Thursday, November 21, 2013

To Pasta- With Love by Karen Rock

I celebrated my birthday this weekend doing what I love the most: spending time with my family.  It was a low key affair with maximum meaning. My husband, daughter and I shared a quiet day with a meal out, cake, presents, and a trip to see Richard Curtis’ (writer/director of Love Actually) latest film About Time. I’ve always loved his films, such as Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral, for their emotional intelligence and sensitivity. Yet About Time offered more than a beautiful love story and intriguing characters. It contained a message that stayed with me past the end credits. To quote the main character, Tim, “Live life as if there are no second chances.”
 
In this time-traveler tale, Tim, along with the other males in his family, can go back in time to correct their mistakes.  Yet this beautiful story of unconditional love showed that some things cannot be changed, however much we might wish it so. I completely identified with Tim’s longing to see a deceased relative. There are many moments in my life I wish I had a second chance to relive. Times when I let every day stresses and worries keep me from fully enjoying my life and those I loved.

If I could pick one day to revisit, it would be the day my nonna taught me how to make homemade pasta. As her health was failing, the need to learn our family’s Italian recipes became urgent. I’d already learned how to make her gravy (sauce as it is normally called), focaccia bread, eggplant parmesan and other recipes. Yet, as a busy college student, I hadn’t found the time needed to learn how to make pasta from scratch. I phoned my grandmother and planned a Columbus Day weekend visit. However, when the time neared, I regretted making that commitment. My boyfriend was acting strange and distant, I had a paper due, and my roommates hadn’t chipped in to pay the electric bill. When I called to cancel, my Aunt Pam lectured me. She said Nonna had been preparing all week for my visit and had spoken of little else in her excitement. Nonna had insisted, despite her arthritis, on scrubbing her entire apartment and having my aunt take her grocery shopping so that she could personally pick out the ingredients. It would crush her if I didn’t follow through. Resigned and resentful, I agreed to make the trip.


Nonna wasn’t one to show affection. She dished out her love through her food. When I arrived, she handed me a plate of my favorite cookies, her almond biscotti. It was her way of saying, “I’m glad you came, and I love you.” Yet I was too upset about my troubles back in Albany to notice. I listened with half and ear as she prattled in her broken English. Whenever she was excited, her speech was mostly in Italian, and I didn’t try translating it this time. Instead, I let the words wash over me as I thought about my soon-to-be ex-boyfriend, Michael. I went to bed early, knowing she’d wake me up as she always did- at five am- by poking me with a broom’s bristles, followed by her booming belly laugh. But my restless night made me cranky in the morning. Instead of giving in and getting up, I refused to leave my bed until seven. When I finally showered and dressed, she’d been sitting at the kitchen table, ingredients at the ready, for almost two hours. Ungrateful person that I was, I barely apologized and we set to work, my hands following hers as we went through the steps and set the pasta out to dry.



Although I went through the motions of making Orecchiette (pasta sometimes called ‘little ears’), my heart wasn’t in it. Nonna grew quieter as the day went on, sensing, I’m sure, my lack of enthusiasm. I spent the evening arguing on the phone with my boyfriend instead of watching television with her. In the past, we’d always poked fun at game show contestants, ranted about the evils of the world while watching the news, or clucked in sympathy with talk show guests. But this time, she sat alone, hunched on the sofa, silent, as I had what I thought was a crucial exchange with Michael. The next morning, I did get up at five a.m. But my early rise was motivated by my need to leave quickly. I wanted to get home and continue my fight with Michael, finish my paper, and round up my roommates’ share of the electric bill.

Well, I did get the money for the electric bill, I earned an A on the paper, and Michael and I made up- for the time being. Yet all of that pales in comparison to what I’d lost: the chance to fully appreciate the last time I’d see Nonna alive.  She died a month later, and all I have from our last day together is a hastily scrawled recipe. I would give anything to have a second chance to redo that time. To linger over coffee and almond biscotti with her, to pay close attention to what she said, to jump out of bed and help her set up for pasta-making, to patiently learn our family recipe rather than rushing through it, to sit beside her as we watched TV, her hand slapping my knee as she laughed, my head on her shoulder as I inhaled her favorite scent- gardenia.

About Time was a great reminder that life doesn’t give us do-overs. We shouldn’t let the stresses and worries of our everyday lives keep us from appreciating those we love and the wonderful blessings we’ve been given. The message couldn’t come at a better time given the Thanksgiving Season. Being thankful isn’t enough. It’s important to take action as well- to be engaged- to pay attention to the things that matter most. The normal moments I take for granted are the ones I will want back someday. Better to appreciate them now, than wish I had another chance to enjoy them. So my wish for this Thanksgiving is for us all to be thankful and to be giving. To commit our hearts and minds to those we love instead of allowing other, less important things, to steal that time from us.

If you could have a second chance, and go back in time, which moment would you relive? I’d love hear your thoughts! Answer in the comment section below, and be entered to win a copy of my Heartwarming Wish Me Tomorrow, print/Kindle/Nook version- your choice. I will announce the winner here as well as on http://www.facebook.com/karenrockauthor tomorrow. Thank you so much for commenting! I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving full of family, laughter, and unconditional love. Oh- and pasta too J


23 comments:

  1. I would play basketball with my brothers. We fought a lot, but those were the best times I had growing up.

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    1. I fought a lot with my sisters growing up, but would love to go back and say- "Here- you can have the Barbie without the cut off hair" lol. I miss those days!

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  2. I would go back to Disney and not be worried that one of the big characters walking around would try to speak to me.

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    1. Some of those characters were scary!! Especially the Genie! But I did love Piglet and I gave him a hug :) Thanks for sharing!

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  3. I think I would relive the last time I saw my grandpa, just so I could see him one more time.

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    1. Awwww! Me too. I hope all the grandparents know how special they are to us !

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  4. Does it count to say I'd like to go back to different days with the wisdom I have now and enjoy them more fully?

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    1. Absolutely, Mel!! I would love to go back a rethink taking so many pictures of myself in parachute pants - lol

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  5. Karen, Happy belated birthday. Love your post. Made me teary-eyed. I think you can be thankful that you went. Think how bad you'd feel if you hadn't gone at all. I have some do-overs I'd definitely go back and do differently with my mom. On the other hand, all of the things that happen in our lives help to make the people we are today, so going back and doing over might change something else in us that we wouldn't want changed.

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    1. Thank you, Roz. Your post was very comforting and reassuring. I do still hurt over the missed opportunity with Nonna, but I'm glad I went as you pointed out. Maybe she knows that I do appreciate her. I hope so.

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  6. Absolutely beautiful, Karen! I think Roz is right. If you hadn't had that somewhat careless weekend you regret, you'd have missed the lesson. I don't think it's as valuable to be able to do it over as it is to learn from what happened. And you did. I'd love to do over (despite what I said, I'd still like to) raising my children. I wish I'd been less in a hurry to get things done and listened more closely, I wish I'd cared just a little less about table manners and just let dinner be a fun time. I wish I'd been more patient. They turned our beautifully more in spite of me than because of me. God is good.

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    1. Awwwww! Muriel. That was beautiful and brought me to tears. I too wish I'd spent as much time playing with my daughter as I spent on homework and things like that. But I know you couldn't be anything but the most wonderful, loving parent. Your children must adore you as we do!

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  7. I saw that movie a couple weekends ago and cried! Then I went to work the following Monday and tried to tell a co-worker about it and cried again. I am such a sap! Your story about your grandmother and that movie make me reflect on my own life. I'm sure there are many things I'd like the chance to do over, but the message of not wasting today is such a powerful one. I do try to remember to savor the little moments :)

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    1. Amy- I cried BUCKETS! And both times that I watched it... guess that makes me a sap too :) I'm now working on getting my sister to go with me so that I can see it a third time. I know she'll love it and as a hard-working mom of two, one of them autistic child, she needs this uplifting message of trying to absorb the wonder of each day rather than letting the stresses steal it from us!

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  8. In all honesty, I'm not an affectionate person. I don't say "Thank You" to my parents, I don't say "Happy Birthday" or even "Happy Anniversary". In fact, in my 18 years of existence, I haven't uttered the words "I love you" to them. You might think that I'm a bad daughter to them but I'm not. I just don't like showing my affectionate to other people especially to them. I get embarrassed whenever I tried to. And in answer to your question, if I will be given a chance to relieve a moment in my past, I would like to go to my childhood days. And be as affectionate as I can to my parents. I would like to say to them that I love them so much and that even if I don't show affection so much, I would like them to know that I cared deeply for them. :)

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    1. Alyssa- My Nonna was the same way. She never said I love you- but I always knew that she did and I know your parents know that too. Not everyone finds the mushy stuff easy to say.. then again... lots of people who are good with words aren't so good at showing their love through their actions. Being a good daughter is the most joy and love you could have ever shown them. As a parent- it's what matters most!

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  9. Karen, I loved your article. I too wish I could back and visit with my Grandmother. There were so many things I am sure she could teach me if only I had not been too stubborn to listen to her. I already have a signed copy of your book, so please do not put me in the drawing. I look forward to reading it. Go luck with all your future endeavors. Happy writing.

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    1. Thanks so much, Shirley :) I think we have a lot in common since I have that stubborn streak too. Hopefully, now that I'm older and wiser, I'm learning what I wish I knew then- to absorb what is around me rather than try to force my life the way I think is best. I miss out on so much by doing that! I'm thrilled that you are going to be reading my book, Shirley!!! Please keep in touch and let me know what you think :)

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  10. I think the one day I would re-live is the day I met my husband for the first time. He got lost on the way to meet me, but was determined luckily. His smile when we met in person. He made me feel like the most beautiful woman alive. Manda mrsajward@hotmail.com

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    1. Awwwwww! That is a beautiful day to relive. Your husband sounds amazing- a keeper since who doesn't love a determined man?! I'm imagining his smile when you first me and it's making me smile too! Thanks so much for sharing that beautiful memory :)

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  11. That was one of the most beautiful posts I've ever read. I've been scrambling lately. Everything has been a mad rush due to so much going on and a deadline coming up. You're post drew me in and made me pause and take a breath. I totally agree that we should live every second like there won't be another, but sometimes we need to be reminded. Thank you!

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    1. You are so welcome, Rula! Trust me- I needed that reminder too :) It always seems like there are so many HUGE issues in our lives- and they are important- but they can't compare to those that are really important... chatting with your children about their day, holding hands with your husband as you walk around the block, playing with your pets... even if they are getting too old to remember to bring back the ball when you throw it. These are the moments I sometimes have to force myself to take the time for. After seeing that movie, I'm not hesitating to put aside my writing/revisions/posts/edits/proposals and house cleaning (okay- that one's not so hard- lol) to be with those I love, and appreciating my time with them. I'm so glad you heard this message when you needed it, Rula and good luck with that deadline! They are such a bear!

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  12. Congratulations, Manda! You are the winner of my Heartwarming Giveaway! I will be emailing you shortly about mailing information :)

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