Notes from a Native Daughter

"It's A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood....." by Princess Rachella

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

It's A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood.....

I just had a big piece of the best chocolate cake in the world for breakfast today. People, this cake is not just plain old good. I'm talking "slap your granny" good. And it was personally delivered to me by my brother-in-law Ron's next door neighbor, Dee Dee.

I bumped into Dee Dee yesterday afternoon, at "The Grocery Store Formerly Known as Wonder Market." FYI, it's the only grocery store left in Cairo, and it's gone through so many name changes that I gave up trying to remember and just think of it as the Wonder Market. Anyway, I was there picking up one of their amazingly good fresh-baked pizzas for dinner when I recognized Dee Dee standing in front of me. And the funny thing is, I knew exactly why she was there.

You see, Ron had sent Dee Dee an e-mail telling her that I was coming back to Cairo, and that I had put in an order for one of her insanely delicious chocolate sheet cakes. I had eaten about half of one in the days after Julie's funeral, along with her criminally delicious strawberry cake, and her literal trough of savory barbecued baked beans with ground beef. As usually happens in small towns, we survived on food from friends during that time.

Now, I got to Cairo on Monday night, and on Tuesday afternoon, when Dee Dee left work as a kindergarten teacher at Emerson Elementary, she headed straight to Wonder Market to buy the fixins' for my chocolate cake. She was showing the recipe to one of the store clerks when I ran up behind her and gave her a big thank you hug for the 5 pounds I plan to gain this week. And when the clerk said the cake sounded delicious, I graciously permitted Dee Dee to let her have a big piece, But Dee Dee said, "No, this whole cake is going right next door, and Rachel can do whatever she wants with it." She said that cake was meant to put some meat on my scrawny bones. "It'll help you get your ass back," she explained later that evening, when she dropped it off.

Well, after I've finished trying to shove pieces of that cake into every available orifice, I'll be happy to share what's left. In fact, to all of my Cairo friends who might read this posting, feel free to stop by and get a piece. You see, after all these years of traveling and living in "The Big City," I'm finding it so incredibly comforting being back home right now, and I'm happy to do the neighborly thing and sit and talk a while with friends while we gobble that cake.

Now if that don't tear the rag off'n the bush, to borrow a phrase from Jed Clampett, I don't know what would.

A week ago, I was literally gripped with dread about coming home. I couldn't stand the thought of walking up the steps at the lovely little house on 29th Street and not finding Julie there waiting for me. I couldn't imagine walking through that house, standing in her beautiful, light filled, "House and Garden" kitchen, or peering around the corner into the cozy bedroom where I'd spent literal days lounging or keeping vigil in "my" recliner, watching Turner Classic Movies on the oak entertainment center adorned by all the angel figurines she'd been given through the years.

I couldn't stand the thought of looking at the right side of that bed and not seeing Julie lying there. I wouldn't have cared if she was hooked to a million machines or sitting there eating a 3 piece from Popeye's and laughing her ass off, or just enjoying some pain-free peaceful sleep. I just knew I wouldn't be able to handle seeing the empty space.

And the pictures. Good God, I've had a hard time imagining how Ron could handle the intense memories, the inconceivable loss, and the constant glimpses of her beautiful face in one of the 2 homes they shared for 34 years of married life. There are so many breathtakingly lovely pictures of her everywhere, so many knick-knacks from all their travels and mine, so many cozy flourishes she insisted on. So much love and comfort. Just no her.

But over numerous medicinal Bud Lights, and lots of laughter and memories with Ron, I'm doing okay. I'm actually finding it really nurturing to be here, steeped in Julie's presence. And I'm so very, very proud of Ron. I used to think a hero had to save the world, or push a toddler from the path of a speeding car or something. But now I know you're a hero if you keep going after losing the dearest thing in the entire world, your best friend, lover and life partner, because you know that's the only way to honor the memory of a life filled with love and giving and caring.

So, now that I've been fortified by enough butter and sugar and caffeine to fuel the International Space Station for a week, I'm getting ready to head to Greenlawn Cemetery, to sit a while with my memories. Like I said the other day, I'm not going there to see Julie, cause I've spent the past few days marinating in her love and presence and spirit. I just want to let her know I'm trying to be as strong as she was, and to actually achieve something I never thought would be possible.

And, truth be told, I just want some privacy so I can cry my guts out for a while. Hey, I'm a realist...I know it'll happen. But they'll be healing tears, I'm positive.

Posted by Princess Rachella at 6:43 AM