Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Still Got the Music in Me

Feast of Lights Saddleback College
It's been the most Christmasy Christmas I can recall since my childhood...thanks to holiday music. Frank and I have swung through a December of Sunday music. We started with Saddleback College's astonishing annual Feast of Lights, my first time, though it's been a holiday tradition there for 25 years. The choir's haunting "O Holy Night" brought me to tears.

We followed up a week later with a jazzy afternoon, a "Charlie Brown's Christmas," at the home of Luther and Vicky Gonzales Hughes. Luther, a world-bassist, who happens to own the late Howard Rumsey's instrument, hosts home concerts as part of the California Jazz Arts Society, which Frank and I joined several months ago. With Luther's accomplished friends at keyboards, drums, and vocals, the Sunday afternoons always delight...but this one was special, with
Becky Hughes. Late Bloomer
Becky Hughes and Dale Boatman interpreting the lyrics of old favorites. Becky, whose album is called "Late Bloomer," sprinkles a little sultriness on old standbys.

This past Sunday we went to my third Christmas singalong at the home of Barbara Smith, a musician and music teacher who decorates her home, herself and even her guests for the holidays. Yes, Barbara keeps a box of Christmas caps for everybody. And underneath each chair we each found percussion instruments so we all could become musicians, at least temporarily, in a rousing version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas.

I at last had a chance to hear the mighty William J. Gillespie pipe organ at Segerstrom Concert Hall this week, too, where the annual Christmas Spectacular featured Todd Wilson, from the Cleveland Institute of Music, with members of the Pacific Symphony. This concert included a singalong finale, so we chimed in with "Silent Night" and "Joy to the World."

William J. Gillespie organ
Tonight, before I head for Arizona for Christmas with my 7-year-old granddaughter (and her parents) I'll be going to a final Christmas music singalong at my apartment complex. When I get to Arizona tomorrow afternoon I'm going to ask Kendra to sing a few holiday favorites for me.

But the music isn't going to die when December runs out of days. Frank and I already have tickets for several Pacific Symphony concerts, and will be going January 12 back to Segerstrom for Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto. Billed as a "romantic tour de force," this piece brings me back to my childhood every time I hear it.

My friends know that my grandfather, Jesse Crawford, had been known worldwide in the '20s and '30s as "The Poet of the Organ," and "Master of the Mighty Wurlitzer." His two children, Jeanne, my birth mother, and Howard, my uncle, inherited the musical ability gene. My late big š¯„ š¯„ š¯„ sister, Patti, did, too. From an early age she excelled at both singing and piano playing. Professional musicians have told me she had perfect pitch. Perfect.
Grandpa Jesse Crawford

Though I sang in glee club, and danced with the Carpenterettes and Manual Arts High School's Pavlovettes, I couldn't master the piano. Somehow the musical ability gene skipped me...nonetheless, I inherited the appreciation gene, as did my son, Steve. I don't know if they play or sing, but I do know Patti's daughters, Spring, Dawni and Star, all also adore music and attend frequent concerts.

But, oh, how I always have longed to have my sister's talent, both vocal and piano. One of the earliest pieces I remember Patti playing...and we couldn't have been more than seven (me) and eight (her), was the Tchaikovsky piece I'll be hearing next month, the First Piano Concerto.

Sister Patti and her music-loving daughters, Spring, Dawni and Star
"Boston Globe critic Matthew Guerrieri commented that Haochen Zhang, Gold Medal winner of the 13th International Van Cliburn Competition, displayed “poetic temperament as much as technical power … [he is] a pianist with ample reserves of power whose imagination seems nonetheless most kindled by subtle delicacy,” artistic gifts that should serve him well when he tackles Tchaikovsky’s popular piano concerto. "

Here's Lang Lang with the wonderful Opus 23:

And here is Zhang:

Friday, December 16, 2016

Turning 80: An Avalon Idyll...

Frank toasts to a new decade...
I've got Henry Miller on my mind this afternoon...not the Paris Bohemian Miller of the "Tropics" days, but the latter one, who wrote this as he was about to turn 80:
“If you can fall in love again and again… if you can forgive as well as forget, if you can keep from growing sour, surly, bitter and cynical… you’ve got it half licked.”
I won't turn 80 until next June, but my gentleman friend, Frank Stern, welcomed the beginning of his ninth decade on December 13. I wanted to ensure that his 80th would be memorable. I think I succeeded.

Another Frank, Old Blue Eyes Sinatra, promised us long ago that fairy tales would come true, if we stayed young at heart. I believed him then and still do...and Miller, too. So earlier this week I spirited my young-at-heart Frank away for a Catalina respite for rest and relaxation. Though it's famously only 26 miles across the sea, Avalon is light years away from the stress of 2016. 

The merriment began the moment we checked in at the Long Beach Catalina Express office, where Frank was handed his special birthday ribbon. I insisted he wear it for the whole trip, and he quickly found out why. Birthday welcomes have become a huge Catalina tradition, since Catalina Express offers free round trip transport for the birthday celebrant.
Birthday breakfast
We ducked into the terminal coffee shop for a bite before setting sail for the island named from Tennyson's poem about King Arthur, "Idylls of the King." Thus our adventure began.

Entrance Hotel MacRae
Desk manager Juan at Atwater
120 Sumner Avenue
I've been to Catalina intermittently since my June 18 1955 honeymoon at the Hotel MacRae. As I do each time I return to the island, I checked out the old hotel's's still there, still owned by the same family that's operated if for decades. But Frank and I didn't stay there. Instead, I'd made reservations at the Hotel Atwater, a 1920s hotel just a block away from the crescent down Sumner Avenue.

There we were made welcome by Juan, who supervises the front desk operations. He gave us detailed descriptions of all the best places to eat and pointed out where Frank could take advantage of the birthday special discounts. We followed up the offer of free ice cream at Lloyd's, famous also for its salt water taffy, and a complementary  continental breakfast at nearby Ben's the following morning.

We decided to lunch at Antonio's, with an outside patio view of the harbor. The restaurant has old fashioned fun house mirrors upstairs, where I shot this photo of my birthday boy...yes, I'm afraid he got a little big-headed over all the birthday greetings he received as we roamed the byways of the island.
Fun with Frank!

We passed up the miniature golf and bowling games in favor of a leisurely stroll to the casino after lunch, followed by a thorough exploration of the new Metropole setting for the museum, with its videos and photos detailing the colorful history of the island.

Pacific snapper for me
Making a birthday wish
We dined that evening at the Avalon Grill, which, I would bet, given the laudatory Trip Advisor postings, ranks as the best dinner house on the waterfront. Aside from what appeared to be a quartet of regulars at the bar, the restaurant had few customers. Though Catalina gets a million visitors annually, most of these are in the summer, when schools are out. The couple adjacent to us struck up a conversation toward the end of our meal...and we learned we were chatting with David Jinkens, Avalon's city manager, and his wife Terri. The food? Ample and exquisitely delicious.  Frank had a steak and I had a whole Pacific snapper, delivered to me, bone and all. David took our photo in front of the restaurant's Christmas tree after we finished Frank's flourless chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream before we left.
Beribboned and birthdayed...
Birthday steak for Frank

On Wednesday we hopped aboard a scenic island tour bus, and to our delight learned we were the only passengers for the noon trip. So we got special attention and all of our questions answered. I learned the definitely non-native eucalyptus trees along the steep winding roads had been placed there because they have far-reaching roots that hold the soil to the sides of the cliffs.

Since I used to be a teacher in the Long Beach Unified School District, I'd known that the lone school on the island belonged to that district. I hadn't known that 40% of the school's grads attended college, a percentage the driver thought was worth bragging about. I agree, given that it appears so many of the students are the children of the bus drivers, tour guides, hotel employees and  other service personnel that cater to the tourism industry year around.

We finished up our afternoon with lunch at Maggie's Blue Rose, where we treated ourselves to margaritas, served in some of the biggest glasses I'd ever been served one in. Frank inquired if I wanted a second round, but I passed, not wanting to fall overboard on our return trip.
Margaritas at Maggie's Blue Rose

I'm still thinking of Henry Miller and how he lauded the gifts of old age:
At eighty I believe I am a far more cheerful person than I was at twenty or thirty. I most definitely would not want to be a teenager again. Youth may be glorious, but it is also painful to endure…
I was cursed or blessed with a prolonged adolescence; I arrived at some seeming maturity when I was past thirty. It was only in my forties that I really began to feel young. By then I was ready for it. (Picasso once said: “One starts to get young at the age of sixty, and then it’s too late.”) By this time I had lost many illusions, but fortunately not my enthusiasm, nor the joy of living, nor my unquenchable curiosity.
I met Miller on the occasion of his 80th birthday celebration at UCLA in December 1971. At that time he'd autographed a shopworn paperback copy of The Time of the Assassins for me, his poetic riff on the life and poetry of Arthur Rimbaud. That book remains one of my treasures. Though Miller had been born in 1891, a year after my grandmother, he remained ever youthful and ahead of his times. These qualities I see also and greatly admire in Frank. Though I've got six months to go, I'm determined to welcome in my ninth decade with verve, as well.

Avalon's famed casino.

Santa hulas on Avalon's Crescent

Happy birthday again, sweetheart!

Monday, November 14, 2016

All the news that fits...True and Faux

Where do you get your news? I'm not surprised to learn that these days most people rely on Facebook and Twitter for their daily input. Some watch TV panel discussions on a variety of channels. Most don't bother with print media.

I do. I still am addicted to checking a wide selection of news sources daily. I've done so since my twenties when I was a high school journalism teacher. The only time I had difficulty was during the decade I lived in developing countries (1987-1997). Even then, I haunted libraries, read the international edition of Newsweek, perused old issues of Hello! and Time in used magazine shops, and kept in touch with US pop culture by getting bundles of People from my son. I always read the local newspapers, as well, in Spanish in the Dominican Republic and Guatemala, and in English and Creole in Belize and Seychelles.

In Belize I had a little TV so could get news from WGN Superchannel. In Guatemala, for a while I had access to network news via cable. In the D.R., where I lived four hours or so by chicken bus from Santa Domingo, it became a bit more difficult to tune in electronically. The Internet hadn't yet been invented, and a lot of times the electricity outages (apagones) in San Juan de la Maguana prevented me from finding any TV that worked. In Seychelles I had an hour of English news from France on Sunday afternoons...that's how I learned that Princess Diana had died.

When I returned to the States, I started reading a daily newspaper again. I got a different slant when I lived in Little Rock than I did later in Silver Spring, when the Washington Post got deposited by a newsie...I actually supervised him at the Arkansas Department of Health, where he was a health educator and I was the state Adolescent and School Health Coordinator.

And in NE WA I subscribed to the Spokane daily paper, and the weeklies from both Colville and Chewelah. I subscribed to both Time and Newsweek. I also tuned in to network news, PBS, and CNN.

Now I read the Los Angeles Times every evening. But additionally I get online headlines from the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and get the Christian Science Monitor on my Yahoo news feed. I additionally get daily digests from half a dozen other sources, including the Jewish World Review, a conservative collection of opinion pieces. I check Raw Story when I want to be outraged, and even Briebart when I want to see what the latest anti-Semitic and racist rant is.

The First Amendment remains precious to me. Here it is, word for word: First Amendment - Religion and Expression. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

So I tend to fret when I hear threats to bar media representatives from press conferences or from access to updates on what is happening in the world. I also shiver when I hear insinuations that libel laws will be altered so fact checkers become fearful of publishing the truth. 
This is somewhat comforting:

Is truth a defense in libel lawsuits?
Truth is an absolute defense to libel claims because one of the elements that must be proven in a defamation suit is falsity of the statement. If a statement is true, it cannot be false, and thereof:ore there is no prima facie case of defamation. There are numerous jurisdictions (including Florida) that have adopted the substantial-truth doctrine, which offers protection to a defendant of a defamation claim as long as the “gist” of the story is true.
In the 1964 ruling New York Times v. Sullivan, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the First Amendment protects the publication of all statements regarding public officials unless the statement was made with actual malice — “with knowledge of its falsity or with reckless disregard of whether it was true or false.” The Court set a new standard by requiring that a public-official defamation plaintiff show evidence of actual malice by clear and convincing evidence. If the plaintiff is a private person, then only negligence needs to be proven, assuming the defamatory statement was false. However, if the private person wants to recover punitive damages, she must show that actual malice existed, as well.

So could the President-elect really change libel laws in today's America? Yes, but it would be complicated. Here's some reassurance from Sydney Ember in the New York Times:
The Supreme Court established the First Amendment principles that govern the country’s libel laws in 1964, with its unanimous decision in New York Times v. Sullivan. In that ruling, the court said that public officials had to prove that false statements were made with “actual malice,” meaning news organizations had to have knowingly published a falsehood or published it with “reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”
The standard, later extended to include public figures, set a high bar for libel and meant that people like Mr. Trump — both a public figure and soon-to-be public official — would have a very, very difficult time winning a libel lawsuit.
If Mr. Trump were to seek to change the libel laws, he would have to get the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling in Times v. Sullivan and subsequent cases built on it, or at least chip away at either the definition of “actual malice” or the characterization of a public official or public figure, said Sandra S. Baron, a senior fellow at Yale Law School’s Information Society Project and former executive director of the Media Law Resource Center.
“A change in those laws would require the Supreme Court of the United States taking a new look at what it previously decided and making changes,” Ms. Baron said. “I think there’s very little, quite candidly, he could do short of getting the Supreme Court to overrule New York Times v. Sullivan.”

Here's the link to the full piece:
It's worth reading in its entirety, since it concludes that a successful change of libel laws might backfire. Changes might make the one who seeks the change more likely to be sued for libel than those he has in mind.

In short, exercise care when you try to tamper with the United States Constitution and the Supreme Court.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Amor Eterna...Eternal Love

Waverley Chapel, Fairhaven Memorial Park

RIP, Mari Lou Laso Elders

Relampago del Cielo (Lighting in the Sky)

Entrance of Waverley Chapel
 If you look to the right of the photo of the dancers, you can see the back of my head, as I sit in the front row of Fairhaven Memorial Park's Waverley Chapel. I once again was seated with Maria Laso, mother of Mari Lou, my son's late wife. Mari Lou died last September 28, and this was the first time I'd been in the Chapel since her funeral service last October. This was the second year that Maria and I attended the Dia de los Muertos Remembrance & Celebration. Last year Fairhaven began its ceremony outdoors but it had been interrupted by a sudden windstorm and downpour. This year we were favored by sunny skies and a tranquil twilight.

 Maria brought Mari Lou's framed graduation photo and also one of Mari Lou with her father, Manny, who died a couple of years earlier, to place on one of the altars in front of the chapel. She also brought a proof copy of Mari Lou's young adult novel, Otherwise Known as Possum, which will be published by Scholastic Press on February 28. When we left the service one of the presiding priests told us that he had blessed all the photos that celebrants had brought. (I took photos of the altars, but for some reason all my photos of the evening failed to upload to my computer. I thank the Fairhaven Facebook page for the ones I have posted here.)

When I lived in Guatemala in the early '90s I learned that All Saint's Day, Dia de Todos los Santos, is when families go to the cemeteries to honor loved ones with flowers and other mementos. In Mexico and here in California, All Soul's Day, October 2, is  Dia de los Muertos. To the indigenous people of both Guatemala and Mexico, death is considered the passage to a new life. So this festivity celebrates both death and the cycle of life. From skulls to marigolds to personal items, families bring what was meaningful to their beloved to decorate graves and make the remembrance for those of us who still live easier to bear. Maria and I poured Diet Cherry Coke on Mari Lou's grave. It had been the last thing she'd asked for to drink when she had been in the hospital.

Maria and I appreciated the traditional dishes provided by El Indio Tortilleria: chicken, pork, corn and strawberry tamales, pan dulce and hot chocolate. Maria also brought along some cookies in the shape of bones and skulls.

To cap the evening, the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. When Maria, pregnant with Mari Lou, and Manny fled Cuba in 1962, they were relocated to Downers Grove, Illinois, about 20 miles from Chicago's Loop. Manny grew to love the Cubs. Mari Lou, close to her father, became a fan, as well. At the end of the service at Fairhaven, Maria confided that she believed Manny must have been exercising some heavenly pressure to help the Cubs come so far in the finals. We smiled at the thought of father and daughter clapping their hands for the Cubs from their heavenly seats. After the service I met a friend to watch the final two innings, and thought of the pair once again.

I had been unfamiliar with the songs played during the service, but the Hispanic attendees sang along to every one of them, including "100 Ovejas," and "Pescador de Hombres." I was reminded of how much my Spanish has faded since I left the Dominican Republic in late 1994. In those days I knew full well that "ovejas" meant sheep, and not bees ("abejas") as Maria explained to me when I initially mistranslated. The words still sound alike to my untrained and incapable of fine distinctions ear...and it reminded me that when I was a child I couldn't distinguish between "chair" and "share." I think I understood about 70% of what the priests were saying, but that figure might be bolstered because some of the service was in English.
Mariachi Los Potrillos play "Amor Eterno."

I did recognize the final tune, though, "Amor Eterna," because I've heard the late Juan Gabriel sing  it. Eternal love...and how do the living hold on to that, when they grieve? A friend posted the saying about grief on Facebook yesterday, so I'm sharing this thought. I do believe that the final line is correct...grief is love with no place to go. El Dia de los Muertos ceremonies give us a place to go. Thank you, Fairhaven. 
Altar offerings at Waverley

 One of the most touching parts of the service for me was the parade of costumed children who came forward one by one to place their offerings upon the alter: apples, marigolds, candles, corn, nuts, skeletons, and photos of departed loved ones.
Here is Juan Gabriel singing "Amor Eterna," in case you've not heard it before:
(And RIP, Juan Gabriel, who died this past August.)  
Juan Gabriel, El Divo de Juarez

Sunday, October 30, 2016

They Did the Mash...The Monster Mash

Frank, as an explorer, and me, the hippie chick
The last time I dressed up for a Halloween party might very well have been in the 1960's. Nonetheless, I did last night to celebrate the holiday at a dance at my apartment complex. I delighted in passing out brownies, with the assurance that I'd baked them myself from a recipe supplied by Alice. Those of a certain age may well remember the famous brownies of Alice B. Toklas. The peace symbol I wore was an authentic one from 1968, given to me by son Steve for Mother's Day that year.
Peace, Love and Happy Halloween

For months Frank and I have been waiting for a chance to try out our moves...and we did in the clubhouse last night. His heavy-tread explorer shoes might not have been ideal for pivoting, but we were able to Mash, foxtrot and Lindy under the strobes.

Frank was dressed as an explorer, so a number of people asked if he were Dr. Livingstone. I erroneously posted an identifying caption, but remembered later that Livingstone was the missionary and Stanley was the explorer who found him.
Here's my neighbors tricking and treating the night away.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

We Ain't Afraid of No Ghosts!

Even my kitchen counter glows with the Halloween spirit!

This year I've vowed to hoot and holler and act like a kid again for Halloween. Last year's holiday was somber, since we'd just lost my daughter-in-law Mari Lou Laso-Elders. Those close to her remember that autumn, and especially Halloween, always was her favorite time of the year. She used to squeal, my son claims, the first time she saw what she called "punkies." Last year I didn't even go to the costume dance at my apartment complex.

This year, though, I'm gonna go...and, yes, in costume! I won't reveal yet what it is, but it's a trek down Memory Lane for me, complete with a piece of memorable jewelry given to me by my son when he wasn't yet an adolescent! I'll be posting photos next week. My boyfriend promises to appear in costume as well.

Killin' it!
In the meantime, my aerobics class a week ago began our annual gyrations to the themes from "The Addams Family" and "Ghostbusters," as well as "Monster Mash" and "Purple People Eater." Today, in honor of the holiday spirit, I wore my special Halloweeny knee socks. Last night exercise and crafts instructor Sue Burchfiel introduced a new tune, one well-remembered by many of us...Creedence Clearwater Revival's "I Put a Spell on You." Here it is (if you're not remembering all that well) live from Woodstock:

Valerie Ellison chooses autumn leaves.

Sue Burchfiel and I show off our craftiness.
It certainly seems that Halloween (and maybe my boyfriend, too) has put an early spell on me. I'm entranced with autumn. Today in crafts class we fashioned "pumpkin pots," to hold plants, or....candy corn! I'm not known to be a craftsy woman, but even I can paint a pot. Some of my fellow residents here at H-W decided on a more general autumn theme. Me, I went for goofiness.  
Ooh, ooh, ooh...what a little paint and glue can do!

We enjoy a well-seasoned rec room!

My horoscope today reminded me that mystic Thomas Merton wrote, "Happiness is not a matter of intensity, but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony." So far today has been harmonious indeed. I might even treat myself to a bedtime cup of tea...with a little brandy, just for autumn flavor!

One of my favorite stories that I have written for Chicken Soup for the Soul:

Tea for Two

 "Every problem has a gift for you in its hands." --Richard Bach
My sequined purple satin princess costume remained in its tissue paper wrappings on the top shelf of my bedroom closet that Halloween evening. Dressed instead in my pink rosebud flannel pajamas, I perched on the window seat and watched the neighborhood witches, ghosts, and cowboys scurrying by. I tried hard not to cry. After all, I was six, not a baby anymore.

Daddy had taken my unaffected older sister and little brother to Grandma’s house for a party earlier that evening, leaving Mama and me home alone. I’d finished reading all the stories in the newest edition of “Children’s Activities. I’d even tired of cutting out paper dolls from the old Sears catalog, and longed to be outside. Mama had promised me a special treat, but I couldn’t imagine what could replace the thrill of joining the troops of children wandering door to door in the autumn twilight with their rapidly filling pillow slips. No Hershey bars, candied apples or popcorn balls for me this year, I knew. I didn’t care, I told myself, because though the itching had ceased, I had yet to regain my appetite anyway.

Mama had turned on the Philco radio in the kitchen, and I heard the Andrews sisters warning “Don’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me.” My sister was probably bobbing for apples right now at Grandma’s house, I thought.

“O.K.,” Mama called, “Time to get dressed!”

Glancing down at my pajamas, I wondered what she could mean, but scooted off my seat and trudged to the kitchen. On the back of one of the chrome dinette chairs hung Mama’s fur chubby, a kind of short jacket that represented the essence of elegance to me those days. I used to love to watch Mama get dressed for special evenings, in her fluffy chiffon dresses, always topped by the chubby.

“Put it on,” she said, pointing to the jacket. “We are going to play tea party, and I am going to be the hostess, while you will be my guest.” She draped a string of pearls around my neck, as I shrugged into the jacket. I noticed that the table had been set with her best Blue Willow cups and saucers, and that an empty platter had been placed next to the toaster.

Though I could not venture all the way outdoors, Mama opened it a crack so I could at least knock on the outside, right below the big black-lettered Quarantine sign.

 “Oh, Miss Terri, it’s so good of you to call this evening. It’s tea time,” she announced. “And even though you are my guest, I’m going to ask you to make the meal, since you have such a special touch with cinnamon toast.”

I’d seen the bakery truck make its delivery earlier, and had wondered what had been left on our doorstep. Now Mama opened the bread box and pulled out a loaf of sliced raisin bread. She placed the sugar bowl, the butter dish and the red tin of cinnamon on the counter, and lifted the chubby from my shoulders. Then she opened her Searchlight Recipe Book to page 44, handed me the yellow plastic measuring spoon set, and said, “Let’s see how you do reading that recipe.”

I was the best reader in my class, so I stumbled only on “substitute” and “proportion” as I read aloud the instructions.

“Cinnamon Toast: Spread freshly toasted bread with butter or butter substitute. Spread generously with sugar and cinnamon which have been blended in the proportion of 1 teaspoon cinnamon to ½ cup sugar.—The Household Searchlight”

I paused, and looked up. “Generously?  Searchlight?”  Mama smiled. “Generous is giving more than you really need to, giving from the heart, not the purse. And searchlight is a big flashlight,” she explained. “It lights up everything to make it easier to see and understand.”  I nodded. So the recipes were like searchlights, making it easier for Mama and me to understand how to cook. And we needed to do it from the heart. So I could put in a little extra sugar, just like Mama did.

While I watched the raisin bread brown in our two-sided toaster, Mama put her tea kettle on to boil, and told me a story about the birds on the Blue Willow china. She said that an angry Chinese father had been trying to catch his daughter who was running away with a boyfriend. Before he could catch them, they had been transformed into birds and flew away together. I rubbed my finger across the birds on the saucer.

“When you grow up, your father won’t chase away your boyfriends,” she said with a little laugh. “And now that you’re learning to cook, it won’t be too much longer before you are grown up for every day, not just for Halloween.” I smiled. It was true. I was learning to cook.

Though I hadn’t been hungry all day long, the smell of the cinnamon sugar seemed to reawaken my appetite, and I ate my entire slice and half of Mama’s, and even managed a swallow or two of my milk tea. When my sister returned later that evening with the candied apples that Grandma had sent, I accepted one, but insisted I wasn’t really hungry, since I had cooked and eaten a meal earlier. When she looked doubtful, Mama just nodded in affirmation.
 “She made a lovely tea,” she said.

Mama’s prediction came true, too, as I became engaged just a dozen years later. And at my wedding shower in 1955 she presented me with a black leatherette bound Searchlight Recipe Book, just like hers.  I turn the yellowed pages today to Page 44, and again recall the delicious aroma of cinnamon toast as I remember the year that, through my mother’s unwavering generosity, trick or treat became tea for two.