That has given me time to clean the entire kitchen and make a big breakfast. This process consisted of scraping all of the nearly-old vegetables and mixing them into a hash brown casserole on steroids:
- green onions
- green peppers
Amazingly, we had just a little bit of each in the refrigerator and on the baker’s rack. I mixed them all together, threw in a little salt and pepper, made some scrambled eggs, put a little cheddar cheese on the whole thing, and wham. A great breakfast.
There is an ingredient that I have not mentioned, and that is applesauce. You wouldn’t necessarily think of applesauce on the same plate of eggs with the vegetables above, but then again you didn’t have grandma Dedelow in your life. Or, as uncle Charles Van Gorp affectionately called her – Hurricane Helen.
That’s my grandma on my dad’s side. She grew up on a farm in Iowa where she and her sisters churned butter on the front porch and watched blackbirds fly by on their way to killing small rodents. Grandma Dedelow talked fondly of her girlhood days in eastern Iowa, although it was the depression and sometimes she got tired of eating corn and potatoes and no meat.
“My father worked hard, morning and night, and still we barely had enough to eat.”
That’s a story unto itself. I want to talk about Hurrican Helen’s breakfast and how it differs from the breakfasts that I eat these days. Grandma Dedelow made what the Mexicans who have married into the family call a “white man’s breakfast.”
- eggs over easy cooked perfectly so the edges were crispy
- hash browns made of shredded potatoes only and cooked in butter
- white toast slathered in butter
- glass of cold whole Pleasant View Dairy milk
I don’t know about the three or four of you, but I can recall a few times in my life when I experienced perfection. I once saw Neil Young perform “After the Gold Rush” at the United Center with David Crosby, Graham Nash and Stephen Stills standing next to the piano. It was perfection… although this experience may have been enhanced by several hits off of whatever the Puerto Rican guy next to me kept passing down the aisle.
Nevertheless, I know bouts with perfection. I saw it with my wife going through law school and having babies at the same time we were raising a rambunctious teenager. I look back at her doing all the housework and helping kids with homework and getting the cookies ready for the birthday party at school… and then, after all of the hullabaloo of three kids and a needy husband… at 11pm she would sit down at the kitchen table, spread her law books all over it, and study til four in the morning.
Sometimes I’d wake up to go to the Board of Trade and she’d still be there.
“Will you still love me if I fail Constitutional Law?”
“Only if you pass Trusts and Wills.”
It was perfection. There are other perfections. Kevin Costner pitched a perfect game in one of the most underrated movies ever made – “For the Love of the Game.”
This movie has a special place in our family history. Alexis and I, for a brief period when I made decent money at the Board of Trade, could fly our little kids and us to Huatulco, Mexico, for a vacation. Alexis and the girls sat in the row behind me on the plane. I sat on the aisle, and with nothing else to do but listen to my kids chatter and bicker behind me, I put on some headphones and watched the movie that American Airlines provided.
It was “For the Love of the Game.” It’s the story of Kevin Costner at the end of his baseball career. His parents have died and he keeps thinking of them as he pitches late into the last game of his career. He’s on pace to pitch a perfect game in Yankee stadium.
There’s all sorts of other drama going on, such as he has a new girlfriend who has a kid, and his arm hurts, and his best buddy plays for the Yankees. It’s a decent movie. Perhaps, though, I bloat its quality in that at the same time we were flying over Oklahoma and into the US-Mexico border, I, too, was digesting what I knew was soon the end of my trading career.
- I was in my late 30s. 40 is old for the kind of trading I did.
- My stomach was ripped apart. Dr. Claude Foreit, my high school lab partner, had told me several times that I had to quit the stress, that my stomach couldn’t take it anymore. “If you don’t quit, you won’t see your grandchildren.”
- My mom was dead. I thought about that a lot those days and even sometimes now. My aunt Joanie, my dead mom’s twin sister, called me on Friday. She dredged the whole thing up – “When I get to heaven, I’m going straight to see my sister… and we’re gonna laugh like hell like we always did.” Nyahk.
- I was in love and I had three kids and I had no idea what was on the other side of trading… certainly at that point I had no idea that radio would save me. Like Kevin Costner, I was afraid of the future.
With all of these things going through my head… and my kids kicking my seat and making noise behind me – and Kevin Costner approaching the final inning of his final game with his only perfect game – Alexis stood up and ripped off my headphones.
“The kids are driving me nuts. It’s your turn.” She stood there in the aisle, one hand holding headphones and the other on her hip.
“Wait. Are you crying? Are you f---ing crying?”
I looked up at her with moist eyes and a couple streaks down my cheeks. “It’s a perfect game and, and, and his career’s over… just let me finish the last few minutes.”
She tossed back the headphones. “Our kids are going nuts and you’re watching a movie and YOU’RE CRYING. Jeesh.”
I watched the rest of the movie. I didn’t cry anymore. I had already gotten that out of my system. Kevin Costner finished his baseball career. At some point after the trip, I finished my trading career. We spent 11 whole days in sunny bliss just a few miles from the border of Guatamala. It was supposed to be seven days, but Ohare was completely snowed in so Club Med had to put us up for four extra days extra at no charge.
…. It’s now 22 minutes from the time I started writing this to the three or four of you. The point I want to make is that perfection comes in many forms. My grandma’s white man breakfast was perfect. But so is my wife’s Mexican version.
- whole beans
- Mexican rice
- pico de gallo
- corn tortillas
- Chihuahua chees
“Do you have any hot sauce?”
That’s enough for today. There is perfection in the snow coiffed perfectly on the picnic table out back. There is not perfection in the vegetable concoction I made from perishables about to bad. What I wouldn’t give for one more white man’s breakfast with the eggs crisped perfectly on the edge and a cold glass of Pleasant View milk… and, in the corner of the plate, some of grandma Dedelow’s homemade applesauce. Let’s talk later.