It’s warm in Grandma’s kitchen.
A small plastic fan on the counter does little to circulate air or cool the room. It doesn’t help that a pot of sauce has been on the back right burner of the stove for hours before my arrival. The smell is mouth-watering. I can almost taste tomatoes now.
Grandma tries to extricate herself from the cushy red couch in the living room to greet us. That couch is so fluffy that the little lady has a difficult time escaping the clutch of its cushions. Her hair is dark and curly, showing signs of a recent trip to the salon; there’s no flat spot in the back from where she rests her head on the couch while she reads her western books during the day. Her outfit screams of summer, bright yellow and turquoise. Her nails are painted pink, and you can see the spots she messes up because her vision is poor.
My uncle Dino sits in the leather recliner, watching true crime stories; a retired business man tries to kill his wife, a woman finds out her husband is a serial rapist, a new mother smothers her newborn.
My first stop is the fridge for a can of Ginger Ale and string cheese. The smell of the sauce is making me hungry, but I can be patient. Fresh Italian bread from Alesci’s also waits. I take a piece, Tony takes a piece, and the day of overindulgence has officially begun.
Dad and Carmen arrive. Dad wears a light blue work shirt, white undershirt, and thick khaki work pants. He looks good in blue, the lighter hue bringing contrast to his dark, sun-worn skin. He fills a bowl with meatballs, sausage and sauce. Carmen wants a toasted cheese sandwich, and Grandma starts melting butter in a pan. That smell is enticing, too. I think about stealing a bite of his sandwich, but it’s surprisingly easy to resist.
Eventually the water is boiling, and two pounds of rigatoni are in the pot. The extra pound is added because Tony is with us today. Grandma knows how my boyfriend eats. His appetite fits in here. Dad and Dino talk about work.
It’s slightly cooler in the living room, where a tiny window air conditioner and stand-up fan tag-team to beat the heat. More crime shows, conversation, and waiting.
The bowl of meat is on the table, and Carmen is picking at it. I get him a meatball, cut it up for him, and hand him a spoon; it’s easier for him this way. Finally, pasta is done. There’s a lot; it won’t last.
At the table, we talk politics. The governor, the budget, abortion. I’m impassioned. Tony’s quiet; he knows he and my family probably won’t agree on much. We all fill ourselves on rigatoni. After a heaping pile of pasta, I finish up with a meatball and hardboiled egg smothered in romano cheese and sauce. Tony has seconds, probably thirds, maybe more. It’s delicious, unbeatable. I’m full, but I’ll eat more anyway.
We’re lethargic from the heat and our bellies full of carbs. Dino disappears, probably upstairs to nap. Carmen nods off in the recliner. Dad parks on one end of the red monster to doze. Tony is struggling to stay awake at the table. Grandma and I chat about my cat.
I show her photos, and she needs her reading glasses to see them. Her hands sometimes miss when I hand her my phone; she’s blind in one eye. She worries about passing her eye test to renew her driver’s license this fall. I worry, too.
Grandma has an ice cream cake for my birthday. She drove to Dairy Queen for it on Saturday. She said she grabbed one first that the employee told her was “for a man.” This one has designs in red and pink, reminiscent of Valentine’s Day. We wait for it to thaw before digging in. She knows I love the crunchy stuff in the middle. Dad remembers the time he ate an entire ice cream cake in his sleep and got sick the next day. Tony and I have seconds.
We retire to the living room to watch a special on two high school athletes from Cleveland. Tony had the remote, so it’s sports. If dad had it, it would be poorly made science fiction movies. Grandma is mad they don’t get STO to watch the Indians. Carmen is still napping.
After a while, it’s time to leave. I’m still full and drowsy and am not excited about making the drive from Bedford to Lakewood. A nap is in my future.
I can’t wait to do it again next week.