Like most families, mine is no different in our adherence to time-honored and often ridiculous traditions. Some have to do with rigid and old fashioned standards of etiquette – i.e. we always blacken the wicks of our candles and never send a thank you note that has the audacity to have “THANK YOU” printed on the front. My husband, understandably, questions the point of these exercises and I admit that I haven’t the faintest clue why we do these things. But like most traditions, the why is of little importance. That’s just the way we do it. Period.
Out of all our traditions by far my favorite is not one we adopted by choice but rather, is embedded deeply in our genetics. We fall. That’s right – generation after generation has inherited the grand tradition of being unsteady on our feet and over the years we’ve learned that the best way to cope is to 1) seek medical attention when necessary and, 2) learn to laugh at yourself.
Once, my aunt fully outfitted in her finest professional wear and high heels took a face-first dive across a slick and bustling bank lobby as if sliding into home base. My sister, while strutting down her office’s hallway, met violently with a wall (and inevitably the floor) when her sassy kitten heel became lodged in the cuff of her equally stylish wide-legged pants.
The queen of the fall is no doubt my mom, who was once catapulted off the back of a treadmill while chatting with coworkers. One particularly rainy Easter visit to my grandmother’s grave she lost a heel and a good manicure to the porous ground, which seemed to pull from below as we watched her fingers scrape down the side of the car window in slow motion. In the span of one week in Italy, she took two tumbles on those menacing cobblestone streets. The first in a crowded piazza and the second in full view of a packed sidewalk cafe which elicited an “Oh Madam!” from the panicked waiter. But like a true pro she tucked and rolled as she descended – hitting the ground so hard it broke her elbow – but she was back on her feet so quickly that my sister and I, walking ahead, barely noticed.
For me, flip flops are my arch enemy. A gold sequined pair took me on a ride down my parents’ hardwood stairs. I landed at the feet of friends with hair matted around my face, the hem of my sundress bunched around my neck and my embarrassingly cheeky underwear adorned with flames on display. After a light rain, I strolled briskly out of a restaurant in a pink pair and matching skirt – sandwich in one hand, drink in the other – and came skidding off the curb just missing a full face plant on the bumper of a parked car. As I stood up, lunch still intact I might add (priorities!), a man emerged from said car, front row seats indeed, to help me and my skinned knees up off the asphalt.
Fortunately, I like to think we have accepted our unsteady fate with grace and a heavy dose of humor. I even took to falling intentionally for a while in high school to elicit laughs. God knows I had enough practice to make it believably funny. Which leads me to the coconut cream pie – or I should say, my disastrously soupy attempt at one. Honestly, after a long day in the kitchen this end result had me far from laughing. But just like the humor I find in falling, I’m trying to laugh at all the little missteps, whether they occur in a piazza, at the foot of the stairs, or in the kitchen. Plus, I can always send it to Endless Simmer.
After a quick read in Magee, it seems that the pastry cream never thickened because I did not bring it to a boil. There are all matter of scientific explanations of which I will kindly spare you, but I promise to get up, dust myself off and attempt this again. Stay tuned for a future post with a full recipe and more successful result. And if anyone out there has any pastry cream tips and tricks or their own fall to share – I am all ears.