Friday, July 01, 2005

A Farewell to A.

There was a minor contretemps last night in the anapestic household when after getting home I decided to bring one of my Cuisinarts in from the garage and start washing it. V. said that there was no space to store it in the kitchen and that in any case, he had a perfectly workable food processor that he had used "dozens of times" without any problem. Well. What he has is a Hamilton Beach food processor, and the fact that he's used it dozens of times in ten or fifteen years is hardly impressive, but it's also true that the workbowl of the Cuisinart that I brought in was cracked, and he does have a point about storage space, so I relented and said I'd use the Hamilton Beach and then muttered something about how he really didn't understand the care and feeding of boy toys.

(It is perhaps unnecessary [like that ever stops me] to mention here that during my senior year in high school, I was voted Least Likely To Be a Boy Toy, and that at my 25th reunion last year, no one even wanted to run against me for that honor because I had it locked up and FedExed to Paducah before anyone else even got off the bus, but it amuses both of us to refer to me as the boy toy on occasion.)

The HB did a perfectly respectable job of making some red pepper hummos. I didn't really need to make any for last night, but if I don't at least do something resembling food preparation every so often, I start to get antsy.

The hummos is so easy to make that it only barely resembles food preparation, but it's still tasty. You absolutely want to make this. Here are your ingredients:

3 cloves garlic
1 can (standard size) of chick peas, drained
1 twelve-ounce jar of roasted red peppers, drained
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 sprigs of fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon coarse salt
Juice of half a lemon
Freshly ground pepper

Put the garlic in your food processor and process until minced. Scrape down the bowl, add the next four ingredients, and process until well pureed. Scrape down the bowl again, add the final four ingredients, and process for a few seconds to incorporate them.

This hummos is very garlicky, and some misguided (but otherwise admirable, I'm sure) people will want to scale back on the garlic; if you do that, just don't tell me, and we'll both be happier. I was going for something low in fat, but if you want to put an extra tablespoon of olive oil in, I think that's fine, though I don't miss it. You can also put in some red pepper flakes if you want the hummos to be spicy. Please make sure that you drain both the chick peas and the roasted peppers well, or your hummos will be runny, not that it's ever happened to me, you understand.

I did not end up making flatbread to eat the hummos with last night, but as I had picked up some whole wheat pita bread when I'd stopped at the supermarket on the way home, I did not suffer much. I packed most of the hummos into a couple of one-cup storage containers, and I brought one of them for lunch. I also brought a cup of lentil soup, some pita bread, and a small container of yogurt. A cup of hummos turns out to be a whole lot, but I reckon I'll work my way through it.

Last night was unusual because A. (my sixteen-year-old daughter, for those of you not keeping score) was over at our place. She had missed a night with me a couple of weeks back and had asked her mother if she could make it up last night. Sometime this morning, her mother and step-father picked her up, and they went up to Pennsylvania to retrieve L. (my nine-year-old daughter), who has been spending the week with my parents. Sometime Saturday or Sunday, they will head off to New Jersey, and on Monday, A. has a flight to London and then on to Wiesbaden. She will spend the next six weeks working for one of my ex-wife's cousins who owns a nursery in Germany, near the border with Poland. Then the ex and her husband and L. will fly over to get A. and to spend two weeks in Germany and Paris. I will not see A. again until the end of August.

I try to remind myself that the trip will likely be very good for her. She is already an extraordinarily self-possessed young woman, and spending an extended period away from her parents is likely a good step on the way toward independence. And what normal sixteen-year-old, however close to her father, isn't longing to throw off the yolk of family and be on her own? I also try to remind myself that in two years she'll be moving out for good, so I may as well start getting used to the idea of a life where she is an occasional visitor and not a resident (albeit a half-time one).

But it is difficult for the current situation not to remind me of the initial stages of the divorce, nearly seven years ago now. I had spent the two and one-half years immediately before coming out to my then wife as a stay-at-home father, following the birth of L. And while I was very close to L., it was A. who most appreciated having me around all the time. I took her to and picked her up from school. I helped with homework every day. I took care of the parent-teacher conferences. And we spent a lot of time just hanging out together.

And then things fell apart, fairly quickly and precipitously. I don't want to revisit the details of the long, grueling divorce and attendant custody battle, but it was especially hard on A. who would have preferred to spend most of her time with me, but who very quickly went from seeing me most of the day, every day, to seeing me on alternate weekends and Wednesday nights. I did, eventually, get shared custody of both girls, and not too long after the divorce was final, I got half custody of A. (I have 5/14 custody of L.; it is complicated.)

Actually, it would be more accurate to say that A. got me half custody. I did not know about any of this until after it was all over: I just knew that one day the ex called me up and told me that she'd decided to give me an extra night a week with A. But from what she later told me, A. staged a hunger strike at her mother's house, saying that she would not eat until her mother gave her more time with me. After three days or so, the ex relented, saying that if A. would resume eating, the ex would consider giving me more custody. When A. first told me about her strategy, I was somewhat appalled, but partly impressed. Then she told me that she had, in fact, smuggled clementines and almonds up to her room so that she kept eating during the hunger strike but brushed her teeth frequently so that her mother wouldn't find out. I felt obliged to formally disapprove of the tactic, but come on: a three-day act of civil disobedience that got the desired results without putting her at risk. I can think of a few rebel groups that could learn something from her.

A couple of years ago, A. stopped calling me "Daddy" and settled on "Dad." The first time it happened was the first time that it really hit me that she'd be leaving me, and that it wasn't all that far away. And here it is.

She will, of course, be back, presumably more independent, self-confident, and wonderful than ever. The sense of loss that I feel in watching the kids grow older and more independent is tempered by the pleasure I get from seeing what interesting people they're turning into. A. is an adult now, and I would not deny her the joys and challenges of adulthood. But I will surely miss her.


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