Crumbs From the Corner: Adventures in Woolgathering

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Oyster Stew

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.
I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

-from 'Famous', by Naomi Shihab Nye

I appreciate the above lines for their warm suggestion that we can learn from each other, that we each have our talents and something to share with the world, that kindness and usefulness are so much more urgently needed than extravagance or frills or as the poet says, being famous.

My good friend and 'surrogate grandmother', she tells stories. She weaves stories set in places so small ‘you couldn’t cuss a cat in there without getting hairs in your mouth’ and in country so vast that the walls of a room seem to melt away as she regales us with her life tales.

I applaud her stories which all seem to be based around simple happiness she shared with people throughout the years. The best ones she relates are full of laughter about good times that for certain no amount of money could buy.

I am fond of one in particular that I believe defines love and a happy marriage.

She told me of her first Christmas with her husband, many moons ago. She was very nervous about cooking for somebody else. As an offhand comment and polite enquiry, she asked her husband whether he happened to like Oyster Stew.

He agreed that he would like her to try and cook that.
Pleased with a challenge, she cheerfully made the meal and continued to do so for the following thirty nine years.

One Christmas, when their three sons were grown, he softly asked if she might make something new this year. She was happy to oblige but wondered why he should seek a change when he liked it so much.
He was forced to admit that he had never liked it very much at all. That first Christmas he had only agreed to 'taste' it to see how an Oyster Stew might be. Then she had made again it the next year , this time without asking and she cooked it for four decades with the notion that it had always been his tradition; while he said not a word because he thought it had been hers—and neither wanted to offend the other.

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