While it’s not always easy, I do love being a little sister. It’s one of those conditions of life that doesn’t change no matter how old you are or how much you’ve accomplished. I’m in my thirties, divorced and a mother, but to Alex and Javi, I’m still just their little sister.
Over the years being the only girl among the siblings has meant a lot days of watching the fun through the window, not always understanding the jokes and often being the butt of them. At times it has meant being the first one blamed or the last to know.
It did sometimes mean being the dummy when they were learning new wrestling moves. And it meant wedgies, wet-willies and bathroom jokes. It also meant never getting the remote or picking the radio station.
I remember often sitting on the sidelines while they played basketball or tennis. I never got a chance to be the one in the driver’s seat or at the head of the table.
But it has also meant having someone, two rather, to always come to the rescue.
Being little sister has also comes with knowing someone would always walk me home from school or drive me to my best friend’s house. It meant having someone to lay in bed to cry with on the day our father died. It meant hearing “you’re not alone in this” when I broke the news of my divorce.
It still means I’ll never be alone on a holiday, even during the loneliest of seasons, because one or both of them will open their homes and their refrigerators to keep us all together.
Saturday was much like all of our family gatherings. We were at my brother Javi’s house to celebrate my nephew’s birthday. Javi is 15 months younger than Alex and 6 years older than 1. In other words, Javi is the middle child. As the middle child, Javi fulfills a special role. He’s the call it like I see it, don’t try to full me, cynical wiseman. He’s part Buddha, part Han Solo. With a single lash of his wit he can reduce you to tears of shame or make you laugh until you cry. Javi can be your most ferocious defender or your sharpest adversary. So when I decided to plan a meal for one of my brothers, I chose to invite our older brother Alex and my sister-in-law Paula. Maybe I’ll be ready for Javi in a few weeks.
Alex the quintessential big brother. He is smart, handsome and ambitious. He is a lefty with great handwriting. He’s a great student and his own best teacher. You’ll rarely see him without his shirt tucked in and he speaks to you with passionate sincerity about everything from barbequing to the Middle East.
The family had spent all day Saturday at Javi’s house celebrating my nephew’s birthday. So much good food and wine was served that it was 8PM when something dawned on me…for the first time I wasn’t panicked in preparation for a meal! It isn’t just because Alex and Paula are among the most gracious guests you’ll ever have, but because I thought, with confidence, it’ll turn out fine!
I almost couldn’t believe my own thinking. Previously, when I hosted my friends and family, I spent hours scrutinizing the recipe trying to decipher the unmentioned appliances and utensils that are never written but are imperative, things like knives and bowls. Previously I’d need to make time to cook the meal twice – the first one just to try and throw away!
Instead, I got home Saturday night, put the kids to bed and fell asleep confidently, even though I knew I had to make a 7AM grocery run in order to have everything ready by 10.
I challenged myself to make BOTH the Spinach Goat Cheese Omelet and The Multigrain French Toast. Naturally, I also had to make some with plain white bread for Max.
I got to Publix and moved through the aisles with surgical precision. I have already learned that pre-sliced bread is too thin for French toast and I knew where to go for two loaves, unsliced thank you very much. I know now where the vanilla extract hides, so it was no big feat to find its cousin the almond extract. The last thing I needed was chorizo, and to my delight, they sell it chopped!
By the time I got home it was after 8AM and I started with the French toast. Among the many things I’ve learned (like a chef’s knife is always necessary), keeping the oven at 325 degrees allows you to put the final golden touch on many meals. I don’t like soggy French toast so I kept them warm there while I mixed the goat cheese, spinach and chorizo for the omelet.
I made the egg mix and poured it into the Imusa Sauté pan followed by the cheese, lowered the heat and covered. After a while, I noticed it puffed up a bit and looked really delicious, but again my fear of a soggy middle got to me! So I pulled the French toast out of the oven, plated it, took the lid off the omelet, covered it with a cookie dish, flipped it and placed it in the oven to continue on to its golden goodness!
At 10 AM Alex and Paula arrived and we sat to breakfast with the kids. They both really like the omelet, noting that it was way more flavorful than other “egg white” dishes they’ve had in the past (it takes tabasco). Alex liked the Multigrain French toast so much he took the leftover home and I even bottled the guava maple syrup for him.
So after breakfast, we finished our mimosas and chatted. Alex talked about cooking on the grill and Paula gave me advice on keeping chicken breast tender. But I got so much more than practical advice from them, I got a chance to feed my brother and his wife. For everything he’s done for me over the years, it seems like a small thing really – eggs and some toast – but trying to express what he means to me otherwise, well, that would be impossible. As I continue daily to step into my own, not away from my brothers, but beside them, I know that I can show them some of what’s in my heart. Even if it’s just one meal at a time.