Cleaning out my recipe trove and watching Wimbledon- a trip through time

I'm skipping yoga and spending today at home. The boys are at camp, it's hot as get-out outside, I have desperately needed to clean out my recipe files and transfer them into the organizer I bought three years ago, AND Wimbledon is on and Roger is playing.

Growing up, watching Wimbledon every July was one of my family's favorite ways to spend time and time together. We'd make "nests" of blankets and pillows on the floor in front of our TV and tuck in for days of good tennis. Weekends were the best because Dad was usually home. I remember the times he was on call, and his beeper pinged; he'd call in and answer clearly and responsibly, but his eyes never left the TV screen.

Periodically, someone would take one for the team and get up to fetch snacks and drinks. There were stretching and bathroom breaks too, but for the most part, if our favorites were playing, we were enthused fans glued to every point. Lendl, Edberg, Agassi, Graf, Sampras, Navratilova. We could not tolerate Martina Hingis's scream which sounded like Henri! after every whack. I can track my childhood with tennis players and tournaments.

Nanny would often come watch with us although she stuck to  an upright chair rather than the floor. When she couldn't drive anymore or didn't want to go out, she'd watch from her house, and we'd chat via phone periodically. She and I always loved the same players, most notably Pete Sampras; we both called him Petey and loved him even though some said he was cocky and others said he was a dim bulb. That man could play some tennis, y'all.

When Tom and I had been dating just a few months, a friend gave me tickets to the US Open. I called Tom with mad excitement: "Honey, I have tickets to the Sampras-Agassi match. Can you fly up?" Because we were young and unencumbered (and he was still in DC and I in NY) and he has a kazillion frequent flier miles because he was a consultant then, he did come up, and he and I and two friends watched that epic men's singles final: 6–3, 6–4, 5–7, 6–4, Sampras. It was Petey's last pro game.

I called Nanny during it, thankful for my relatively new cell phone. After Sampras retired, Nanny and I took up with Roger Federer, or Rogie. You see a nickname theme here. Until she died, Nanny watched tennis, and I would always call her at least once when our boyfriend played. 

The past few weeks haven't been much slower than those surrounding the end of school. And so today, when I saw my Rogie would be playing Raonic in the quarter-finals, I decided to cancel everything on my schedule, stay home and watch for old time's sakes, and enjoy some quiet stillness. I am a bit stressed because Raonic beat Rogie last year in the Wimbledon semis, and I was heartbroken. Hopefully today will boast a different outcome because let's face it, Rogie isn't getting younger and will surely retire soon.

Going to Wimbledon is on my bucket list, and although I'll probably never seen Roger play, I'll get to see his name listed as the winner for so many years (Petey too) and will just be thrilled to wander around those hallowed grounds, a place that has meant much to me over the years.

While waiting for the match to start, I've started sorting through my recipe files and kept Wimbledon on in the background. Querrey beat Murray (WOOT! I am NOT a fan of Murray, and also America could really use a bit of good news right now), and Cilic and Muller are duking it out in the fifth set now.

I didn't expect to find that as tennis helps me track my life in some ways, so too do my recipe files. 

I've just thrown out a good 90% of the Cooking Light recipes I clipped long ago before Jack was born. Those are from a time of rigidity that I neither wish nor need to return to. I've gingerly transferred old favorites, some from Nanny and others from friends, into plastic sleeves for safer keeping. I love looking back over the notes I've taken on dishes- whether they work as written, what I've changed, what I loved.

<HOLD UP- Rogie and Raonic are into the second set already, and Rogie is on fire. GENIUS playing. And his legs. Meow!>

I found the little yellow pamphlet I got at the Reston, VA, Whole Foods when Jack was a baby. It included a recipe for sweet potato pancakes, little orange silver dollars of health, that I cooked for Jack for years. I'd make stacks and stacks and freeze what he didn't scarf down, hoping they'd last at least a few days before I needed to get out my griddle once more.

I've contemplated my favorite cauliflower recipes and discarded those that don't make the cut. Tom is not a cauliflower fan (unless I curry it, and neither are the kids, so I don't make the veggie as often as I might like. I can tell that I've been through beet, sunchoke, pea, and bulgur phases. I see that I don't make nearly as many soups as I've ever intended and that at the end of the day, I rarely follow recipes which is why so many of these hopefully, lovingly clipped ideas have remained just that.

And I see that over all these years, since first learning to cook by Nanny's side, I've gotten to be a really good cook, one whose roots and preferences remain clear. I like good, clean, real, well-seasoned food, and I like to make it for those I love.

OMG, y'all! ROGER just beat Raonic handily AND Djokovic had to retire because of injury. Lawd a'mercy, maybe Roger will win one more. Go, Rogie, go. Do it for Nanny!

Rogie (Federer), Nanny, and memories

Who watched that incredible, for-the-ages, heartbreaking U.S. Open men's tennis final last night? I am still making tears and associated sad faces. Roger Federer, my Rogie, is one of the greatest players of all time and also one of the classiest. I mean, did you hear his speech just prior to being given that lame-arse, second-place plate? 

People, the plates have got to be retired. No one spends six hours a day for 18 years sweating and becoming super-human to win a plate. Even if it's sterling silver and engraved. 

Back to Rogie. The wavy hair atop his head never succumbs to scalp sweat. He is always gracious and lovely. He and his wife have TWO sets of twins. The colored side vents in his tennis shirts always line up with the same-color stripes running up the sides of his shorts. That alone is worth something more than a plate.

I honestly think that nothing more needs to be said in support of Roger. Except that if ever you've wondered why I love Benedict, it's rather the same: both RF and BC are expert at their  skill, both are classy beyond compare, AND both can wear a suit like nobody's business. Who could want more? Or, what more could one want?

Last night's game was an epic one: two real champions duking it out with various crests and falls of greatness. When T and I had been dating for about two months, I got tickets to the U.S. Open final between Sampras and Agassi. Another historic showdown, not least because Petey retired shortly after. I wonder if Rogie will do the same soon.

I grew up watching and loving tennis. I was a terrible tennis player, but my parents, sister and I used to set up a large "nest" on our family room floor -blankets, pillows, etc- and watch as much of Wimbledon and the U.S. Open as possible. My Nanny loved the sport too, and until she was no longer able, she often joined our family view sessions. 

Once I moved away and when she was too old to travel, I'd call her at the start of a match; she and I always loved the same players. Stefan (now, fabulously, Roger's coach), Pete, Roger. 

"Nan, do you have the game on? Are you watching?"

"Oh yes, do you? Isn't X handsome?"

"He sure is, Nan. I love you. I'll call you after the game, OK?"

I really wanted to call Nanny last night, both before and after the game. It's in these little moments that I miss her so deeply.

Last week, somewhere, I saw a darling elderly woman wearing those elastic-waist, faux-denim pants that Nanny always wore. Where does one get those? Will I find out after I'm 70? I saw that woman and I gasped. I wanted to see if she, like Nanny, had on a camisole, under her button-up shirt. Did she use Aqua Net hairspray? Did she wear Sas shoes? I wanted to hug her, and maybe take her hand, to see if it was soft and cool and smooth like Nanny's, like I can't imagine mine ever being. 

I couldn't do any of those things, but last night, as I saw Jack get really excited about the thrilling match we were watching; as I saw something spark in him the way it must have once sparked in me; as T, who has the crappiest cold, gave in and wandered off to bed,

I thought, "My Nan is gone, but my Jack is here. And if I let him stay up late with me tonight, watching heroic sportsmanship and athletic ability play out in front of us, maybe he'll come to love this sport as I do. Maybe we'll watch Wimbledon and the U.S. Open together each year and perhaps, if we're lucky sometime, we'll go to either tourney in person, together, and see something that we'll never forget." 

Maybe one day, he'll call me or his child will call me, and say, 'Nan, do you have the game on?' And I'll have found those elasticized pants and the perfect recliner, and I'll be so happy my grandchild is calling, and I'll say, "Oh yes, do you? He is so handsome!"

Though I'm still heartbroken for Roger, I don't regret our late night one bit.