Today was my birthday. I turned 27. I didn’t outright tell anyone at the program because, I mean, we just met on Sunday, and you can’t always expect people you’ve just met to want to celebrate you and your birthday.
However, after breakfast, Claire came back to the dining room and said, “Facebook tells me it’s your birthday?!” She, Molly, Becca, Sara, and Ellen sang “Happy Birthday” to me, and I could feel my face grow red the whole time. It’s not that I didn’t feel very flattered, it’s that they didn’t have to do that.
It was also a very difficult day in wake of the news of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. I don’t mean like, “Oh, wow, rough for me to enjoy my birthday.” I mean, “Dear God, why does this keep happening? Oh right, few police officers who have killed black men and women are punished for their actions.” Sarah drafted a blog post about how weird it is to focus on food writing when news like this happens, and I’m so glad she wrote it. How do you reconcile that? Our morning writing exercise was about concentrating on the smell of rosemary. And the families and friends of these two men are devastated. It’s a weird thing.
But we talked about how food is something we all share. Cultures and families may have their particular traditions, but at the end of the day we all nourish ourselves with food.
Interior and exterior of Palmer House Café and Tavern.
Toward the end of the day, we all walked across the street to the one restaurant in town, the Palmer House Café and Tavern. After the nine of us ordered–mostly medium rare burgers–we saw our waitress, Chloe, conferring with the chef. Clearly, we were a bit much. But our drinks and our food arrived in good order, and, you know, a meal that lasts a long time is a good one, in my opinion. I learned about Liam’s pets and we talked about the power of nonfiction vs. fiction. Letícia talked about her search for a city that suits her. Sara shared experiences at the Culinary Institute of America, and Fen told me how he learned about LongHouse (plus, he was published in the Hartford Courant today!). This group of people is incredible. They’ve all worked so hard to get here, and they’re bringing so much energy and dedication to this program. It’s inspiring and intimidating and exciting.
Besides all of that, they’re also sweet, genuine people. When we got our drinks, they toasted to my birthday and to Fen’s publication. Later, apparently, Liam told our waitress about my birthday. I’ll let the text to my husband describe my reaction.
Liam joked that when the waitress asked him to choose a dessert for me from the board he said, “I’ve only known her since Sunday!” But he choose chocolate peanut butter cheesecake, which was delicious and which I will always remember.
Bad shit happens. And I still feel weird about gushing on and on about a birthday spent with sweet people when two men have been senselessly killed and stolen from their families. How do you reconcile that? What can we do? I try to listen and share and promote the voices of people of color, and I know I can always do better. We can always do better. We should always try to do better.