Last Thursday I realized a moment too late that I was driving straight past my exit off of I-70 coming back from Topeka. I thought it was the second exit that puts you out on to Iowa Street when I realized that it was indeed the East Lawrence exit, my exit – the exit I have turned on to a million times – that I was whizzing past. I had a lot on my mind.
It was a busy week with promotional speaking for my novel Joy Again. The Thursday I missed my exit I was speaking at one of my favorite places, The Lawrence Public Library.
Behind the wheel of my Volvo station wagon, I was mentally reviewing what I would say about why I wrote this book, the process I went through to publish it and trying to dredge anything else up that might be deemed interesting. I admired my dog Lucy’s shave in the rear view mirror (so pretty!) as I thought about the morning in Topeka.
I had accompanied my mom to her vet’s office earlier to put her beloved dog Cocoa to sleep. Over all of our combined years neither of us had gone through this experience. Cocoa was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel she adopted from a rescue. She was a faithful companion – completely deaf, always hungry (she would get into uncooked oatmeal at our house) and affectionate. Her passing was about as peaceful and loving as any I can imagine; it was also sad. It made me long for a different end for Bear, our precious ‘firstborn’ who died years ago while we were in London. We had picked him up when we returned to town – the vet had frozen his body so we could bury him and he was in a black plastic trash bag. Cocoa was wrapped in a soft coral towel of my moms, the weight surprisingly heavy as I carried her to the car. We drove to my aunt Mimi’s house where she has a lovely shaded area in her large backyard that many of her animals have been buried. My mom brought flowers from her garden, their aroma sweeter and stronger than any I have experienced.
The Shelton sister wore gardening boots as it was muddy from recent rains; I had not had such foresight as my grey sneakers got smeared. We remarked on the fabulous dirt as I dug – thick, dark, dense and rich. It seemed anything should be able to grow there. When the tears seemed over, we said our final goodbyes and went for donuts.
I thought of my signature dessert as a pastry chef: Apple-celery granita was layered atop vanilla panna cotta in a champagne flute. A wasabi glaze drizzle and pinch of black Hawaiian salt accented the layers and the presentation was finished with a dried Granny Smith apple chip and candy sugar sticks. (Link to recipe) This dish was special because it was interesting, a study of contrasting flavors and textures. Icy against the creamy, sweet mingles with spicy, salty and tart collide, celery as dessert. In the end it ending up tasting good, even delicious.
So maybe because the morning was intense and sad and tearful I was able to enjoy this moment a few hours later even more…
Aren’t they awesome, these friends who showed up at the library that night? Because all I had to do to get back to Lawrence after missing my exit was go a little bit out of my way and turn around. Maybe it was the right path after all.