i don’t understand what they’re saying but i understand what i’m seeing

Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920), Girl in a Green Blouse


My grandmother used to bellow this from the kitchen, shrill like a lapwing. I would be deep in the grey armchair, flipping through her wig catalogue, covered by a Target catalogue. She transported her 60s British way of cooking and looking and dining to palm-treed California: all vegetables were to be boiled, same goes for shrimp and scallops, meat dishes were slathered with sweet sauces, and the plates, warmed in the oven before the meal, to keep everything on the plate piping hot. Napkins were serviettes and the tablecloth was blue and thick and wooly, itchy under my wrists. The dish I most looked forward to in grandma’s dinner was the dessert. She made raisiny fruitcake and it was often served to me nestled in vanilla ice cream and frozen berries. When I grew older, I prided myself in eating the fruitcake unadorned, adult-like.

       La plaine de Bormes (1907-08) - Henri Edmond Cross   
(henri edmond cross)

She doesn’t make dinners anymore. She says she doesn’t miss it. She doesn’t say much at all. But when I do mention fruit cake, or raisins, a glint of recognition twitches in her grey eyes, like the first smell of British summer, willow trees and elderflower passing by, not far. Her smile is wide.

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