It’s Magic

Lemon Meringue Pie Recipe | Land O'Lakes
Lemon Meringue? You betcha.

This week began with Pi Day on Sunday. Math and pie. How could anything be sweeter? We went lemon meringue, after the neighbors donated us a bunch of lemons. Our pie didn’t turn out quite this perfect. Gran got a little Schwarznegger in True Lies with the culinary torch. But let’s just say that pie was reduced to 3.14 crumbs pretty quick. Monday it rained. Yea! More rain. And lots of wind. The roaring lion of March is still with us. But I do like lions, so… all good.

Tuesday at 4 pm, Gran was officially as antibodied up as possible – 2 weeks post her last Moderna shot. And my Da told me he had scheduled his 1st Pfizer shot for Saturday. He said he had to refresh the CVS pharmacy page every half hour for about two days but…he felt it was worth it. Weds was St Pat’s. We had a Irish soda bread, a shot (maybe 2) of Penderyn’s (Welsh whisky) and potato soup made with Kerrygold Irish cheese for dinner that night. And then we watched our favorite, not so little, green man, the Resident Alien.

Weds also our county went into the rosier red tier. One down from plague purple. It’s good, it means we’re improving. People are hoping to hit the more optimistic orange in few weeks. But I have doubts. Taking a walk around the neighborhood at St Paddy’s I could see and hear lots of large drunken parties. I even saw one woman walk to her car, turn on her engine, sit there a minute, open a beer bottle and have a big swig, just before putting it in gear and driving off. Call me skeptical but “pandemic responsibility” seems to go out the window 100% of the time in the face of an open bar.

Chakra Clearing Tibetan Singing Bowl Masterpiece - DharmaShop
Tibetan Singing Bowl

Also on Weds, I found the IRS had sent my tax refund, after almost 4 weeks, and Treasury had sent my stimulus money (because I’d filed my taxes). Definitely this will keep the ship afloat. Grateful to all the Dems in Congress for getting this legislation passed and keeping their campaign promises. Also, grateful to all people working at IRS because they are so darned slammed. And in the spirit of gratitude, I stimulated the economy a bit (ew, that sounds inappropriate!).

Thursday, I bought an inexpensive singing bowl from a dharma shop, thus helping Asian American businesses and Asian artisans abroad. I sent some money the Guardian‘s way, thus supporting journalism and democracy across the English-speaking world. And I donated to Cornell’s bird lab, to keep scientific research and birds thriving in the US. Not big money spent in the scheme of things, $100 total, but I’m doing what I can afford to help the world beyond my little bubble. Contributing to the common good.

Of course things have not be entirely rosy in the red zone this week. I discovered a mouse has taken up residence in the garage. Minka is intensely interested and has put the mouse on notice. I’m hoping her skulking around will encourage the mouse to move on. I tried using Have-a-heart traps last night, which were sprung, but no mouse was caught. I was however left a tiny taunting poop. So today I’ll send for some Loraffe mouse chasers. Hopefully they’ll convince my mouse to find better digs.

Spacious abodes available (By David Zinn, who has a Chalk Art Handbook coming out June 1)

I also discovered this week that I might be, what my Gran calls, a fairy child. If you don’t come from a European background, I’ll explain. In Celtic and Germanic lore, the fairies would steal beautiful babies and replace them with fairy lookalikes. The lookalikes tended to be “different” in some respect. Usually mentally. I guess it was a way for parents to disown a less than perfect child in a time when imperfections in children were seen as the result of sins of the parents.

These “fairy children” often died young or “disappeared.” I use quotes on disappeared because I don’t think these fairy children magically vanished back to or were recalled to their own fairy land. I think their parents killed them, because they were overburdened, impoverished, and simply couldn’t care for them. Those children who were loved and grew up were still often different. Hence the “He’s away with the fairies,” saying meaning mentally not all together present in reality.

So, at this point you might be thinking, “Geez, you’re Gran is kind of insulting you.” No, actually she saved me a trip to doctor. I’d been kind of sliding downhill since I got to California. I thought it was mental stress and sudden climate change and that it’d go away. But I kept getting more and more tired. Then on Pi Day, I had a slice of pie and after a short time, I felt much better. And I said that to Gran. “Why is it when I’m avoiding sweets, I feel like crap. But when I eat pie or cake I feel way better?”

A portrait of a fairy, by Sophie Gengembre Anderson (1869)

My Gran said, “Do you? Have another slice and tell me how you feel.” So I did. I felt even better. “Hmm,” said my Gran, “Do you always feel better after wolfing down pastry.” Hard to know what to say there. German background. Pastry is like the go-to for everything. I don’t “wolf down” pastry a lot but when I do… “Yeah.” Gran let a out a long sigh, as if she’d been holding in a secret fear for many years and finally it was out. “You’re a fairy child. But don’t tell your mother.”

I’m not sure what I was not supposed to tell Mutti. Since I didn’t know myself what we were talking about at that point. She then had me go and get one of the ancient family albums and showed me a picture of her sister-in-law. My grandfather’s older sister. Drop dead gorgeous. Skin like moonlight, hair like a raven’s wing, eyes the color of violets. Beautiful face, lovely figure. She radiated a warm kindness mixed with a strong will.

I’d heard of her in passing, long ago. Aunt Francesca, aka Fanny. She was jilted, subsequently lived in a darkened room, and died a spinster. That was the story. I always thought it must have been a very sexist telling of her tale. I never thought her picture and the tale told about her matched up. Turns out, I was right. She was a wonderful, talented, intelligent person. She had her pick of suitors. A wedding date was set, for late in summer. But she had a secret. She was a “fairy child.”

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Summer weddings? Not in my family.

It was a very long, very hot summer, unusually so. Wedding arrangements and various parties caused a lot of stress. Fanny started to get ill. The family took her to the seaside in hopes that would help. Things got a little better. But right before the wedding, just after the rehearsal dinner, she became ill again. And that’s when her intended dumped her. And yes, she did go up and spend a lot of time in a darkened room, because she had migraines and the light bothered her. But after awhile, she came downstairs again.

She swore off the idea of relationships and marriage. She got a job as an admin. She (and her mother) paid for the two brothers to go to college. They graduated debt free. She bought some land in another state and built a small summer house for the family. She lived a long happy life, without a husband or children. She took care of her mother. She was well beloved by her brothers as a kind, smart, sassy, sister should be. And yes, she got tired and sick sometimes, but it wasn’t her fault. It was the “fairy” in her according to Gran.

In fairy tales, fairies are always extremely averse to iron. This is why an iron pin was always attached to a baby or infant, to prevent the fairies taking them. If a person reacted adversely to eating a normal amount of iron, to my Gran, that person was a fairy child — it was kinder than saying Great Aunt Fanny might have had hemochromatosis. That moonlight fairy skin? Probably a silvery hue from iron build up. And what made her feel better? Pastry, which knocked back iron absorption. That rehearsal dinner? Probably an iron-rich meal that made her really sick.

Elsmore, as seen in the 1921 catalog.
Back in the day, Sears sold kit homes.

It actually made a huge amount of sense. Great Aunt Fanny was never diagnosed though. Gran said she probably didn’t want to know for sure. Sick = sin = shame. It wasn’t going to change her life for the better, knowing. It would just cost her hard-earned money to find out. Practical German, she bought real estate instead. That would do more for her (for any single woman!) and her family. So was Gran possibly right? I dunno. Hemochromatosis can be inherited. I decided to start by checking nutritional info on boxes in the kitchen.

I checked the things I’d been eating the last month. Turns out, if I tallied it up, it was rather high in daily iron. Curse you, high-iron protein drinks during Lent! Maybe it was not an excessive amount for a normal person. But maybe with my gene pool, it was too much. I have a lab pulling my blood later today to see what was going on. I prefer facts to fairy tales. I won’t hear for a week. Meanwhile, I’m on a very Irish diet. Potatoes, cheese, milk, and other things that are super low in iron. I do feel a lot better, so hopefully it was just a one time, one off, slight iron overdose.

I’m glad it happened though. Gran’s the last person left to tell the truth about Fanny, to set her free. I wish Fanny’s boyfriend hadn’t be a jerk, but getting jilted led her to a way better life in the end. All the good stuff everyone wants – family, love, adventure, independence, security – Fanny had in spades. So a few called her spinster in pitying tones. So what? Most people secretly envied her, I’d bet. As for me, I know the SO wouldn’t bother jilting me even if I was a fairy child (rather than just an idiot who accidentally iron-overdosed themselves). He prefers to have a little magic in his life. As I think this Friday’s love song proves.

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