A Long Ago Dinner with the Don

How funny time is–in the moment it seems to crawl, but then, looking back, how deceptively quickly it flew by. Sometimes, when remembering an event in the past, time–a thing without form, measured only by how it is felt–seems to bend in upon itself to bridge the gap.

I wrote the review for Mario Puzo’s The Godfather over a year ago, on the eve of my second departure to Ecuador. Since then, I’ve left and come back and left again, but here I am, back in Orange County, and it feels like only yesterday that I slipped into my vintage polka dot dress and put liberty rolls in my hair before putting on an apron and making spaghetti with meatballs, only after which I ran out to Santa Monica Seafood to buy cannoli for dessert, having forgotten to do so beforehand.

On that night, the men of my family dressed up in pin-striped suits and dagger collars, the women rolled and blow dried and sprayed their hair and sipped wine while balanced on tasteful heels. It was a night on which my heavily Irish-blooded relatives played Italian for a day, drinking grappa, spearing olives on toothpicks, passing the tomato sauce from hand to hand. We ate, and we talked. We drank, and we argued, about politics and gossip and culture–more openly, one would think, than the real Don would ever have permitted. At our table, however, with my uncle Bob assuming the role of Don Kinsch, seriousness made way for levity, family business was fair game, and the women made their voices heard just as loudly as the men. Despite being neither so serious nor so jowly as Marlon Brando, I think he carried it off quite well.

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It may almost feel like yesterday, but here’s the god’s honest truth: I don’t remember many details of this dinner. Technical difficulties kept me from writing this entry until I came home for good, so what I do remember has the tang of exaggeration, the lemon-lit glow of embellishment. It was a long time ago and so much has happened since. What my memory does provide is the smell of simmering tomatoes and garlic, the laughter as we each appeared wearing what we considered to be 1940s attire, the crunch of the cannoli, the gleam of the beautiful bottle of expensive grappa, but what I actually remember (scout’s honor) is exactly the reason I continue to do these dinners and maintain this blog: I remember my family together, enjoying themselves, and being happier than any Puzo character ever was.

 

Coming up! I’m back in the country and back on track, so expect posts much more often. June’s book is a surprise, as the dinner will be part of my mom’s birthday celebration! If you’re interested in what I was doing in South America for all this time, check out my other blog, La Güera Viajera.  In the meantime, keep reading!

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