Little Things

author: Brad Spear

posted 03 October 2010 in Thoughts

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We had an office potluck on Friday. Just a sort of autumn kind of social thing that happens in offices that haven’t become dry and impersonal. Not that I’ve ever had to deal with that. No. Of course not.

Anyway, I wasn’t sure about attending, but then they announced a dessert contest, so I thought, why not? I’ve been feeling a little anxious about proving myself in a new work environment and getting to know my co-workers. I’ve done quite a bit, certainly been busy, but nothing really majorly visible, and I need to prove that I’m worth more than everything they’re investing in me. A net positive asset. I, of course, already know that, but they don’t. Not yet. And a dessert contest ain’t gonna prove my worth at slapping computers around all day, but it is at least a social thing.

For the contest I made some baklava from a recipe I’ve had for around 25 years now. I don’t remember where I got it, but I do remember that I made a few adjustments in the first year or two, to fit the recipe more to my liking. But I haven’t baked the little goodies for several years. Maybe a decade or more. So when I pulled the pan out of the oven on Thursday evening, I was wondering if I should make a second pan, a backup if you will, just in case. After all, some dishes don’t do so well after a long time out of one’s repertoire. I ended up deciding not to. It’s not a difficult dish to make (I’ve made much more complex ones) but it’s not trivial, and at the end of a long day it wasn’t something I really wanted to do.

So I brought the single pan to work Friday morning. After I picked out the “good” pieces, filling three plates, I was left with some corners and edges that were small, misshapen, or had no honey. I tasted a corner that did have some honey and thought that’s it, I was out of the running. I should have made that second tray.

But the potluck itself was good. Talked to a few people I didn’t know yet. Tasted some interesting dishes, some good, some great, some just okay. But nothing I would call bad. I actually ate enough that I was full all afternoon. And after everyone else was done too, there was still more.

That evening, I stayed home with my daughter, Allison, while my wife and son were at a high school football game. Pam and I had been to the first home game the previous week, partly to watch the game, and partly to watch Jake. He’s in the Marine Corps JROTC, and was doing color guard duty at that game.

We wondered why he kept the uniform on for the entire game, since his duty only involved the beginning of the game, until we realized that he realized how much the girls were looking at him. Ah, to be a teenage boy again. I do have to admit that the Marine Corps dress uniform is tight. (Or, if you prefer, “spiff” or “cool” or “bitchin” or “righteous” or “the bee’s knees.”)

The game was fun, and Pam and I acted a little bit like teenagers ourselves. I hope it’s cold enough at the next game that we have to bring a blanket and we can be even more like teenagers, if you catch my drift. But Pam doesn’t have to hang around with me all the time. After several years of being at home 24/7 — first because I was working from home, then because I was unemployed — that was my gift to her. 🙂

Anyway, back to Allie and me. Even though I wasn’t hungry, Allison wanted to go out to eat. We didn’t want fast food, nor someplace fancy, so we decided on Coco’s, a little coffee-shop kind of diner chain, where we spent some father-daughter bonding time. If you know the South Bay, it’s the one on Hawthorne Blvd, just north of West 182nd Street.

Though we spent some time looking at the menu, we both ended up having salads. Me, because I wasn’t that hungry. Her, because she’s a girl. Okay, I’m stereotyping a little here, but not much. Who’s going to disagree with me?

But Coco’s also sells pies separate from their meals, and we bought a pie as we were leaving, for dessert at home. I caved in to Allie with her choice of blueberry, even though I had really wanted the boysenberry. They were out of the banana cream.

Now, I haven’t had a home-made fruit pie in a very long time. Okay, I tried making a plum pie this summer, but failed miserably. I need to rethink the recipe for next year’s plum harvest from our back yard. And my experience with most commercial fruit pies is that they are so cloyingly sweet, I can only deal with very small slices. And they always leave this weird aftertaste.

But this pie was different, one of the best fruit pies I’ve had in a very long time. A lot of filling compared to the crust, and the filling was only mildly sweeter than the blueberries would be themselves. And no aftertaste, other than a little hint of blueberry. (That went away when I brushed my teeth.) A truly enjoyable experience, everything a fruit pie should be. It even tasted like blueberry. Will wonders never cease?

So while Allison and I ate our slices of pie, we played a little “Mario Party 8” on the Wii. We generally play as a team against two computer-generated characters, and that night was no different. Of course, we won. But we almost always do. We can even beat (usually) the “very hard” characters. But playing a game is not necessarily just about playing the game.

Pam and Jake got back home later. It seems our team won the game 30-21 (rah!) and everyone had a good time. Except maybe the opposing players.

Oh, and back to the potluck, it turns out I took first place in the dessert contest. Totally unexpected (and I don’t know if there were even more than four entries in the contest) but a nice little ego boost. Plus I’ve finally been getting some real work done. It should become visible over the next week, and this week ended on a definite up-tick. (The stock market up-tick was also nice for my portfolio.)

So here’s looking forward to next week. Though I have much to love about my life, I will never have everything I desire — sometimes because I made flawed choices and my chance is long gone, sometimes because of misunderstandings, sometimes just because I don’t want it badly enough. And I will always regret a few of the paths not followed, and the choices poorly made, some far more than others.

But in the end, and something to remember in our darkest moments, is that it all comes down to nothing more than those little things that make life worth living. And Friday held many of those little things for me.


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