66 Line Changes

Greg was determined to be a reformed and willing father. He still faced the hurdle of figuring out what exactly to do with these daughters of his. The habitual pattern was avoidance, giving them things to occupy their time while he left them to freely pursue his own preferred activities. It had worked when they were younger, and often involved more than enough long runs of favorite TV programs and, more recently, video games. He set them up and walked away. As long as he fed them periodically, they complied.Chapter 66 LIne Changes

Once in awhile, he took them along to his games but there was no other special activity they regularly did together. He’d included Kitty in any outings ‘to help him out’ with them but even he could see that this was a disaster. Nobody even tried to get along. Finally, she’d refused to join them at all, making his weekend choices even more divided. If that was the way it was going to be, then there was simply no point in the relationship. And to tell the truth, he’d become exasperated with Kitty himself; not quite what he was looking for and she, demonstrably, not so very fond of him as he’d hoped.

With this first attempt at a new brand of fatherhood yawning before him, he woke a little earlier on Saturday morning, fully intentional, until he remembered that the girls would still be downstairs with Mrs. James. Their usual drill on Friday nights was a quick family supper together before he headed off to work and the girls went off with Mrs. James for an overnight stay. This invariably blended late into the next morning, even though Greg was usually at home. They would be down there in her place playing with the cat, or learning to knit, or away to the library, or whatever the routine was. He sometimes caught up with them in the early afternoon before he was due back at the office. He got home late and slept in on Sunday morning, sometimes alone – depending on Kitty’s mood – then on to a even later lunch with by then hungry, and therefore crabby daughters, leaving only a few hours together before Gina mercifully arrived to take them home. That had pretty much been it, with minor variations.

He made the effort and got up. As he emerged, dripping from the shower, he perceived a surreptitious entrance at the front door. Mrs. James and his daughters were all shushing each other.

“Daddy’s still sleeping.” He heard one daughter; he wasn’t sure which.

“Morning,” he called, securely wrapping his towel, for the benefit of Mrs. James.

“Oh, Daddy, you’re up! We were trying to keep quiet.” Poppy disclosed the accustomed state of affairs.

“I’ll be dressed in a minute.”

“Oh, wait, Daddy please,” Pansy requested. “We came to look for your cookbook, the one you write in?”

“We’re on the track of some family favorites,” explained Mrs. James. “They said they knew where your book was.”

“Sure. It’s right on the shelf, near the fridge. Make yourself at home while I get dressed. I’ll be right back.”

Greg considered his cooking style as experimental. He attributed this to his coaching career, where his job was to draw out the best in his players. He did this during practice by making changes frequently, noting the best combinations of teammates for every situation likely to occur on the ice come game time. He did much the same while cooking, careful to add only one flavor at a time, for instance, and then writing his observations in the cookbook he most enjoyed using, so that it had become something of a personal, culinary journal. It was the one book, full of family recipes, that he’d taken with him when Georgia had kicked him out of the house.

The girls led Mrs. James to this, unbeknownst to her, Holy Grail. As far as she was aware, not much cooking ever went on here, as Poppy and Pansy reported a fairly steady diet of nursery fare, including the standard PB and J, mac and cheese, pizza, plus the occasional grilled steak, all washed down by more juice than milk. She was attempting to extend their food choices, and curious about this well-thumbed cookbook, was surprised to find it titled, ‘Classy Fried.’ Perhaps not a promising start, but when she opened it, she was impressed by its range. The fried dishes, if the illustrations were anything to go by, included a wide variety of vegetable dishes, and many of these recipes had carefully written notations alongside. She assumed they were Greg’s, although some were in a different hand. The bookplate inside the front cover was inscribed, ‘This book belongs to Lynn Ehuss.’

Greg emerged from the bedroom, buttoning up his shirt, and found them sitting at the breakfast bar, one girl on each side of Mrs. James, in their familiar reading position. Cozy, thought Greg. Would they ever sit that still with him?

A breakfast bar is often part of a condo kitchen. Some feature an island sink.

A breakfast bar is often part of a condo kitchen. As well as offering seating, some also feature an island sink.

“That was my mother’s cookbook, Mrs. James, even before she was married. It has some old treasures, for sure. She collected recipes with peas!”

“I used to do that with pumpkin recipes when I was a bride, until R.T., that is Mr. James, sweetly suggested that I stop. Too much fiber in his diet, he complained. But peas would be excellent. I’m sure I can say that we’ve none of those yet, for our cookbook.”

“Yuk!” groaned Pansy.

“Unfortunately, she’s not taking after her grandmother,” Greg said, in ineffectual rebuke.

“Time will tell. I didn’t care for them until I’d picked them fresh, come June,” she reminisced. “Tiptoeing among the vines, bending down into that vernal green, that dry as dust pod, feeling the snap in my fingers, and the hot sun on my neck. A real tonic to a sodden spring.”

“That sounds like a poem, Mrs. James,” Poppy solemnly said.

“What do you want to put into the cookbook?” Greg turned to his daughters.

“Mrs. James said we could do tarts. Do you have any tarts in there?” Pansy looked hopeful. “Without peas in them.”

“Wishful thinking,” their father truthfully answered. He preferred his fresh peas steamed, with butter, even after all of his mother’s collection. “How about we put in two recipes, one from you both, and a separate one from me? Mrs. James is a great cook and I’m sure she can work on a really tasty tart recipe with you. And you,” he became inspired, “can stay and help me to write out the one I choose.”

“Do we have to eat it first?” Pansy looked apprehensive. “Mrs. James told us the rule was you had to eat it first.”

“I’ve tasted these recipes many times, so you won’t have to,” he reassured them. “Isn’t that right, Mrs. James?”

“Absolutely,” she agreed. “You can taste the tarts you make, instead.” She sensed Greg’s gambit to Poppy and Pansy and seizing the moment she suggested, “If it’s alright with your Dad, I’ll leave you here to decide which recipe to write out together. I’ll just nip back downstairs and see if Gertie’s ready with our flyers.” Greg nodded.

“I’ll give you a call, when we’re done.”