Thursday, July 30, 2009

Vacation Eating

Yep, that's right, I am on vacation! I had planned to bring my laptop with me, but at the last minute it started having "technical difficulties." That combined with my delay in packing and last minute dash to the airport means I am laptopless for 3 weeks. I've had about 5 minutes of Internet time here and there this week, and tonight is my first chance to check in with an update.

This vacation is special. When I was 18 years old, I moved almost 3000 miles away from home and I've only been back a handful of times. The last time I had a nice visit with relatives was 17 years ago! We were close growing up, and coming back here has been a wonderful experience for me. My kids are getting to meet and play with their cousins, and seeing them around my aunts is wonderful... especially since my parents have been gone for so long. This is not a trip I will be making again for a long time; I am treasuring every minute.

Before I left, I had a flashbacky moment. I was making plans and thought it would be nice to go to some of the restaurants my parents and I used to go to when I was a child. When I was a kid, my mom hardly ever cooked. My dad had a taste for restaurant food (NOT fast food), so he often took us out for meals. He didn't do much else with me; he was an older father, so he didn't have the energy to go walking or riding bikes or playing ball with me. Aside from one time playing Frisbee together and a lot of trips to the bowling alley, most of what we did together was eat. When he wasn't cooking fancy meals and appetizers at home, he'd take us out for deep fried jumbo butterflied shrimp, filet Mignon, or lasagna. Ohhh, the memories. And that's what hit me when I Googled the restaurants in my hometown area.

Suddenly I was flooded with memories and emotions surrounding food. There was a certain ice cream parlor he'd always take me to to celebrate special occasions, like my first violin concert at 7 years old. There was the fancy Italian place we'd drive to once a year to look at the historic photos on the walls and delve into pasta and garlic bread. I remember the last meal I had with my dad at a certain diner where we sat and talked and he ate creamed chipped beef on toast just weeks before he died. And the little restaurant he'd take my mom and me to almost every week, where he'd order sharp cheese and pickles for an appetizer and a Reuben sandwich for his main course. Practically every restaurant listing I saw had specific memories attached to it, of time spent with a father who was gone too soon.

And my mother, too... we had our special haunts. Ever since I was a small child we'd make runs to the drive thru for hoagies and orange slushie floats together, and when she died, I, in the depths of despair, drove through there alone for that meal and sobbed while I ate it. The donut shops, the pizza parlors. Every place a memory trigger, prompting recollections of good times gone by and loved ones lost.

For 20 years I've lived 3000 miles from where I grew up... far from the certain foods we used to eat, far from those memories. If you've never moved from one area to another far distance place, you may not know that there are a lot of foods you might get back east that you can't get out west and vice versa. The sodas I grew up drinking are absolutely unavailable anywhere near where I live. The Tastycakes of my childhood can't be found anywhere near my adulthood home. And if you've every had real New York pizza, or bagels, or cheesecake, or a real Philly cheesesteak, you probably know that the imitations you find in the west are nothing like the real thing. Not even close.

And so as I looked down the lists of restaurants and remembered all those great times with my parents, I immediately wanted to go to ALL of those places and eat ALL of the foods I ate with my mom and dad. I wanted to eat every food that I loved in my childhood and haven't tasted in 20 years and won't have a chance to taste again perhaps for another 20. I started feeling nutso and thinking I HAD TO go to each place and eat each thing *in order to connect with my parents and my past.*

Think about that for a minute.

I can't go see my mom. My parents don't even have graves. I can't go back to my house. I can't see childhood friends. So, to ME, I can connect with my Dad by going to THAT restaurant and eating a Reuben sandwich. THAT makes me feel close and connected to him. I can connect with my Mom my going to THAT hoagie shop and getting an orange slushie. THAT is almost like having her back in my life, even if just for a minute. It's almost like getting them back from the dead for a bit.

As I felt my excitement build, I started wanting to eat and eat and eat before I even got on the plane! I sat down and ate a bowl of cherries... maybe a cup and a half... until I was almost stuffed. And then I felt sane again.

So yeah. I am out here, and I've had a bit of pizza and some special foods my cousins cooked for us. I've had an ice cream cone of that special brand and flavor I can't get at home, and I went to that special donut shop to show my kids what it's like and eat one of those great donuts I used to love. One, not a dozen like I ate when my mother died. And sometime next week I might even go get an orange slushie in my mom's memory. But I can't go to every restaurant. I can't eat every food I remember having with them. It won't bring them back, anyway. No matter how much I eat, they'll still be dead.

Instead, I'm focusing on the other memories. I can talk to my Mom's sister about the goofy things they did as a child. I can go to the petting zoo we went to when I was little. I can take a walk in the woods where I once walked to see my Grandma. And I can embrace what I do have... loving cousins and aunts, and especially my children who are getting a taste of my childhood... and not just from eating. From loving. From living.

35 comments:

tzumama said...

Raw, powerful stuff. Great work.

PamW said...

Stock up on lots of those hugs you have been missing. Hope you bring back some great new memories to get you through to day.
Pam W

Rebekah said...

Although I can't understand the loss of a loved one, I do know what you mean about moving far away from home and the connections certain restaurants had for me during my life.
Now I live in a new country (not that far, just the US) but there are a lot of things I can't get here. Everytime I go home I have to try to remember the visit is about the people, not the food, even though lots are gone, for whatever reason. Anyways Big hugs to you~! :)

moonduster said...

Aw! You brought tears to my eyes as I read that.

I live far from home too. 7,000 miles away. I live in England but I was born and raised in northern California, and I really do miss home.

And yes, there are lots of foods there that I cannot get here.

screwdestiny said...

Wow, great post. You always give such insight into exactly how you're feeling. Have a great vacation.

Saje said...

We miss you, Lyn! Good job not going off the deep end... wading in the shallows of those food memories without drowning is hard work, but you're doing it. Enjoy your time back home!

Amy H. said...

Nice to hear from you while you're on vacation - thanks for taking the time to share your experiences. I'm glad you're having a good visit - hope to hear more about it when you return!

Tammy said...

I'm glad you got to go back home and share some childhood memories and places with your own children. Those are special times...enjoy them. :)

* Aline Virtus * said...

Nice post! :P

Anonymous said...

Wow, that brought tears to my eyes. I associate food with memories, too. My parents and brother and I eat out a lot. Now that we're all separated and living in different places for the first time. I really really miss meeting them at the mall for dinner at the food court or out "traditional" Sunday dinner at Silver Diner.

Vickie said...

you were really raised to over eat. And you were raised to have food to take the place of feelings. I can really see why you are so attached to the idea of baking as something to 'do' for your own family. I don't mean any of that unkindly. I mean it as an AHA!

I have really had to examine this in my own family as well. To not turn to food as an easy fix or easy way to deal with holidays, time, boredom, bonding, traditions, kids, troubles.

Leslie said...

Very powerful post. Again I relate to so much of your life! My dad, like yours, was also a lot older, and he died when I was 11. We also went out for dinner often, and to mainly 2 or 3 places. I've only been back to where I grew up a couple of times in the last 20 years, and none of the places where the 3 of us (mom, dad and I) went to eat out are still there. But I remember the places vividly and they comprise much of my memories of growing up as a lonely only. You give me lots of food for thought.

I hope you're having a wonderful vacation, and I'm sure you're in my neck of the woods as I'm in suburban Philly and know well the cheese steaks and tastykakes of which you speak! STEER CLEAR as best you can!!

She-Fit said...

WOW! Great post.

beerab said...

Your post is beautiful- I teared up- it's great your children are getting to see some of their extended family :)

Lisa said...

This post made me cry. We moved from California were I was born and raised and I ate a LOT when I was there out of some of the same reasons. My dear Papa and Grammie are gone and I do accociate them with eating too.

Hanlie said...

There is so much truth and wisdom in this post! Well done for making the connection and realizing that you can connect with them in other ways.

Enjoy your vacation, Lyn!

bbubblyb said...

Great post, glad you're getting to visit with family and enjoying yourself. I could really identify with your post though about family celebrating with certain foods at certain places. Glad you're kids are getting to meet some of their family too.

Karen in Tennessee said...

Lyn, your insights amaze me once again. Your trip sounds so wonderful...and rather than stuffing your stomach with all those foods from childhood, you are nourishing your soul with people who have known and loved you all your life. I suspect this trip will impact you for years to come. We miss you though! Come home safely!!!

hmmmm said...

wow-you are so on-the-mark with so many things i grapple with, and grapple with poorly. you write beautifully, and remind me of what is important. thank you. (2500 miles away from home)

Val said...

What an awesome post-brought tears to my eyes. Because food does that. It reminds us of the past, of people and time that we have lost.
Good for you for realizing the temptation and staying true to your goals.

Coley said...

I, too, haven't experienced the loss of someone that close to me. However, I have done a lot of moving in my life - and there is one place that isn't officially "home" but it's where my parents call home and a place where I have visited and lived briefly throughout my life. When I go, I know I often focus on the food- thats how I appreciate this place, it's not in the states and so the tastes there cant be replicated here!
But I know when I went, I, too, tried hard to love and experience it for everything - the way the buildings are built, the smell of the island and the warmth of the wind, and the sound of the familiar accent... those are the things that make it home for me...

along with the food - but I know I can still enjoy BEING there, rather than just eating there ;)

Lovely realization, and very realistic as well - enjoying the tastes in a normal way, not in the way that our addiction and habits should have us! Great post!

The Fat Girl said...

I love raw posts like this. Parts of it were like looking at myself.

wyndymoon said...

I liked the parts of your post I could actually read. I had to skim the parts about your parents as it torn at my heart. My mom just past away this Christmas and I am really struggling still with it. Part of it is that I never went to visit her for 7 years even though she was only 3 hours away. So I feel a lot of guilt and pain. I am glad you could find a way of remembering but being cautious at the same time.

AGirlWorthLosing said...

Its amazing how complicated our brains are...great post. I completely understand.

Marste said...

Oh, man, I so relate. When I miss my grandma, I retreat to the kitchen and make her potato salad. We didn't go out to eat a lotthough, so for me the act of actually MAKING the potato salad is just as much a part of remembering her as eating it.

Karyn said...

Sounds like you are really finding your 'healthy Lyn' - I'm so glad.

Hope you are still having a wonderful time and come home knowing you are loved by a whole host of folks!

Stephanie said...

Yes, what a great post, Lyn. It made realize that my dad never played outside with me or threw a ball with me, either. But we sure as hell ATE a lot together. We never ate at home when I was growing up. That was foreign - we ate in restaurants but even worse than yours, we ate fast food A LOT. My parents were total workaholics but eating was something we could all share together and boy did we. Anyway, that was touching and thought-provoking. Thanks. Don't get carried away on the "memory" eating, girl. :-)

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cmoursler said...

I guess I am lucky because where I grew up...the food was craptastic. Hope you enjoy your time at home and make memories you can cherish forever.

Leslie said...

We miss you and are eagerly awaiting your return to blogdom! Hope your vacation was/is wonderful and that you'll soon be sharing with your readership.

NewMe said...

As usual, beautiful, heartfelt writing. Thank you.

I'm on vacation too right now. A few days ago, my husband and I took our two teenage boys to the restaurant where we had our first date. It was very moving--at least for me! The boys just enjoyed the food. Boys are sooo romantic. lol

flyingwoman said...

I so wish I'd seen this post before I was on vacation. It might have given me the focus and mindfulness to do better. The last three weeks I've been at my version of that place, and all the old "delights" demanded that I come by and visit, and seeking oblivion, ease, comfort and anxiety relief, I went, near every single time.

I feel just terrible in my body right now, and I'm trying to flip the switch back. I recognize I'm feeling damn sorry for myself these days and using it as an excuse to cut my legs out from under me. It's amazing how much effort and self-harm we will go to just to *not have to think about it*.

Good for you, your strength and your focus & wish me luck.

Anonymous said...

poignaant post. I do hope you come home happy and healthy... I do not see a wt. loss for you this month, I hope you do not sweat that too much and just keep on going!

Scale Junkie said...

I can relate to this so much.

Lynne said...

OK your 3 weeks are up! time to get back to business... Where the heck are you?