My cousin graduated high school this weekend. 18 years old, going to Geneseo in the fall for something biology related (maybe?? I’m a terrible cousin) and a full grown human person. Even as I type this, I’m holding back the tears (I’ve got to get this post out!) because I just can’t believe he’s old enough to drive, old enough to vote, old enough to be considered an adult, and quite frankly, I can’t believe I’m the age I am. Not that I’m old, but where did the time go?
Going home is always a double edged sword for me,, and probably always will be. Maybe it’s because I’m so (read: too) self aware. But every time I go home, it feels like I’m passing through some sort of time portal, one that allows me to revert back to what I was when I lived there, while still being who I am now. It’s like when I listen to certain songs and pieces of music. The other week I was on the train, and a song came up on my iTunes that brought me back 4 years. I had resynced (I know that’s not the real word for it, but don’t care) my phone and threw a somewhat surprise mix of music on. This was just a regular song from a singer/songwriter I had seen once or twice when I was relatively new to NYC. I liked what I heard and bought a few and honestly hadn’t listened to them since right after I bought them. But as soon as I heard those first chords, this odd mix of insecurity and uncertainty came rushing back, but only a glimmer. The person that I am now reacting through an outsider perspective while simultaneously experiencing those faint feelings as the person I used to be. It’s such a surreal experience but one I feel at least once a trip home. It’s like you’re a gemstone that starts out rough but every experience makes a new cut, making you something different than you were before, while still maintaining the original core of you.
These thoughts have been rattling around in my brain this past week as I prepared to go home and participate in our crazy Catering-For-150-People graduation party. I had to make my drop this week early on a Tuesday (or was it Wednesday) and didn’t actually pick up my plate until today, being that I was out of town for the graduation. So I went to Salon Deana on 30th Ave between 47th and 48th Streets to pass of the cookie torch, and they were so well received! It’s a small, bright and clean shop and had a few customers there when I came by. I spoke with Andrea (ahn-DRAY-uh, maybe there’s an accent there I don’t know how to put in) who was very nice and seemed to really ‘get’ the project. I went my merry way excited to see where they would send me next! When I came back today, they were really appreciative and I actually ran into Ivanna from my last drop at Joe’s French Cleaners who just had her hair done, and looked very good, btw! For all you ladies, or men I suppose, this seems like a good spot! When I asked for their recommendation, they immediately said, “The Corner. Go to the place on the corner.” Max’s Bratwurst and Bier. I used to live over on 48th and 30th and watched this place go in, yet have never been in. So, needless to say, I’m really excited to drop off some cookies and have some schnitzel and bier!
Now, without going into too much detail, my family is nuts. In all the best ways possible, but we’re a little bit crazy. My good friends from home can attest to this – Alaina, Jen, you know what I mean. We do everything to the nth degree just cause it’s more fun that way and we think it’s hilarious ourselves, how nutty we are. And in the the true style of our family, this party was to be just as awesome and over the top. So for Michael’s party, we rented (btdubs, “we” means my whole family – Mom, Dad, my bro and sis, her husband and their kid, my aunt, uncle, and their three kids. Plus the Grandmas. Technically extended, that’s our version of immediate. We are all involved and invested in one another’s lives) the long hall at Onanda State Park and prepared to cater for 150 people.
The menu was Michael’s Favorite Foods: chicken parm, fried chicken, chicken from Club 86, roast beef, meat balls, ziti with meat balls, meat pies, sydea (omg, SO GOOD), lyuba, mashed potatoes, pierogies, bacon wrapped tater tots, shrimp cocktail, poppy seed salad, fruit salad, rosa marina, and a selection of various kinds of chips and dip – guac, salsa, hummus. All of this was accomplished with the amazing organization and efficiency of Chef Mark. What a guy!
Then there were the desserts.
I was asked to make my signature cutout cookies and carrot cake cupcakes. Now, carrot cake was something I had not tackled before. For some reason, I had always viewed it as ‘more challenging’ than other kinds of cakes, maybe because of all the ingredients? I don’t know. But anyway, never having made it before, I went in search of a good recipe. I found it hard to zero in on one, not really knowing what would yield what, so I just took my favorite ingredients from a lot of them and made my own 🙂
These were no for the faint of heart, as there were three sticks of butter in the cake alone, not to mention the frosting.
The cutout cookies were, of course, delicious, and I decided to free hand some letters to spell out the grad’s name.
The quantities might seem small, but my aunt had requested variety so we had a lot of smaller portions of many desserts. My mom made her famous Heitmann cookies and monster cookies as well. You know, there is nothing like bringing it back to where it all began and baking with your mom.
We had some moments I will cherish for the rest of my life and pull out when I am old and gray, like the two of us dancing to JT’s new album, making a dance routine to Suit and Tie for my brother’s wedding next week and the both of us trying to belly dance. No, wait, not ‘trying’, but actually doing it 🙂 Now you know where I get my moves.
All and all, it was a great weekend, successful for Single Girl Cookies (I have a new recipe to add to my repertoire) and solidifying for me personally. As is with any large family occasion, I was able to chat with people whom I haven’t seen in a few months, or four or five year, sometimes ten. I was happy to see all of them, for their pathway intersecting into my life for even the briefest moment has shaped the person I am today. Former colleagues, old singing friends from high school era days, my fourth grade music teacher – her middle child graduated and is a friend of my cousin, my rock of a musical mentor and friend, all the while experiencing a different wave of the person I was when I knew them last.
As things died down, I sat there, outside on a picnic table, watching my nephew, the love of my life, run around with other kids his age. The party to my back, the lake before me, I could see everything – the picnic tables filled with parents, the groups of kids, now adults, really, talking and laughing, and the children running with abandon around the lawn playing tag, without a care in the world. Behind me, I heard the strains of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon. In that moment, I felt so full, so fortunate, significant, yet so small.
And as I sat there, I let it all wash over me. That moment never had been before and never will be duplicated. You can’t photograph or capture what that moment was. You can only be present to experience that moment and take in your surroundings, which in turn, become a part of you and shape who you are. Your moments, your actions and your reactions are simultaneously insignificant and monumental. They mean nothing but everything at the same time. Those moments, and that moment, add the facets to the person you are and are always becoming. It’s in those moments that we are created. So, ask yourself: who do you want to be?
Renee Heitmann, Copyright 2013