinner? In the end, I decided to go with the crescent rolls, the baked turkey with bacon swathing it, the tourtiére, sugar snap peas, and corn. Of course, after slaving on it all day yesterday, I pulled out my apple butter (which seems more like a jam, but is fantastic) to top the crescent rolls.
Occasionally, when I do cook things, I experiment. More often than not, when I do start experimenting it is usually in reference to some form of steak cut that I happened to pick up. Now, sometimes my experiments aren’t quite so daring: a new pre-made steak marinade. However, it would be cheaper if I could get out of purchasing those, so lately, my experiments have been running to what type of things go well together, how long to cook, etc. I decided to do something similar with the roasted turkey: I didn’t have a whole turkey since that was ridiculous, but had purchased some breast cutlets. I mixed a bowl of warmed butter with fresh sage, minced onion, and minced garlic. (The original recipe kind of, sort of called for all of that… there might have been more, but whatever.) I did four of them like that and then four with just adding spices. Of course, every piece had bacon covering it because what would be the point in bacon-covered turkey breasts without the fucking bacon? Both myself and my two guinea pigs (TH and The Sister) loudly concur that the turkey was amazing, although each one liked different versions.
I was still making the fucking tourtiére, though. I had been worried all about that for days. Hell, I had to go to quite a few grocery stores to pick up the ground pork. It would have been a waste of all that effort and all of that gas to finally just say, “Screw it.” I kind of followed the recipe, but not really. I did a little bit of recipe-related cooking and a little bit of, “I’m gonna wing it” related cooking. After putting it into the oven, I watched it like a fucking hawk since I didn’t want to burn it. Instead, it tried to set fire to my oven by dripping boiling hot juices all over the place. I pulled it out, but it still wasn’t finished yet. All in all, I think it came out okay (not that I have a reference point for this kind of thing). I’m really just not sure how I feel about it. It just seems. Well, it just seems odd. I think it’s the ground pork and beef mix that makes it so weird to me. I have about three-quarters of it left—between myself and the dead folk—and I’m going to give it to TH’s mom to shove down her husband’s throat. I know he’ll eat it, at least.
I lit a candle for the dead to eat with their dinner. I figured some mood lighting was in order for tonight, at least. As of my last checking, as in two seconds ago, it was still going. After having lit it, it had half melted down to a caricature of its former self. When I had The Sister come over and look she said, “It looks like they enjoyed it.” I kind of got the same feeling. I have a feeling that my family members are thrilled with all of this attention, but that Papa Ghede is truly pleased with what I have figured out and done with this day. I get the best feelings from him: paternally proud.
What has this experience taught me?
Well, a lot.
I’ve learned that doing things big and expansive aren’t really always the best of ideas, for a multitude of reasons. Most especially, not because I need someone else’s praise to make me feel better about what I want and what I am going to do.
I’ve learned to make two new meals and all because someone once said, “Hey, go greet your dead.”
I’ve learned that I would change things up for next year and that I would, hopefully, have more information about my ancestors by then.
I have also learned that my mom is a treasure trove of random tidbits of information and also, will not question why I want to know such-and-such’s name at five o’clock in the morning.
But, really… what I’ve learned is that I can make apple butter-jam and it is fucking rockin’.