Friday, August 26, 2005

Vows

Some of you may remember how angry I was at my brother, and how hurt I was that he and my sister-in-law decided that they weren't bringing my nephews to our wedding. I should point out that I had said, from the moment we picked a date, that I wanted my nephews there, that we were hiring a babysitter for all of the kids, that my stepson was looking forward to it, etc.--and my brother never said a word when I mentioned all these plans. Months and months later, when he finally talked to me about it, my brother's story--and he's sticking to it--is that the kids "couldn't handle it," that it would be too late for them, that it's Emma's day and their presence would get in the way of that (!!). My sister-in-law blurted out, way back when, that she and my brother wouldn't have as much fun if the kids were along, and I've suspected that that's the truth at the heart of it all along. But my brother stuck to his story, and I just stopped talking about it. I keep waiting to forgive him in my heart, but it's not happening, and I'm a bit at sea about it.

Tomorrow is the 22nd anniversary of our sister's death. My parents and maternal grandfather went to the foreign country where she was while the rest of us waited at home for news. When it became apparent that she wasn't going to live, my parents and grandfather made plans to come home, and I left the city where I was living to go to my parents' house. (I only lived about an hour and a half away, and my recently-ex-boyfriend performed a mitzvah for which I still thank him in my heart by driving me to my parents' house rather than consigning me to Greyhound, which was pretty much my other option at the time.) Now that I think about it, she died on a Saturday, too, I think.

Anyway, I think went up to my parents' around Tuesday or Wednesday, but they didn't get back until the following evening. The night I arrived, my brother and I sat on the back patio in the dark, drinking Michelob (it's what was in the refrigerator) and smoking our cigarettes (we've both long since quit), and we promised to take care of each other. We knew our parents would be devastated, we knew they would barely be able to function, much less take care of us, and we vowed to look out for each other. We kept that promise over the years. We'd always been close, even though there're six years between us, in part because of the similarities in our personalities. (I'm the oldest, and my sister was 17 months younger than I am, so my brother and I had somewhat different experiences of her as well as plenty of shared ones.) And that vow has been important to us as we've weathered various storms in our lives.

Not bringing my nephews to my wedding felt, and feels, like a betrayal of that vow, and I don't know how to go about forgiving someone for something that cuts so deep--and not just any someone, but my only remaining sibling. We've spoken once, maybe twice, since the wedding, and we spoke only once in the five months prior to the wedding, about two weeks before the event when he called to express his shock that I was upset (really? you were shocked? then why did it take four months to call me?) and to tell me that he knew his sons better than anyone and they couldn't handle it and it was all about my special day and blah blah blah. Normally we'd talk about once a month, maybe once every six weeks, so this really is a severe reduction in the amount of contact between us. But my heart just isn't in it.

I hate that that's true, and I really don't know what to do about it. The first time he tells me that his wife took my nephews off to see her sister, or the whole family is going to California to see her father, or whatthefuckever, how am I supposed to not say anything? But what's the point of saying something? I can't change the fact that my nephews weren't there because my brother and sister-in-law were too self-centered to bring them. I think it would be okay--I think I'd be able to forgive him--if my brother could even or would even acknowledge that he fucked up, that the kids should have been there. But he won't or can't see it that way--he falls back on how he knows what's best for his own kids and he doesn't see his own selfishness. If we weren't close, if we hadn't promised to take care of each other, it probably wouldn't matter so much, either. But all of these if-onlies are wishful thinking.

In less serious news, I said something to Chef Fred today about running a pastry shop for him and he said (and I wish I could replicate his facial expression and tone of voice, because they were hysterical), "Oh, no, then I'd be getting phone calls, someone saying 'Emma stabbed another customer in the pastry shop today.'" I have no idea why he thinks I'd be intolerant of fools . . .

Next week are our exams. Two "free" days on Monday and Tuesday, when we can work on things that we think we need to practice. Wednesday we get a list of the things we have to produce by 11:00 on Friday, and then we have thirty questions (multiple choice) to answer, ten on each of the sections we've covered (breakfast breads and pastries; petit fours; and wedding cakes and cake decoration). After that, we each have to produce the items on the list. As the chef pointed out this morning, it'll go more quickly and smoothly if we coordinate our baking with each other and work together. I don't think that will be a problem for our group, despite the mini-meltdown that occurred today; there are a couple of people with a lot of experience at this stuff who do a good job setting a tone for the rest of the class. (It's amazing to me how that happens.)

Today's dessert, of which I did not take a picture, was croquembouche: a pyramid of caramel-dipped cream puffs (though we left ours unfilled, because the pastry gets soggy quickly), topped with a little sugar fountain and with a caramelized almond nougatine base. Yes, it's quite tasty. The only down side to this whole week of sugar and caramel is that the floors are a sticky mess and I've been on floor duty this week. Eh, no problem; at least I'm not doing floors next week during exams.

15 Comments:

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That sounds like a really difficult situation with your brother. I honestly don't know what I would do in your case. My brothers and I stuck together throughout the breakdown of our parents' marriage, and the subsequent disasters of their remarriages, and I can't imagine anything coming between us at this point. It would be really, really hard to deal with.

You have my sympathy.

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