November 9th

Scorpio Strength Keywords:

– Loyal – Passionate – Resourceful – Observant – Dynamic

Scorpios are fiercely independent. They are able to accomplish anything they put their mind to and they won’t give up. They are perfectly suited to being on their own. They are not social butterflies like some other zodiac signs and some actually prefer to live on their own that way there is never any issue of who controls what at home, they like to be in control.

Scorpio in a Nutshell:

Scorpio is the astrology sign of extremes and intensity. Scorpios are very deep, intense people, there is always more then meets the eye. They present a cool, detached and unemotional air to the world yet lying underneath is tremendous power, extreme strength, intense passion and a strong will and a persistent drive.  Scorpios have a very penetrative mind, do not be surprised if they ask questions, they are trying to delve deeper and figure things out and survey the situation. They always want to know why, where and any other possible detail they can possibly know. Scorpio’s are very weary of the games that other people try to play and they are very aware of it. Scorpios tend to dominate and control anyone that lets them, or anyone that they find weak.  The person that a Scorpio respects and holds close to them is treated with amazing kindness, loyalty and generosity. On the outside, a Scorpio has great secretiveness and mystery. This magnetically draws people to them. They are  known to be controlling and too ambitious but only because they need control for this makes them feel safe.

“Okay, tell me what you think…” I was following Mom around the house, reading a similar assessment of the zodiac sign Scorpio from “Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs.”

“I don’t believe in that stuff.  You know it’s a sin,” Mom reminded me, again.

“Well, it’s just for fun.  George believes in it you know.  I’ll read you about Pisces next.”

I should have been helping Mom in dusting, but I wanted her to hear about her sun sign, and the only way to catch up with her sometimes was on the run, like following her around the house while she was busy.  Mom never sat down when she could be cleaning.

Born November 9, 1931, in St Louis, Missouri, Mom was a proud daughter of the “Show Me” state.  Famous Missourian and  U.S. Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiveronce once declared, “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.”  Mom’s inclinations were similar.  “Don’t try to tell me that,” Mom would intone, “I was born in Missouri!”

By California standards, Mom’s birth day was cold and colder, but by St Louis standards, it was a mild season.  Rain threatened that November day, but cleared to cool sunshine.  It was the Dust Bowl years, and rain was always teasing, and frequently a no-show.  Welcomed into the world by her three-year older brother, Joe, and a slightly older set of parents, happiness filled their well kept St Louis home.  Ella was 35, primarily a mother and housewife.  Sometimes Ella got odd jobs as a domestic from Charlie’s relatives and their aquaintences- Mrs Garrett, the Overturfs, the DeHaters. Charlie was 40 and working for the railroad.  He deeply resented being mistaken as Joe and Mary’s Grandfather, and when a stranger would make such a miscalculated  assertion, they would get an earful.

Mom’s birthdays growing up in depression era Los Angeles were not fancy.  There would be a family gathering, a nice dinner, and birthday cake.  Elaborate parties didn’t exist.  Once, another girl from the block did have a birthday party.  All the kids Mom’s age were invited, but Mom wasn’t.  The little girl explained that Mom was not a “real kid” because she babysat and did work like an adult.  Maybe this attitude was why Mom didn’t have a lot of fuss on her birthday parties.  Or maybe it was because her Dad didn’t like a lot of commotion.  Straying from the routine, especially in a noisy way, might incline him to drink.  For whatever the reason, Mom didn’t share a lot of birthday memories.

One birthday memory she did share was heartbreaking.  On November 9, 1964, Mom’s thirty-third birthday, her Dad passed away.  Dying from emphysema, he would be lying in the hospital bed raising imaginary cigarettes to his lips.  He was only 73 years old, but Charlie had been gassed with mustard gas in World War I.  Lung troubles had been accelerated by incessant smoking.  The grandkids would later ask him for “smokey kisses.”  “My Dad always smelled like cigarettes,” Mom reminisced, “So to me cigarette smoke was a good smell, a comforting one.”

“I sat with him day after day.  Then one day, on my birthday, he sent me away to get something.  When I came back, he was gone.  I think he wanted to die alone.  I think he knew,”  Mom said sadly.  “And you know what?  The day before I had brought him meatloaf.  He was clear as a bell.  He looked great, sounded better than I had heard him in weeks.  The next day when I came in, he didn’t feel well. ‘I think it was that damn meatloaf,’ he told me.  He thought my meatloaf was the thing killing him.”

Mom loved her Dad more than anyone in the world, and it hurt that his last thought leveraged ill against well-intentioned meatloaf, which by the way was the finest meatloaf in the world.  Another sad November passed in 1978, when Dad died three days before Mom’s 47th birthday.

While I couldn’t change a pattern of past misfortunes, I felt compelled to make Mom’s 48th birthday as good as possible.  It was her first real birthday without Dad.  I decided to make Mom the best dinner I possibly could.

I began in September saving my lunch money, but being prone to Catholic guilt I confessed to Mom that I wasn’t using it for lunch.  “I don’t care what you want to use it for, Honey,” Mom replied. “If you rather save it to spend at Beatlefest, I don’t mind.”  I did save some for Beatlefest, but also I set the intention on Mom’s birthday dinner.  It was a secret.

The plan unfolded.  Step one: Grandma B calls Mrs Taylor and explains I am sick and can’t come into school.   Step two: at 13, I can’t drive, so I walk the mile to Vons grocery store to get everything I need.  Step three:  make the cake.  Step four: assemble the chicken dish, which seems vaguely Italian.  Step five: frost the cake.  Step six: give the house a once-over.  Step seven: surprise Mom when she walks in from work.

It went perfectly.  Thrilled and surprised, Mom remarked over and over how happy she was.  “This dinner is so wonderful,” Mom was pleased.  The house was clean, dinner made, and everything lovely.

“What…. recipe did you use?”  Mom asked.

“Let me show you!” I beamed, proud as can be.

“Mmmm… oh, yes,” Mom smiled, putting her arm around me.  “You are such a little cook.  Now you changed the recipe a little bit here, am I right?”

“Nope, I did everything just as they said,” I explained.

“I don’t see where it calls for cloves,” Mom scanned the recipe as if she expected to find it.

“Oh, right here,” I pointed, “minced cloves of garlic. I tried to mince the first one but it just rolled around like crazy.  I just threw them on in.  I mean, they are small already!”

“Oh, yes,” Mom smiled tactfully.  “You know, honey, cloves of garlic are not the same as cloves, the spice?”

“Really?  What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, a clove of garlic has an oniony sort of flavor.  You find them by the onions.  Cloves are a spice found in maybe spiced drinks, holiday baking maybe.  They have that strong, spicy smell.”

“Oh no!” I was laughing.  “I looked everywhere for cloves of garlic and finally found this!”

“Well, you know what?” Mom continued, “I’m just letting you know for the future.  As a little cook you’ll want to know these types of things.  But at the same time….” Mom shook her head and smiled, “I think the way you cooked it here was perfect.”

“Really?!” I was thrilled.

“Yes, really.  It couldn’t have been nicer.  I wouldn’t want it any other way.  It was the finest birthday dinner I’ve ever had.”

After that birthday, Mom planned ahead.  “I don’t want you going to any trouble.  How about if I take everyone out for dinner this year on my birthday?”

“You can’t treat! It’s your birthday!” I’d respond.

“But that’s what makes me happy.  I like treating my kids to dinner.”

Hmmm.  I wonder if that had anything to do with my famous clove chicken recipe.

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