More of a Happy Secret
March 19, 2007
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. And what a day it was. Lovely, sunny, a breeze blowing through the trees and over the melting snow. A day when nothing extraordinary happened, but a day or two later, when I look back on it, it was altogether extraordinary.
I woke up not to my alarm, but to the sweet strains of violins playing "My Wild Irish Rose." I thought it was the kids for a moment, but there were none of those squeaks and pauses. I went downstairs where Mr. Sundberg sat smiling at the kitchen table. The music was coming from the stereo in the kitchen. He'd made a CD of Irish music for me as a gift for St. Patrick's day. I'm a good part Irish, you see. Mr. Sundberg isn't; he's nearly all Norwegian. In fact, where I live, nearly everyone is all Norwegian or Swedish. I keep my Irishness to myself. Not out of shame, no. More of a happy secret. And Mr. Sundberg has done his part over the years to celebrate it. This year it was that lovely music, and a batch of corned beef and fresh rye bread for dinner.
And then in the early afternoon while I was folding clothes and waiting for the cake to finish baking, a truck pulled into the driveway. I heard a door open and slam shut, and then a holler. "Hey! Anyone home?" It was my father. It took him a bit to get to the door, but when he did I opened it and gave him a big old hug. He sat down at the table and I served up some coffee. He explained he was on a road trip, as my mother is on three day trip to Iowa with her sister. (They went to visit those bridges, I imagine, and a few bookstores.) Dad gets restless at home alone, so he filled a cooler with sandwiches and water and packed some clothes and loaded up the dog to visit some old friends, and me.
"What you got cookin'?" he asked. I smiled big and pulled the cake out of the oven. Funny you should ask, I said. It's your favorite. "Pistachio cake?" he asked, and laughed. "I'm one lucky man." We sat and talked and drank coffee and ate cake, and while he told about his plans for a fishing trip to Alaska, for the first time in a long while, I really looked at him. His eyes are brilliant and blue, his features angled, his cheeks a bit ruddy from laughter and the cold. He's got a bit of a limp, and what's left of his dark, wavy hair is thin and graying. He's still handsome as all getout, and a great storyteller, but not much for saying how he feels. He does say "I love you", but doesn't make a big production of it. Which is fine by me. Sitting there looking at him while he showed with his arms how big that halibut was last summer, I saw the Irish in him, and thought how I'm the lucky one, and knew he'd be leaving shortly. He's not one to stay long. I packed up a few slices of cake for him and waved from the porch as he headed north up the street, on his way to spend the night with an old friend over in Wisconsin.
Now that I think about it, when it comes to things you love, like deep snow and home and people and rye bread, having those things isn't about luck. I won't get into the whole God discussion, but let's just say there's more to some things in life than the out-of-the-blue, fleeting ways of luck. Seems what you love comes from from somewhere, and it brings meaning along with it. I think the word is "blessing." Yup, that's it. Blessing. So the luck o' the Irish to you, and many blessings, too. May your house be a home, and a warm one at that. May your snow fall deep and your moon shine bright, and may you always have fresh bread on the counter. And may someone you love surprise you on a weekend afternoon, someone with bright eyes and a hearty laugh who can't wait to try the cake in the oven.
1 box white cake mix
1 cup oil
1 cup 7-Up or Fresca
1 box pistachio pudding
Whisk until blended, and mix another 2 min.
Bake in a greased and floured tube or 9x13 pan
at 350 for 40-45 minutes.
Mix 1 box pistachio pudding with 1 1/4 cups milk. Add 1 tsp vanilla and 1 8 oz container Cool Whip. Fold together until blended.
Frost when cake is cool. Refrigerate.