A loss and a meal and a niece

It's been pouring brickbats all day. Early on it felt cozy, but, in concert with having fallen back with (the most horrible event foisted on us twice yearly) Daylight Savings and thus being plunged into darkness at approximately 3pm (legit, I offered Oliver dinner at 2:57p today AND felt as if I were doing so late), and some heartbreaking news this afternoon and the looming anniversary of election day 2017, well, it's been a grim evening. 

When I was very young -two years out of college- I moved to New York with a broken heart, big dreams, no money, and a job I'd talked my way into and was not remotely prepared for. You will not be surprised to know that the job didn't last, not least because my boss was an abusive alcoholic who enjoyed hitting on all of the waifish women he'd lured into the company.

Desperate, I reached out to a former University of Chicago colleague who now worked at Columbia. She put me in touch with the admissions director and long story short, I was offered a job. Bliss.

I moved into the lower level of 212 Hamilton Hall and became officemates with Terry. Next door, if I remember correctly, resided Peter.

Peter V. Johnson, a bespectacled man who always wore a suit, bow tie, and proper pocket square. Who laughed at my skim, no-whip gingerbread lattes, who offered me friendship and mentorship and made me fight, in the best and smartest ways, for the applicants I really thought warranted admission.

He'd attended Earlham, was married to a vibrant woman and had a vibrant daughter. He'd been at Columbia for years.

He called me Slim and I called him Peeves (an ellision of P. V. J.). I distinctly remember several colleagues saying, "Not sure he'd let anyone else call him that."

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When we moved to temporary quarters because 212 Hamilton began its renovation, Peter and I shared an office. Never, before or since, have I enjoyed sharing office space quite that much. I can still hear Peter's raspy chuckle, can still recall the way we sat in stupor as we watched the Towers fall on 9/11.

Once we'd moved into our shiny new space, no one shared an office, but Peter's corner spot was a primary hangout. How many times did I sit for hours a day, six days a week, arguing for certain applicants, ordering another container of Strokos tuna salad, marking my docket, losing track of time in there?

Those hours are some of my fondest professional memories. And now Peter is gone. And my heart is so sad.

For all of these reasons, none of these reasons, reasons beyond today, I found myself nesting like a fool this evening. Ol was driving me batshit, Jack and his pal were doing just enough homework to stay within the limits of acceptable, and all I could think to do was cook and provide.

What was meant to be the ingredients for at least two days of meals turned into a one-night feast that will, hopefully, sustain us through the weekend. That said, the steak is gone. I am not yet buying enough to sate the appetites of growing boys. But there is a huge pot of soup (ribollita; absent leafy greens per a shopping mistake and freezer overestimation but alas), a vat of potatoes, half a round of the best cornbread ever, and there is love and thought and memory in it all.

 red chili cornbread

red chili cornbread

 flank steak tagliata a'sear

flank steak tagliata a'sear

 steak at rest

steak at rest

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IMG_0789.jpg

Five days ago, on my nephew's 3rd birthday, his little sister was born. A day later, she was named Virginia. She is such a darling beauty, and I can't wait to meet her.

Today, Virginia went blue (go Northam), and I have to think that in the cycle of loss and birth and life and death is, always, love. And hope. I know Peter would have been pleased with the gubernatorial outcomes of today, and I thank little Virginia for any part her happy birth played.

 sweet Virginia, five days old

sweet Virginia, five days old