I like surprises. This is something that I've only realized about myself in the last couple of years...but I do...I like a good surprise. In this day and age of instant technological gratification, you have to work to be surprised. Think of how hard it was to navigate the world just to NOT find out Olympic results before the coverage was shown in the evening. The fact that The Man, my sweet, sweet friend Kathie (the creator of the dress), my children, her children and so many of my close friends never spilled the beans over the months that Kathie worked on this dress is so precious to me. This was my (surprise) birthday gift last month, and it is as close to perfection as anything on this earth for me. Kathie has combined all of my favorite things in one place...my family, my kitchen, beautiful fabric, and BASEBALL. She and I (and our significant others) share a deep, deep...almost crazy-loca (speaking for the women here) abiding love for the America's pastime. She worked this love so seamlessly (har!) into my dress, and it's so incredibly 'right' and beautiful, that if I look at it too long, I can get a little emotional. I wish you could see it in person, because really, the photos just don't do it justice. Of course, if you are around the ATX, you might just see it in person, since I seem to find a reason to wear it every other day. You can see more of Kathie's work here.
Thai Kitchen is a restaurant here in Austin that I'll only go to by myself. The reason is simple. When I go, I weep. Not loudly, not dramatically, but I kind of well over in a way that I can't seem to help. It seems like this happens every time I go, so it's only natural that I'd want to go alone, right? I only visit once a year or so, sometimes once every couple of years...it's never really planned...I'm not even sure why I choose to go when I choose to go. Thai Kitchen has been in business in Austin ever since I can remember. As a family we used to grab takeout from there a lot, but my emotional response is directly connected to the fact that I used eat there quite frequently with my father. At the time it didn't seem like anything spectacular. Don't get me wrong, the food is really good, but it was just a quick lunch spot for us during a time period that we were working together a bunch. Sometimes we'd take clients, sometimes co-workers, and sometimes it was just us. It's not like we had any life changing conversations at this restaurant. Never shared any epiphanies on life. Never shared any deeply held secrets or aspirations for the future. In short, nothing 'special' happened that I can remember while we lunched. And yet something happens when I eat here that I can't really explain.
This last time I visited, I walked in at the end of the lunch rush, picked a booth and made myself comfortable. I ordered my usual (salad,vegetables & tofu with green curry, thai tea) and proceeded to skim through the latest Saveur magazine. When the curry came, I turned my focus to my food and casually started to take in my surroundings. Honestly, the lunch rush seemed so interchangeable with the crowd from back when I used to lunch with my papa. It all just felt so timeless...so the same as it always was. Regular patrons casually chatting with the hostess who has been the same forever, ordering their own 'usual', splitting up checks with their office mates. It was all so routine. With all of the familiarity, it was easy to remember us sharing the corner booth. It was hard to NOT see my father in my mind, chatting with the waiter, ordering something special...you know...'off' the menu. He knew how to request vegetarian menu items, before vegetarian menus existed...somehow without being a pain in the ass to the servers and chefs. Back in real time, I start to eat my curry and it all comes flooding back. He's holding court at the center table, he's blissfully oblivious of what a geek he is. I'm rolling my eyes, maybe even reddening a little at how much he likes to make friends. He's comfortable with himself, and makes everyone else feel comfortable around him. He's warm and has a smile for everyone. He's laughing that big, open-hearted laugh of his. He stays past the lunch service hours, 30 minutes past closing, but they don't seem to care. He leaves a nice tip, whether we can afford it or not. But now...back, sitting in my booth. I'm without him. The food is good, really good. It burns in all the right ways. And then, I can't help myself...the tears well up slowly, and then are flowing freely. It's like that damn green curry cuts straight through to the grief that I shelf for months, sometimes years at a time. The aroma in that space, combined with the flavor of the foods that have been the same for years and years...it's all wrapped up in past experiences, memories that aren't spectacular except for the fact that they're all I've got of my father. It's messy, and I don't know if I'm aching more because of the time I got to have with him here, or because I don't have him with me anymore. And so, this is how I found myself crying once more in the thai restaurant all by myself, hoping that the waitress just thinks that the spicy green curry is a little too much for me. And in truth...it is.