I am in the waiting room of the Springfield, Vermont office of Dr. Richard Lane, absent-mindedly, slightly anxiously, working on a jigsaw puzzle (blue Victorian house, hanging flower baskets, edges almost complete). This is my first visit. I was referred by my regular eye doctor, because I needed minor outpatient surgery.
I know it’s minor but jeez, it’s my eye, plus there is a shot involved. Hence I am dispelling minor unease by doing this jigsaw puzzle, thoughtfully set up in the office waiting room, as my boyfriend patiently reads People. Not characteristic activities for either of us.
In pops a cheerful woman in a pink blouse. “Crescent?” I look up. “Hi, I’m Cindy, the office manager… I just wanted to say hi, and welcome you. And I just want to let you know, you’ve got some real fans here. One of us even has one of your cookbooks!”
Eventually I am ushered to the room where “the procedure” will take place. My eye pressure is taken by another nurse, Angelina, and I wait, until in bustles the doc, also cheerful as can be, middle aged, in glasses, friendly, solidly built, white jacket over blue shirt.
“I’ve got to tell you, ” he says, “When I was looking over the patient list for today and saw your name, I almost flipped out! I thought, there can’t be more than one Crescent Dragonwagon in America! Love your Dairy Hollow House Cookbook, the soup and bread one — I cook out of it all the time!”
“Call me Rich.” he says.
I’m in the examination chair, an unusual place to have this kind of discussion.
“Um, what are your favorite things to make out of it?” I ask.
“Well, I’m the bread-baker in the house and I make your Raisin-Pumpernickel Bread with a Secret a lot. A lot! It’s so good! I’ve made it at least six times, probably more. And when I bring it somewhere everyone always raves about it… And the raspberry butter that goes with it, that is just perfect!… “
“Oh, I love that one too,” I say.
And I do. I learned it from fellow innkeepers, George and Katie Hoy, who used to, maybe still do, own an inn in Sagamore Falls, Ohio. The Inn at Brandywine Falls. Delightful couple. Gee, I haven’t thought of them in years. They must be pretty old now. I wonder how they’re doing. If they’re alive. If they still have the inn.
And my goodness it’s been a long time since I’ve made that fine bread of theirs.
“In fact I brought my copy in,” says Rich, a little shyly. “Could I impose on you to sign it? ”
“But should we take care of the other…” says Rich, “First?”
Meaning my eye.
Which, of course, means including Ned’s death.
Since those readers who I am unacquainted with personally only know Ned alive and well as he was and is in my earlier books, this is news to them. It’s a shock to hear, as I’ve seen more than once: the flash of surprised pain visible.
Ned was almost as much a part of some of my books as he was to my life then, and I suppose thus to readers’ lives too, in a small way. They, readers of those books, would have a picture of these two people who loved each other, and cooked well and ate well together: an accurate picture at the time I wrote it, but now vanished.
And since I loved Ned so dearly and we had such a good time, I guess that comes across too.
He says, “I believe you’ll be reunited.”
I say, “Well, I don’t really believe that. I don’t not believe, but I don’t believe.”
He says, “Well, we won’t know until we get there, will we?”
I say, “I guess so.” I say, “And, like, what if you’re widowed young, and you get with someone else? How would being reunited work then?”
“I don’t know,” Rich says thoughtfully. “It’s a good question. Maybe the Hindus have it right.” (Meaning, I guess, reincarnation?) “I’m science-based, but there’s a lot we don’t know. I guess we’ll just have to leave it to the good Lord to figure out.”
“Yes,” I say, “Maybe. I agree, there’s a lot we don’t know.”
I’m not particularly eager to deal with my eye. On the other hand, the sooner it’s done, the sooner I can stop dreading the shot.
“My favorite kind to sign.”
And this is also true. I love the little spots and dustings of flour and occasional pages stuck together with egg yolk…it says my recipes were used. Loved. In some way had meaning in someone’s life. Even when a book is long out of print, as this one is, its reach continues.
I sign their book. Carolyn went and got my boyfriend in from the waiting room to take a picture of the three of us, which he did. More pleasantries.
While it could be part of #DinnerWithDragonwagon, the deeper truth, the not-so-secret secret to the bread and everything else, is: this life, its table loaded, groaning, contradictory, funny, tragic, offers a deep feast. Love/hate. Love/loss. Absence/Presence.I’ll choose, whenever I can, Love, Love, Presence.
The photograph on the top of this post is courtesy of writer Holly Jennings. It appears on her post about this book, which is part of her Dowdy Corners Cookbook Club, RIP.
P.S. As I wrote this post, I googled “The Inn at Brandywine Falls”, George and Katie’s place in Sagamore Hills. And I kid you not, right there on the page, was this note. “Today is the 28th Anniversary of the Inn at Brandywine Falls!!”
And now I am going to call them, and wish them a very, very happy anniversary.