04 August, 2008

perspective, and blue sky

Ah, gas troubles and fence troubles and termite troubles can move aside for... a sick Avery today. The poor dear woke up very early this morning with what I can only hope is her typical high, 24-hour fever, no other symptoms to take much notice of, just the fever, and feeling logey and pathetic. Who cares about anything else that isn't quite perfect; all we need is for Avery to feel well and be at her best. The trampoline was silent for the first time since our arrival, likewise the swing that didn't swing, no request for a sprinkler, no desire to take a kitten outdoors and make her jump... just a silent day watching "Robin Hood: Series 2."

I rushed out to get a chicken and some carrots, and made chicken soup. In an ideal world I'd chill it overnight to skim the fat, but you know what? If you're desperate, it works like this:

Chicken Soup in a Hurry
(serves several helpings to a hungry but ill little girl)

1 whole chicken (smallish)
3 carrots, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
3 parsnips, sliced
1 onion, quartered
1 handful dill
salt, pepper, bay leaves
large handful noodles

Place the chicken and everything else in a large stockpot and cover with cold water. Boil low for 2 hours. Strain everything through a colander over a smaller stockpot and pull off the good bits of chicken from the bones, and place them in the stock. Put stock back on stove and throw in noodles. Simmer for ten minutes, and when you see the stock bubble around the outside of the pot and leave a still pool in the center of the pot, scoop out everything in that center: that's the fat.

By the end of ten minutes the soup will be ready for an immediate serving to the patient. But after she has her first bowl, add more celery and carrots and simmer until nicely cooked. The patient can have little servings throughout the rest of the day and night.


As worrisome as a fever is, I feel she's probably fine. Between helpings of soup, and glasses of ice, and the occasional banana slice, she made it through the day with naps and a LONG bath at night. I had forgotten how much fun it was to read aloud "Nancy Drew," especially "The Sign of the Twisted Candles," so that was good. Halfway through I swore I heard a "tap, tap, tap," and figured it was my imagination, living through the Twisted Candles. But it was Anne, tapping at the back door to give back my bowl from the curry leftovers. We sat down at the picnic table outside on the terrace and I described Avery's symptoms, and she agreed that it sounded like nothing much, but happily offered up, "I know every doctor in town, so just let me know if you want a visit to somebody tomorrow." I figure if Avery's feeling tip-top (ish) by the morning, we can let it go. But just the same, I walked over to Anne's house and got the bit of mango ice cream she thought might help the patient, and looked on at little Katie asleep in the swing. What incredible good fortune to have a neighbor who crosses the road and listens to a bit of a worry, and offers up ice cream. "If Avery's able, could she feed and look after the cats on Wednesday and Thursday? It's the baby's injections..."

How lucky I felt, crossing the dusty road, to come back to our sun-dappled terrace, community of squirrels and chipmunks, peaceful birdfeeders, Avery in her bath through the shade in the bathroom. Blue, blue skies and scudding clouds. The peace of Red Gate Farm!

Homemade pizza for dinner, and she ate! The very best pizza sauce EVER is leftover sauce from last night's:

Rigatoni alla Vodka
(serves 4)

2 tbsps olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 Vidalia onion, or other mild white onion, sliced
3 tbsps vodka
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 large can or 2 soup cans whole tomatoes, squeezed in hand into saucepan
1/2 cup light cream
2 tbsps grated pecorino cheese

Heat olive oil and saute garlic and onion until soft. Pour on vodka and let bubble high. Add seasoning and tomatoes and cook down, stirring frequently and breaking up tomatoes, until well cooked, at least 45 minutes. At the end, puree with handheld blender and add cream and cheese, stirring well.

Use first for pasta sauce and then for pizza the next night!


So in the middle of everything else we've had several more visits from the stove guy and the gas tank guy, each of whom holds the other in the extremis of disregard. "He uses that bubbling stuff to find a leak? That's ancient history. We've got this digital reader..." just like little boys with the better BB gun or computer game! "They won't be prepared for this eventuality," one says, and the other adds the next day, "This sort of turn of events will not be familiar to THAT sort of technician..."

For heaven's sake!

Finally the stove worked. And at lunchtime, on Anna's last day: two different Gary and Groundhogs to eat melon and entertain us! After lunch the perfect trip to the produce stand for corn, basil, plums! "I love the smell of basil," Anna offers shyly, "and a little bit on my pasta if the pieces aren't too big." Then we were off to the pool for a perfect afternoon of blue skies, shouting voices, happy laps. The group of ladies who is always at the pool were quite close to our towels, and one called, "You have a new library book today?" but I wasn't sure she was talking to me, and soon she called out the same again. "A new book?" so I chatted with them a bit. I'm trying to analyze why their questions put me off. They were anxious, having met John last year at the pool, to question me about our lives in England, Avery's schooling, why we want to live there. Normally I quite like talking about London and whatnot. But there was something that made me not want to discuss it all. I felt very protective of our lives there, and not inclined to describe everything!

I think it was because the undertone was so mystified and almost hostile. "I've never felt like leaving the good old US of A", and "Where did you live before you moved there?" and upon hearing New York said, "Well, I suppose it's not so different, them, but living in Southbury we're comfortable." And when I said I was originally from Indiana, the one lady said, "I thought you had a sort of an accent." I felt like a creature in a zoo!

We do live in two very different worlds, and I have to say I love them both. I love the crowded, super-competitive, fancy-ingredient, famous-people-sighting, busy life in London. I miss the voices, and the culture and different-ness. But when we're here I love the ease of getting around, the familiarity, the friendliness and quiet, the pace that's so much more relaxing. And of course if we went back to New York City itself we'd be in yet another culture I love, and miss, but try not to think about too much. As I told the ladies at the pool, far from being glad to leave either place for the other, I feel really lucky that we have BOTH.

So along came the end of Anna's stay, and we took her back to Greenwich, through a most unpleasant rainstorm along the unfamiliar Merritt parkway: I was quite amazed that I was able to get us there, and back! Sad to leave Anna with her family. The night before we had visited Anne, David and Baby Katie, leaving a luscious tomato and mozzarella salad with basil ribbons and olive oil, and chatting about Avery and Anna's friendship. "We didn't like each other AT ALL!" the girls chortled, reminiscing about those early days before they were joined at the hips. "Our mothers MADE us be friends!" Anne, feeding Katie and listening raptly as only she can, said, "That's quite like the first friend I made at kindergarten. I was put with her to play with blocks, and I remember she had the most fragile WRISTS, and I was so afraid I would hurt her, and was so careful... we were friends forever after that..." That is what I love about Anne. Even wholly occupied with her new baby, she can host two little girls in her living room, listen to their tales, and reach back into a story from her heart about her own childhood. She is completely real, completely sincere. David ended up "airplaning" Katie, marvelling at her growth since we arrived three weeks ago... what would we do without them, across the road?

Avery chuckled one afternoon and said to me, in such a grownup voice, "I forgot an excellent Connecticut merchant story, Mommy. You'll love this. I went into the bakery, as you said, and asked for a dozen doughnut holes. A really nice lady said, 'Oh, honey, I'm sorry, this is all I have,' and handed me a little bag. And in it were... a dozen doughnut holes!" You have to live here to laugh.

Yesterday we headed up to Jill, Joel and Jane's house to celebrate, as it turned out, Jane's three-half birthday, with an excellent brunch near their house, in the lovely flower garden park across the road. Such a gorgeous day... feeling lucky for everything.

Well, darkness has fallen and I am wishing for just one thing: a peaceful night for Avery, an abatement of her fever, a restorative sleep. There's nothing like a sick child to make a person stop complaining about other things...

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