Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Famous Chop Suey
I just said to Mark, "I don't know what to write this morning." Which translates to, I don't know what I'm feeling. Or: I'm queasy. Then I had an idea, and then a batch of photos came in from my brother Michael, including a scan of her recipe for her famous chop suey, which I believe we ate every third night of my childhood. "Pretty minimalist," Mark said, upon looking it over. "I always hated that chop suey," said Michael, laughing, after the funeral. I looked at him, bewildered, as if he'd said, I'd always hated that Holy Communion. I guess I never thought so much about whether I liked it or not; it was what my mother made, thousands of times over the course of a life: a staple dish of the sixties. I like seeing the recipe in her neat, compact printing, which never changed over the course of her life, until it got wobbly.
Also included in Michael's mailing was a receipt for what could only be sanitary napkins (Knapkins?) from the long defunct Lit Brothers department store in Atlantic City. I know why Michael sent it to me: he's an expert on long defunct department stores--he's writing a book about the late days of Hutzler's, the Baltimore store--and it must have pleased him to think of my mother shopping at Lit Brothers, with its cursive "L" logo, the same "L" I associate with the logos of Levitt and Sons, Lucky Supermarkets, and I Love Lucy. (Was that it? Were all these logos meant to suggest Lucy?) When Mark saw the receipt, he said, "Oh, she wouldn't want you to put that up!" True. (Probably. But why was she keeping such a thing?) Then again she would have thought it was funny: she had a high appreciation for absurdity, especially when it came to the stuff of social norms. She liked to laugh at her own propensity for embarrassment. She seemed to want to be embarrassed, as if it gave her reason to laugh at herself--or more likely the side of herself that took the rules too seriously. I think she passed that on to us.
Speaking of embarrassment: here are some of the photos Michael sent, most taken at various relatives' houses in Allentown. There I am in my glasses, in all my high nurd glory, an era that my brothers graciously call my "leukemia period." (No, I didn't have leukemia.) The woman with the dark hair is my godmother, my late Aunt Goldie, who walks in and out of Famous Builder. This was before Goldie's Jackie O period.
Nurds (2006 Remastered Album Version) - The Roches