I remember the 6-hour car trips my family used to take every year when I was a kid, from Montreal to Toronto where all the Mallozzi’s would gather to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday. It was always a tiresome journey marked by inevitable motion sickness, boredom, the cramped backseat, and the egg salad sandwiches my mother used to make that included chopped white onions that my sister and I used to fish out of the mix with varying degrees of success. But always, my father would remind us that it was a small sacrifice to make for my grandmother who was getting on in years and surely wouldn’t be with us much longer. “She’s one hundred,”he’d say. “This is probably the last year we’ll be going.” And the following year, “She one hundred and one and it looks like this is it.” And the year after that: “She’s one hundred and two and this is probably the last birthday she’ll be celebrating.” As it turned out, she went on to celebrate ten more birthdays, ten grueling road trips that, in retrospect, were a small sacrifice to make. Of course, it’s always easy to reflect fondly back on those unpleasant experiences, untroubled by all those little inconveniences that so bothered you at the time, things like no air-conditioning, a radio that only picked up AM, and those damn chopped white onion bits that would evade even your best efforts.
In the end, it’s all good. As it was today. We got into Montreal a little after 7:00 p.m. local time. My sister picked us up at the airport and drove to my mother’s house where dinner was ready and waiting. We enjoyed a nice chicken soup with tiny semolina pastini, melt-in-your-mouth paper-thin-pounded breaded chicken cutlets with parsley, mouth-numbing hot peppers (yeah, the kind you can’t find in Vancouver), a firm but mild ricotta-like cheese, portabella mushrooms, green beans, rapini, and spicy pepperoncini. We finished dinner with a piece of peach-apple pie a la mode, homemade chocolate-peanut butter truffles, and buttery-good Russian tea-cakes. My compliments to the chef. I would definitely come back here for dinner.
Since she was hosting Christmas Eve dinner, my sister excused herself and headed home to prepare her leg of lamb. Fondy and my mother got to work, cleaning mussels, and I set up my laptop and started on today’s blog entry. Twenty minutes later, my sister called. She was a out of garlic. And she calls herself Italian! I volunteered to deliver her a couple of heads, partly out of sheer brotherly benevolence, but mostly out of a desire to make use of her wireless network. Unfortunately, we didn’t rent a car on this trip so I ended up taking “the old Altima”, a vehicle my wife refuses to drive. It drove well enough and the dashboard certainly put me in the Christmas spirit with the reds of the brake and battery lights, the green of the right turn indicator, and the festive flashing of the yellow engine light. I reached for what I thought was the parking brake release, gave it a yank, and had an entire plastic panel come off in my hand.
Oh how I hate the traveling part of traveling.