bread and wine basics

We didn’t talk about it — that awful 9/11. The talk of others was all around us anyway; what could we say. What we know, we know.
Instead, my cousin and her husband spent their visit with us letting my mother talk — show them reams of old photos, tell, again, the old stories. They made her laugh. We laughed together, remembering.
More than fifty-five years ago, my mother and her sister dressed me and my cousin alike. We both can still remember the outfits — cute little rompers and seersucker short sets. Hand-in-hand, we skipped down the sunny hill between our houses singing “Zippety Do Dah!”
And then there was the time I went on vacation with her family, where we stayed with friends of theirs somewhere near Plattsburgh. The friends’ daughter had a a small kid-sized cabin with mattresses on the floor, where three of us went off to spend the night, armed with flashlights, blankets, and enough munchies to keep us sated until dawn. Just as we were about to fall asleep, a bat started flying around. My cousin freaked out. I did too, but, after all, I’m six months older than she is, and I felt responsible. (I have a habit of letting others take responsibility unless there is no one else. Then I always amaze myself with my ability to step up to the challenge.) So, I wrapped a blanket around her head and got her out and back to the house. Then the other girl and I chased the bat out of the little house and we had a great time for the rest of the night.
My cousin and I laughed at our childhood adventures until we were blowing our noses and wiping our eyes. And my mother laughed with us — for her, at 88, the best therapy of all.
We remembered the one summer I went home between college semesters and we hung around with a bunch of guys from New Rochelle and did hours of the “Slop” to the music of some band called “Kevin and Rockin’ Saints.” We rode on the backs of Honda-type cycles with guys that were going back to other colleges and we would never see again. And that was just fine with all of us.
My cousin and her husband brought bread and wine to share along with their stories. But not just any kind of bread. RYE BREAD. The kind you can only get south of the Putnam County border, where they live. Having lived in upstate New York for these past 45 years or so, I had forgotten what real rye bread tastes like. Rye bread with butter (well, these days it’s Smart Balance). Rye bread with salami. Genoa salami. Ah. Now, that’s a real taste of the good ol’ days. A sensory reminder of those carefree days before we lost our innocence — both personally and nationally.
In an odd sort of way, this day was, for us, an acknowledgment of the importance of that other 9/11 — an honoring of the basics that keeps us grounded even through the most tragic of times — friends, family, shared histories, hopes, laughter. Stories. And really good rye bread.

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