Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Necklace of Days

I am remembering some birthdays of my life and they seem like a necklace of years.  Some brilliantly colored glass beads for the years my mother supervised the birthday celebrations.  Some with the quiet beauty of pearls like the two times I was pregnant during the celebrations.   A few would be onyx ones of grief as both my grandmother and my dad died shortly before my birthday.  
Something like this, colorful, messy, fun.

 As Pablo Picasso said, "It takes a long time to grow young."
Consequently my necklace would be rather large.

Many of my friends have given up celebrating their birthdays as they have entered their sixties and seventies.  At least they insist they don't want a party because getting older is "NOTHING TO CELEBRATE."

A group of us have been together for nigh on to forty years and have celebrated weddings, birthdays, births of children and grandchildren, graduations, retirements and all the other occasions that knit together the fabric of our common lives.

A friendship counting nearly forty years is the finest kind of shade-tree I know. - James Russell Lowell

We are a  fluid gathering of friends.  Some of us have moved away,  one permanently, and some have moved away and then returned to Albuquerque (and felt bereft of intimacy while away).  One, dearest to many of us, after a brave battle with ovarian cancer has moved on the next life.  Too many of us are widowed.  In the last few years we have added a few new friends to the group which adds a little spice to the storytelling.  And yet when we gather now, it is a joyful moment in our sometimes sad, sometimes stressed, but always busy lives.  So I say...let the celebrations continue!  But first let us look back.

Although there are photos of most of my birthdays, MY first clear memory of a birthday is at the sparkling white villa set like a diamond, blazing in the hot sun, amid a hedge of brilliant red geraniums in the, then French,  neighborhood of Rabot, Morocco where we lived in the early 1950's.   When the wind was right, we could hear the lions roaring at the palace of the exiled Sultan.
View of Rabot
The sultan's nephew and family were allowed to remain and for a time be the figurehead royalty. The Sultan's son become the Sultan himself years later after Morocco became free from the French colonial occupation and he completely rebuilt the palace.  So the palace I remember exists now only in photographs.

My mother was a party planner.  Today she would probably turn it into a business, write a blog about it, and make a fortune.  But this was in the early 1950's and women, especially Air Force wives, stayed home, raised children, and entertained to help promote their husbands careers. And, of course, there were no blogs, although I have many of the letters my Mom wrote about her adventures as an Air Force wife.   I don't remember the cake, or the decorations, although I am sure they were wonderful because I certainly recall subsequent occasions.  What I remember is the donkeys and the camel.  For entertainment, my Mom had rented them for us to ride.  I think I must have been five that year.
 The Donkeys were small, very thin, and probably had fleas, but to my five year old self they were gallant steeds.  Did not care for the camel as he was bad tempered and he spat at us.  Or maybe I am remembering a camel from another time.  Memory seems to play funny tricks as the years roll onward.

In that same year, we were invited to one of the colonel's children's birthday parties.  My mother did not particularly care for the colonel's wife.  My small white dog, Beady, just a couple of months earlier, had delivered puppies.  You guessed it.  My sister and I both gifted a puppy to the lucky birthday girl. Around their necks we tied huge pink satin bows, and for a brief time we were the celebrities of the party.  As far as we know, Mrs. Colonel never forgave my Mom.

 Maybe I will make some couscous for my birthday this year.  Or better yet, perhaps we will go to a Moroccan restaurant.  I think I would like to try the

Kasbah Mediterranean

although from the pictures, we will not be sitting on benches covered with Moroccan rugs or eating with our fingers.  Too bad, I loved doing this when I was a child in Rabat!

The lamb tangine sounds good.  The reviewer however raved, 

"Marrakech  (name has been changed since this review) completely took me aback with an entree called King’s Bastilla. Though the word Bastilla, a Spanish word for “hem” is completely lost on me, the exotic dish blew me away.  It’s called “King’s Bastilla” because it’s served to esteemed guests at special occasions such as weddings. It is indeed a special dish worthy of royalty.
Traditionally, bastilla is made with pigeon, but Marrakech uses chicken instead.  A crisp, whisper-thin pastry shell made from Moroccan warqua or phyllo dough encloses an amalgam of moist chicken, ground almonds, rose water and spices.  The shell is sprinkled liberally with powdered sugar and cinnamon.  Quite honestly, it looks like a dessert and is in fact rather sweet, but definitely not cloying.  Its sweetness is acquired primarily from the delicate rose water and ameliorated by the powdered sugar.  It’s one of the most unique and delicious  
dishes I’ve had in the Duke City and frankly, I can’t wait to have it again."  Gil's Thrilling (and Filling) blog.

If birthday wishes do come true, I wish I am never too old to enjoy new foods. Anyone want to join me?
Kasbah Mediterranean, 4801 central Ave. NE 87108


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