Sunday, December 30, 2007


We're back. And it's my birthday.

This is not how I expected to spend this birthday. Had you asked me back last summer, I'd have told you I intended to be in a house that I owned for Christmas, six months pregnant. Instead, I'm in a condo that I don't own, and not pregnant. Still. Getting closer, optimistically, but not pregnant.

Christmas was...well, it was good. Really great. I have a thoroughly hideous cold with a dry, hacking cough and pretty much the worst sore throat I've ever had in my life, which started on Christmas night. Even that couldn't ruin a totally...I don't know, serendipitous holiday.

I had this great conversation with my adorable step-cousin, who has been a family friend since forever, long before my mother ever thought of marrying his uncle, at my mother's Christmas Eve party. He got divorced this year and I can't imagine him being single for more than about a minute, so he has a new girlfriend, who I know a little--I know her younger brothers better, they're closer to my age and I went to high school with them. He is an almost frighteningly nice guy, much nicer than when I was in second grade and he tried to feed my Cabbage Patch Kid to a seagull at Hilton Head Island, and we had a couple of glasses of champagne and made a little fun of his older sister, a PhD psychologist in Key West who is incurably neurotic and loony.

Mom's whole party was just really great. The food was, as usual, delicious and accessible and elegant. My mother has really amazing friends, smart and fun and funny and with great stories. Max was an adorable little peach throughout the party, not getting flustered by the attention, and telling people, "I Max. I two now."

There's just something about a place that you don't go often, or people that you don't see enough of. Dan and I spent a whole day just driving around Kalamazoo. We drove past the apartment that we lived in when we got married. We had lunch at a campus dive that we used to live near when we first got together, that was open until the bars closed every night, where we could get dinner after Dan closed the restaurant or got out of class. We went to a movie and out for dinner--by ourselves--and there was something magic about being alone together. It doesn't happen that often. It felt like when we first got together, nothing to do but talk to each other.

I got my hair cut and colored and I feel like a new woman. I had forgotten what a new haircut can do for me. It's short--boy is it--but I feel good in it.

Thursday night Dan and I drove up to Lansing and met Gerry and Trina for dinner. Gerry is one of my oldest friends and Treen is his fiance, and I hadn't seen Gerry since maybe 1998. Trina and I have been exchanging emails for a year at least, but I remember looking at Gerry's MySpace page for the first time, before G and Trina had even gotten together, and seeing the girl at the top of his friends list and thinking, "Wow, she's like the perfect girl for him. I bet he's got a huge crush on her and he's really freaking her out." Then they got together and it turned out that she was perfect for him and he was perfect for her and watching them together is really just pretty great. I love seeing two people--one of whom has been a friend for years and the other of which has become a friend only just in the last year--be so right for each other. And I love that they remind me a little of Dan and me--they met at work, he was her boss, she had a bad boyfriend when they met. We closed the restaurant down and I even choked up a little when we left and I'm not really emotional like that, because I have lots of acquaintences and quite a few close acquaintences but I just don't have that many people who I really think of as friends. I love them and I miss them already. I missed them before we even drove out of the parking lot.

On Friday we dropped Max off at my mother-in-law's house and drove up to Saugutuck. When Dan and I were sneaking around and trying to keep people from finding out that we were dating, we used to drive up to Saugutuck, a resort town on Lake Michigan. It's gorgeous and charming and adorable and I love it. It's full of art galleries and cute tiny little restaurants and in the summer there are film festivals and art shows. On Water Street there is the greatest place on earth, a store called the Saugutuck Spice Merchant, where I generally spend the equivalent of two months' cell phone bill on things like raspberry chipotle spice rub and Northwest alder smoked sea salt, and a roasted garlic-wild mushroom seasoning that I'm already planning on working into fresh egg pasta for lasagna for New Year's Eve dinner. It is paradise for a food nerd, and despite the fact that I have this god-awful cold and couldn't stop sneezing and I could barely smell anything in there, I once again spent a small fortune. Dan and I split an order of portabello fries in Phil's, a bar halfway down the main drag, where we ducked in to get out of a driving snowstorm, and drank coffee and ate really good, really spicy chili at the bar at The Butler, down by the marina, surrounded by locals. In the summer, it's hard to get a table there, like it's hard to get a parking spot anywhere in town, when it fills up with rich people from Chicago. Saugutuck's charms aren't lost on anyone really. There was so much snow that the drive back to my in-laws' house was really a little bit exciting, especially because we hadn't driven in that much snow in awhile. We went out with them to Su Casa, a Mexican restaurant in a town mostly populated by migrant workers. It used to be in the back of a tiny, grungy Mexican grocery store, but now it's big and bright and has a bar and a mariachi band. Max couldn't get enough of the band, and I have it on video. I'll post it tomorrow--it's the cutest thing I've ever seen. The food there, incidentally, is what I'd choose for my last meal if I were on death row--the carnitas tacos are something I dream about occasionally. When I do, I know it's time to get back to Michigan for a few days.

We're back home again in Maryland, and in an hour, it won't be my birthday anymore, it'll be New Year's Eve. Before Dan and I got together, I had a really lame and crappy boyfriend who I don't think was actually cheating on me, but I would be surprised if the thought didn't occur to him. He was a total dud, as it turned out, but he did make the same New Year's resolution every year, and it was a pretty good one. His resolution was More. You know--more. More sex, more fun, more money. And so I'm making the same resolution this year for myself. More great food. More fun with friends. More family. More writing. More reading. More knitting. More love. With luck and the right combination of drugs, accupuncture and well-timed nookie with my loveable geek of a husband, more baby. More More.

Happy New Year, Internet. Be sure to check me out at A Year In The Kitchen, my new project in 2008. Here's to More.

1 comment:

Treen said...

1. Happy Birthday

2. He really WAS freaking me out. He just loves it (not really) every time I tell the "and then I realized he's not creepy after all" story.

3. Next time you have to bring Max. I insist.

4. Here's to ditching loser boyfriends in search of something better.

5. We miss you too. I'm really happy we finally all got the time to go out and do something.