My daughter, my baby, my 34-year-old baby, Violet, went back to work this week as Senior Digital Fashion Editor at InStyle Magazine after a four-month maternity leave. Naturally, she cried, but what took me by surprise was that I cried, too. We have spent practically every day of the past four months together. I have been part companion, part baby sitter, part cook (see a few of Violet's favorite recipes below), part shoulder to lean on. Violet, my granddaughter, Plum Lillian, peacefully asleep in the Boba wrap and I have taken walks all around the city (where we live) and on the beach in Amagansett (where Violet and her husband, David have a home), had many marvelous dinners out (East Hampton Grill's burger to die for; I still dream about the oyster po boy at Bostwick's) and rejoiced in one another's company. These past months have afforded me and Violet the chance to talk endlessly -- about everything -- the serious, the frivolous, the life-changing -- about marriage and motherhood, love, death, and in our family's case, near-death. These past months have given us the most precious gift, time, and maybe, just maybe, the opportunity to make up for all we had lost. Through no fault of her own, thrown into circumstances beyond her control, Violet has had years, many years, that have been neither kind nor fair to her, years where my attention was anywhere and everywhere but on Violet. It matters not that necessity demanded that I be elsewhere; abandonment can never be sugar-coated nor explained away. From the age of 13 when a "land mine" exploded, wreaking havoc upon our family (so excruciating was the violation that there are no words to sufficiently convey the horror), the "shrapnel" hitting Violet head on, right through to her "anything but sweet sixteen year" when her sister Ruby suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car accident, for weeks nearer to death than to life, Violet's life has been turned upside down, inside out. She went from blithe spirit to a very nervous, anxious Nelly in the blink of an eye. The little we knew about TBI in 1995 (less than nothing) combined with Hollywood's version of brain injury ("where was I?"), led us to believe that when Ruby came out of the coma, we would go home and get back to our lives. Ha! What a joke!
As days turned into weeks then months, as first Ruby awoke from the coma, then had to learn, at what felt like a snail's pace, to walk, talk and try with all her strength to return to the land of the living, I rarely left her side, meaning that I wasn't there for Violet. Violet, at 16, was left to live alone, get to school alone, cook for herself, to navigate life without my help, to feel love, fear, rage, loneliness, guilt and have me, figuratively, a million miles away. Even when Ruby came home three months after the accident, my attention was still focused solely on Ruby. Would she wander away from our apartment and get lost, would she scald herself in the bathtub, would she remember where she was from one moment to the next? As a mother, the only thing that I cared about was that she lived, what she would be able to accomplish, if anything, mattered not at all. For Violet, it was far less simple, the myriad emotions far more complex and bewildering. All of a sudden, Violet became the big sister to a severely brain-injured sibling. All Violet wanted to do was live her "I'm a typical self-absorbed teenager" life, to not feel guilt for surviving, and if truth be told, not feel anything, and I couldn't say that I blamed her. Throughout the rest of high school, she spent most weekends at friend's homes. Thank heavens Violet was blessed with a group of BFF's whose collective shoulders she was able to lean on. As college neared, Violet continued to suffer in silence. The eating issues that had surfaced while Ruby was hospitalized never totally went away. The more success Violet found socially and scholastically, the guiltier she felt because Ruby had neither. In reading about post traumatic stress disorder, I saw Violet. She suffered from hypersensitivity (she perceived comments as critical), omen formation (if she had really been watching, the warning signs would have predicted the accident; if alert enough now, she'd be able to recognize the warning signs and avoid future trauma) and anxiety; she was worrisome, obsessive, hyper-vigilant. Her self-confidence had been fractured. She continued to struggle to recapture bits of her old self and embrace the new woman that tragedy forced her to become. Violet's stoicism prevented her from staying in therapy for any length of time, despite my best efforts to convince her otherwise. The struggle, the two-steps-forward, one-step-back dance would, over the next several years, become burdensome and exhausting. But, as John Lennon so eloquently put it, "life is what happens while you're busy making other plans." Our life returned to a delicious, normal, or at least for our family, normal, rhythm we hadn't known in decades. Ruby, ever the optimist even in her darkest hours, was able to embrace the "new Ruby." Violet, at long last, was able to let go of the "oh, my poor sister" mantra and rejoice in life. She moved to Paris for six months, studied fashion (no surprise there, she'd been preening about the house naked except for a vintage apron and stilettos when she was three!) and found, if not inner peace, that a close facsimile. Surprising to no one who knew Ruby, she graduated from an Ivy League college, began teaching and found James, the man of her dreams. And two perfect children later, Ruby's life is bigger and better than any of us, including her doctors, dared dream possible. Violet relished her role as sister-in-law and aunt. Ruby's babies gave back to Violet an innocence that had been taken away from her at too young an age, healed her wounded heart and filled her with abounding love and adoration. And so, too, did true love come to Violet, which brings me back to my tears of a few nights ago. Violet may be back to work, our "honeymoon" over, but since I've "hired on" as Violet's three-day-a-week baby sitter, I still get to spend untold time with my daughter, my baby, my 34-year old baby, Violet Moon. It may never be possible to make up for lost time, but together, mother, daughter, granddaughter, we are writing a new ending. I am blessed.
Pasta with chorizo & chickpeas: 2 tblsp. Olive oil, 2 shallots chopped, 1 lb. fresh chorizo, casing removed, 2 tblsp. Tomato paste, ½ tsp. crush red pepper flakes, 2 cups chicken broth, 1 15 oz. can chick peas, rinsed, 1 lb. orecchiette, kosher salt, 2 tblsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley, finely grated Parmesan cheese for serving.
Heat oil in large skillet over med.-high heat. Add shallots and cook until beginning to brown. Add chorizo and cook breaking up with spoon until browned and cooked through. Add tomato paste and red pepper flakes stirring until paste darkens. Add broth, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until sauce is thickened. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain pasta reserving 1 cup of pasta liquid. Add pasta and ½ cup pasta liquid to sauce. Cook, stirring, and adding more cooking liquid as necessary. Season with salt & pepper. Serve topped with grated cheese and parsley.
Farro with kale (or swiss chard pr spinach): 1 bunch kale or swiss chard or spinach, 2 tblsp. Olive oil, 3 tblsp. butter,1 cup faro, ½ diced white onion, 1 garlic clove very thinly sliced, ½ cup dry white wine,2 cups vegetable (or chicken) stock mixed with 2 cups warmed water, ½ cup Parmesan cheese.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. If using kale, cook in large pot of boiling salted water until wilted. Drain. If using swiss chard or spinach, ignore this step. Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add farro, toss to coat. Roast in oven until toasted, stirring once, about 6 minutes. Transfer to bowl, wipe out skillet. Melt 2 tblsp. butter in same skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, stirring occasionally about 4 minutes. Add garlic, stir until aromatic. Add wine, increase heat to high. Stir until almost evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add faro and ½ cup stock mixture. Stir until almost all liquid is absorbed. Continue cooking, adding broth by ½ cupfuls and allowing broth to be absorbed between additions, until faro is tender, about 1 hour. Add greens, remaining 1 tblsp. butter and cheese. Stir until butter and cheese are melted and greens are heated through. Season with salt & pepper.
Photo Credit: The Glow