Healing Hugs and Returning to Normal
Significant days and events are sprinkled through our lives. Some are highly personal. I remember the morning my brother was born; the green-eyed monster was sitting on my shoulder and I was not convinced a baby brother was a good idea. I remember my first day of college, my excitement and nervous anticipation for a new adventure. I remember my fortieth birthday party when I enthusiastically embraced the new decade.
There are also monumental world and national events. My parents have clear recollections of the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Americans share a proud memory of the summer night we sat spellbound watching grainy black and white images of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the moon. After waiting for 86 long years, Red Sox fans will forever remember the joy of winning the World Series.
And then there is September 11th. I was in Tokyo. It was already evening when I landed at Narita Airport and with the time difference, only minutes before the first plane hit the World Trade Center. But it was several hours before I learned of the horrible events in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. After the long trip from the airport into the city and a business dinner, I was finally able to call it a day and escape to my hotel room. It was late, I was jet lagged and exhausted. I turned on CNN for background noise while I unpacked and got ready for bed. Watching the news, I was shocked and horrified. I barely slept; instead like millions around the world, I was riveted to the television for most of the night. Up on the thirty-something floor of one of those big, impersonal hotels, thousands of miles from home, I felt terribly alone. There was a hollow, empty feeling in my chest.
I was a few days into a two week business trip. My colleagues did not hesitate to tell me that I could certainly cut my trip short and return home. US airports were locked down so jumping on a plane and heading home was not an option. Work became a distraction. I met with customers and discussed IT strategy. I consulted with our local sales and marketing teams. All the while I could not help but feel very sad and a bit shell shocked.
When the airports reopened, I flew home to my little cottage in sunny California. It was good to be out of big hotels and in my own house surrounded by greenery instead of concrete. But I had been living in California for less than a year and it did not really feel like home. While the initial shock did start to dissipate, within a week or so I knew that if I wanted to feel normal again I needed to hug a kid. Not just any kid, it was time to spend some time with my family.
I headed to New Hampshire for the long Columbus Day weekend. The leaves were changing color and the sun shone. I joined my family for walks down to the lake and hikes in the hills. We lingered around the table over leisurely dinners and long conversations. My nephews were big, gangling teenagers and indulged their auntie with hugs at arrival and departure. My then tiny nieces were happy to share lots of hugs throughout the weekend. The hollow in my chest began to fill. Thanks to the boys and little girls, I started to feel normal again. Throughout the weekend the seeds were sown for my return to New England. I stayed on the west coast for another year or so, but all the while I knew that a move to Pleasant Lake and a simpler life were in my future.
Enjoy the warm, sunny days of September. I hope that you find pleasure in everyday, ordinary events, time with family and friends and lots of hugs,
Tortellini à la Crème
This easy dish takes only minutes to prepare and is pure comfort food.
1 pound refrigerated or frozen tortellini
8 ounces pancetta or bacon, cut into small pieces
1/2 – 1 cup half & half
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage or 1/4 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme or a pinch dried
Pinch of nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
Garnish: grated Parmesan and Pecorino Roman cheese (optional)
1. In a medium skillet sauté the pancetta in a little olive oil over medium-high heat until crispy. Remove and drain on paper towels.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package directions, less 1 minute.
3. Drain the pasta and return to the pot; add the pancetta, half & half, sage, thyme, nutmeg and pepper; sprinkle with the Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses; toss to combine. Bring to a low simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low; cook until the sauce thickens, 2-3 minutes. Serve immediately with more grated Parmesan and Pecorino Roman cheese.
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