Monday, October 18, 2010

How Do You Pronounce Juan Tabo?

The answer, according to some tourists in New Mexico: Jew-wan Tay-bow.

A few weeks back, Evan and I boarded a plane to visit his family in Albuquerque because his grandmother was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor.

I picked nervously at my zits while we waited for his mom to pick us up from the airport. Thankfully, though I was applying direct pressure to my face to stop the bleeding, I received a warm hug hello. I further relaxed in the backseat of the car as I saw firsthand how much Jacque loves her son and was reminded that, although we had just met, we shared that common ground.

From there, the loveliest weekend unfolded...

I got to meet four generations of women in Evan's family and one fabulous brother-in-law. That the experience felt like a blessing was as miraculous to me as the scope and strength of Evan's genetic pool.

Ironically, the grandma I thought I was going to meet on her deathbed turned out to be rosy cheeked and spirited-- wantonly demanding ice cream and declaring me a keeper.

Endearment is in the details...

GG (Grandma Gail) has a license plate holder that reads, "Happiness is being Norwegian," and is renown for her concord grape pies. Here's the recipe:


4 cups concord grapes

1 cup sugar or 1/2 cup agave nectar

3 tablespoon tapioca

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Squeeze the grapes out of their skins and save the skins. Cook the pulp for 15 minutes on med/high heat stirring frequently or put the pulp in the microwave for about four minutes. Press the pulp through a food mill to remove seeds. Add the pulp to the skins. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil for about one minute. Remove from heat and let cool til the mixture starts to thicken. Pour into almond/date crust (2 cups almonds mixed with 8-10 large pitted dates). Cool and eat. If you put the filling in a pie crust, bake it for 35-40 minutes at
425 degrees. If you use pie crust, you don't cook the filling after you add the skins to the pulp because it will cook while it bakes.

All that AND she has a stellar turkey call:


Anna's Pie Debacle in Three Parts...

Part One: In which an exquisite concord grape pie is made by Evan's mom from grapes found in the freezer (grapes of a rare 1994 backyard vintage).

Part Two: In which, despite the best of intentions and an acute pie obsession, I forget the pie on the trunk of the car as we back out of the garage.

Part Three: In which I inadvertently step in said pie as it rests in the shade of the glovebox, leaving a clear boot print behind and crushing my soul in the process.

Epilogue: In which the incident is met with good humor and does not result in my immediate banishment.
In addition, the margins of the pie survive and prove to be delicious.


As for Evan's other grandmother, she insists on being called Grandmommy. Grandmommy is sensational. And depression era nouveau riche. In a house that expanded in improbable ways with the advent of each additional child, she squirreled away box upon box of furs, ribbons, and appliances in secret passageways. Rumor has it that bags of gold bullion and silver coins were hidden in a shaft below the TV set during Evan's childhood.

At ninety, she reminded me of a passage from Virginia Woolf, "She bore about her, she could not help knowing
it, the torch of her beauty; she carried it erect into any room that she entered; and after all, veil it as she might, and shrink from the monotony of bearing that it imposed on her, her beauty was apparent. She had been admired. She had been loved."

Grandmommy met her husband when she was fourteen and spent a lifetime being adored by him. There is a world map in her house that is dark with pins marking the places they traveled together. You can make it out in the background of this video Evan took of Grandmommy speed racing:

The edible creature on Grandmommy's lap is Pearle, Evan's one and a half year old niece. This kid is a slice of heaven. She's got wonderful parents so this shouldn't come as a surprise... but still. A slice of heaven.

What more is there to say?

I feel incredibly honored that Evan's family welcomed me into their lives during a trying time. The dailiness of our time together and the comfort I derived from spending time with a family not my own were a healing balm for me-- an unanticipated gift.

One for which I give thanks.

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