i usually tell this story in a funny context. tonight, as it popped into my head, it struck a deeper chord.
when i was in my early twenties, i met an old woman through a friend of a friend of a friend. this old woman was named ann bahr, like bar, but when she told you what her name was, it came out like BAAAH. she moved away from brooklyn when she was six years old, but she had kept this ridiculous accent until she was 82. at least that’s how old it says she was on her medical records – she claimed not to know when she was born.
and that’s what she was like, too. all caps. this woman actually uttered words that would make a sailor blush, and are making me blush (and chuckle, honestly) to remember them. she was about five feet tall, and skinny. i could have thrown her over my shoulder. she wore lots of makeup and smoked virginia slims, before she quit. she painted her nails a garish coral color. she wore way too much gold jewelry. and tight, tight stretch pants.
she had no family, and few friends. and that’s how i got sucked into her world. she asked me to take her shopping. to walmart, just to get a few things. i soon learned that taking ann anywhere required most of a day. once inside walmart, we did not leave for three hours. every time.
but i felt so badly for her. she lived in a sad little apartment. she had a few not-so-nice things. and to see her face when she saw me come to the door just made it so worth it. she loved company. loved making people laugh. but i would have to say, that, on the whole, this woman had a sad life. most of her meals were eaten alone. most of her time was spent alone. she had no family and very few friends.
so i had an idea. i thought it would be nice if i took her to my parents’ house for an afternoon of lounging around by the pool. after the day was done, we could have a nice dinner cooked by my parents.
my parents, who are good sports, agreed.
so, on the appointed day, i picked up ann and took her to my parents’ house. she sat in the sun all day, and thoroughly enjoyed herself. at the end of the day, my parents prepared a wonderful dinner with corn on the cob and chicken cooked on the grill. ann sat down and began to eat her dinner. after a few minutes, we heard it.
we all looked at ann. her mouth was distorted and her lips were curled. she had a tiny piece of corn on her lip.
“this chicken is DRY!!!”
my dad, who had cooked the chicken, just looked at ann. i was mortified. and besides, it WAS NOT. it was great! moist and flavorful.
she kept going.
“you know what I woulda done? I woulda made a nice MARINADE. some vinegah, some OLIVE OIL… “
at that point i think we all just tuned her out. i think she added on one more, “that’s what I woulda done” …but it really ruined the whole dinner experience. was the chicken dry? and if so, wasn’t it best to refrain from saying so in front of a gracious host who barely knew you?
but tonight i have been thinking about ann. i have also been thinking about myself, and about people in general. it seems that we tend toward that, sometimes, when the things we are given don’t line up with what we thought we were going to get or what we thought we deserved. life can be hard and desolate at times, and i know that there was a year and a half stretch there where i would have taken even a half-eaten, dried out piece of chicken. and called it delicious.
but now i am finding myself getting discontent. i am no longer thankful and full of gratitude for the smaller blessings, like a free or homecooked meal. when they come along, i accept them, but sometimes i complain if the taste is off.
who am i to do that?
i should be thankful for every little thing, every nourishing scrap, every sun-filled minute… every breath.