French lemon tart… in memoriam

french lemon pie

Today’s your birthday. I call you, you’re playing with the kids. You’re
picking lemons, to make a tarte. You love making that lemon tarte, and we laugh because it’s the fifth week in a row you’ve made it. We’re excited about tonight’s meal, a new
restaurant, it will be fun. You wonder what dessert will be. You do have a seriously sweet tooth. Do you remember how you ate all 12 madeleines I brought you at the maternity hospital? 

Later, we meet for our weekly hike.  We talk about our children, their hair, their
mischiefs, their tantrums, their giggles. About our families. About Barbara and
the opera. About the children’s book you want to write. We talk about food, about last week’s meal, last year’s meal. We talk
about morning light over LA. We talk about being tired. About how hard marriage
can be. About past struggles and future travels. Not very much about future
struggles.  

I tell you about my blog. You
love the idea, you’re so supportive. You’re excited about it for me. I love
that about you, you take on other people’s joys and make them your own.

We talk about tonight’s plan. Our children spending an evening together,
growing up together. We laugh at the thought of being two old ladies, having
the same conversation.

Denial.

french lemon pie crusts and filling
French lemon pie filling in crust

That day is a figment of my imagination. It’s unfair. I fume. Why
couldn’t I get that day? Why did this happen? How in the hell is it possible? I
want to scream. I don’t know to whom, so I don’t. I hate that you’re gone. Should have been me. I hate that good
things have happened since. I hate that good things come out of tragedy. It wasn”t supposed to turn out this way. You bailed on me. I’m pissed.

Anger.

French lemon pies

What if it had been me? Less people would have gotten hurt. What if
circumstances had been different? If I try to be as good a friend as you were,
as open and giving as you were, as good a mother, sister, daughter as you were…
If I learn to share other people’s joys as genuinely as you did… maybe then you
won’t be gone, somehow.

Bargaining.

You are gone. We will not grow old together. I listen to songs that make
me think of you, with a lump in my throat. You meant more to me than I meant to
you. Terrible things happen. They will happen again and again. Nothing will ever be the same.
Time passes, fades things away. Details we desperately hang on to, to keep our head above water and not drown in sorrow. There’s that lump in my throat again. Sometimes it’s so heavy it goes right
down to my heart, pulling me down to darker depths.

Depression.

French lemon pie

You are gone, and you are with me, every day. I go through the motions of beating
sugar and eggs, pouring butter, squeezing a lemon. Putting the tarte in the
oven. It’s strange. You went through the same motions in your kitchen, while kids were playing nearby, a long time ago.

Wonderful connections and friendships have occurred since you left us. Amazing
generosities and moments of true joy. It does seem terribly unfair it had to
happen that way. But I am grateful for them. You’ve taught me a lot of things.
Mostly unknowingly. But your final lesson is the most important of them all. Never
take life for granted, and cherish those you love. Nothing else truly matters.

With a heavy heart, I think of you today. I shall have a slice of my ever
imperfect tarte au citron. Perfection doesn’t exist. If it did, you wouldn’t be
gone.  With every bite, I am thankful for all you have brought into my
life.

Acceptance.

A french lemon pie

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8 thoughts on “French lemon tart… in memoriam

  1. So beautiful it made me cry. I often find my mother and grandmother by my side as I'm in the kitchen. Sometimes tears are shed, but mostly I find myself telling my two year old son all the stories and hope I'm creating some for him. I'm grateful to be able to bring back loved ones whenever I prepare a cherished old recipe; it's a great gift.

  2. wow, thank you for your words. I've needed to write this for a long time, I didn't expect to strike a chord this way. I'm very grateful.

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