Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bread Pudding

For William DeNoyelles SR.
(October 14, 1925 - May 4, 1983)

Dad and Me June 1962 (c) 2010 Bill DeNoyelles

On my 39th birthday I had dinner at a diner in Santa Cruz, CA. I wanted something exotic as it was my birthday but I couldn't successfully navigate the city of Santa Cruz to find a decent restaurant. The outdoor mall was populated solely with coffee bars. I settled for the diner as it was off the beaten path across the street from a Goodwill store and an eye shot from the city bus stop. Still reminiscent of a dining car in its stainless steel and chrome decor, it offered pure Americana with an eclectic twist in that there was an elegant, somewhat hip wine list and sushi on the menu. I settled for a turkey dinner with all the trimmings. Outside my window people walked in and out of Goodwill, ambled home from work, or waited patiently for the next bus.  A  steady ocean breeze blew soot and sand into the air as the sunset. The waitress brought my coke, as I unwrapped my straw I noticed a young family across the dining room. A mother, a father and a little boy of about three or four. I was absolutely riveted by the affection that poured from the eyes of the father to his son. A clear, uninhibited love you seldom see displayed in public. I smiled. My waitress delivered an enormous plate of freshly sliced turkey, mashed potatoes with gravy, cranberry sauce and stuffing. “Enjoy!” she said with a smile. As I ate I couldn’t help but keep looking over at this little family - the father so totally engrossed in every new discovery of his son who held out bits of food before eating, clapped at nothing in particular or giggled excitedly. I was transfixed. My meal finished, the waitress suggested desert. I studied the menu. I was about to order a slice of chocolate cake when I decided, in its stead, to go for bread pudding. Bread pudding, my all-time favorite. Bread pudding - a somewhat rare treat that my father made to perfection, usually just to make me happy. No particular reason. It was his way of expressing his love for me. It arrived redolent of vanilla and cinnamon. There I sat, eating a deep ice cream dish of hot bread pudding in July, in Santa Cruz, California. It tasted just like my father's and for a moment I was once again bathed in his love. I looked out the window lost in a thousand memories when out of nowhere the jukebox in my booth clicked in. I heard the first strains of a familiar Johnny Cash riff and was suddenly treated to “I Walk the Line."  My father's favorite song. I was stunned for I hadn't opted for the jukebox. My heart leapt. Was this really happening? I became choked by emotion for my mother had just died eight weeks earlier (my father had died in May of 1983). I welled up, tears stinging my eyes. I sat listening to the song, remembering my father, feeling his presence, and in the taste of bread pudding, once again feeling his love and affection. Just like the father and son I had watched sitting across from me.
(Click the link to hear Johnny Cash sing I Walk the Line)