Claudia has a lot more to juggle in her life than I do. She has a son, Rodrigo (see November 15), who has been one of our son Theo’s best friends for over 5 years now, and a daughter Gaby (May 16) who is a couple of years older – both incredibly sweet kids. Originally from El Salvador, Claudia is a single mom who also lives with her own mother and until recently her grandmother too. Her grandmother returned to San Salvador recently, became ill there and is now likely to pass away soon. Because Claudia is working hard to support her family here, she can’t return to El Salvador to be with her beloved grandmother for her final days. I only see Claudia for a few minutes at a time when she is picking up Rodrigo but when I do I am always impressed that she manages to smile and remain so strong. While I’m stressing over book and deadlines, daily blogposts and Theo’s math homework, Claudia is working to support three generations here in Los Angeles and her dying grandmother back in El Salvador, while raising two kids – and all of this in a second language! She is a real Superwoman.
Some days are meant to be quiet, spent at home taking small steps, doing small things and managing the basics. Today was that kind of day. I didn’t have to accomplish anything other than rest, take my meds and do my breathing treatments. Not a day full of excitement, but I don’t really want drama right now – I want recovery. A handful of good friends came by throughout the day to visit, check in on me and help, and though I didn’t have a lot of energy to talk, I appreciated their presence and enjoyed lying down on the couch and listening to their conversations. At one point in the afternoon, our friend Jit stopped by. He and David have been good friends for over 15 years, having met when they were both single, and they often get together on the weekends for coffee, a chat or a movie. Jit is originally Bengali, but has spent most of his adult life in the US, studying computer science and then in the computer software world. Although he loyally travels back to visit his family in India once a year, his life is very much based here and is very American. Today he described to us his perfect Sunday morning set up – a croissant from his favorite bakery in the West Side, accompanied by a Starbuck’s Verandah coffee. However, in the last few years, I’ve been impressed at the enthusiasm with which he has been teaching himself how to cook traditional Bengali food. Whenever we have a dinner party at our home, he brings along some delicious new dhal or spicy vegetable dish.
I’ve had in the kitchen a jar of black peppercorns that I’d bought because I’d needed peppercorns to refill our pepper mill. Unfortunately, I’d brought it home and discovered that it was actually a mill itself and I couldn’t get the grounds out of it whole. I had to buy more peppercorns and this jar was now clutter. When Jit came by today, I said I’d like to give him either something useful or nice for today’s Giveaway. He opted for useful, so I hesitatingly offered him the peppercorns, thinking he might like to use them in his cooking. I was surprised at how genuinely pleased he was at the gift. But then, maybe on a day like today, which was more about small steps and small things, a small gift was enough. As I am realizing more and more, it is the often the quiet moments sitting around with friends, not saying anything particularly profound, perhaps just discussing favorite croissants or an enjoyable film, that provides life with its most subtle and enduring flavors.