Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Guest Blogger - Cynthia Carbone Ward

I spent a very happy day yesterday, looking around the internet, and came across the writing of Cynthia Carbone Ward and her wonderful blog, Still Amazed.  So impressed was I that I sent off an e-mail, asking her to do a guest post.  She graciously agreed.  Thank you Cynthia!

Here's the post, reprinted from Still Amazed.

Take A Banana

It was a custom. Whenever I prepared to leave after a visit home, my father would pack a large paper bag with food to keep me fortified for the duration of my journey and often well beyond, cramming it with fruit, sandwiches, even a jar or two of his homemade lentil soup. My response was not so much appreciative as passively indulgent. I figured it was something he felt the need to do, so I might as well wait around a few extra minutes and accept the damned bag. Those jars of soup in particular had me rolling my eyes. I never knew how much I would someday yearn to replicate his recipe or know again the kind of love implicit in his giving.

I thought about that today as our friend Skip was rounding up his things for the long drive home after a weekend visit with us. As soon as he announced his intention to get going, I automatically began gathering snacks and making sandwiches for him, even trying unsuccessfully to foist a cooler on him so that everything would fit and stay fresh. The goods kept piling up: not just a cheese and salami sandwich now, but chocolates, carrots, soft drinks, an orange, an apple -- and maybe that leftover hummus, or those almond biscotti?

But it was very tricky trying to maneuver around his protestations and refusals, and he left with a rather paltry sack of provisions, urging me not to worry.

“It’s just a few hours in an air-conditioned car,” he said, “I’m not doing winter in Donner Pass.”

I can’t help myself. Some deep-rooted program takes over and all I can do is load people down with food. Here, here. Take, take.


And while it is a well intentioned impulse, I realize it can be almost aggressive at times. I am remembering my relatives in Italy loading tomatoes into shoeboxes that we were somehow supposed to carry home in our suitcases, and awkward glass bottles of homemade limoncello, and a whopping pastiera di grano that felt like a thirty-pound weight. Practicality did not enter into it, but they understood the basic rule: allowing someone out of your house without food is simply unimaginable.

Another time, I visited my Uncle Joey in Florida and had to get a 4 a.m. taxi to the airport in Tampa in order to make my flight home. We said our good-byes the night before and I asked him to please stay asleep in the morning and I would try to slip out quietly.

And I almost succeeded in getting away, but as I neared the door, I heard him shout: TAKE A BANANA!

Those were the last words I ever heard Uncle Joey speak to me. Literally. He died within a year or two of that visit.

But 'take a banana' seems fitting and sweet, a parting phrase I can live with.

Because it is after all, a kind of embrace, portable nurture, a buffer against the hurting part that every good-bye contains.

You know how it is: There's that little catch in the heart, the coil of great distance unwinding, some muted memory, perhaps, of loss. There is the impending gone-ness of someone you care about who is still for the moment right in front of you.

Here, take, you say. Let me tend to you a little longer; let me ride with you awhile.


So if you come to my house and set out on a journey, I will pack food for you, and you will accept.

(Take a banana at least.)


Cynthia said...

Thanks, Barb. It's an honor to be a guest here at your place.

Barb McMahon said...

And it's great to have you here!