Ok, now what?
I would have liked to have said that I had a big plan for what to do when I reached Day 365. A big party in celebration of it all that would feature some of my finest from the year that was – Animal Cracker Truffles, Raspberry Popovers, Potato, Eggs and Hot Dog Subs. I would invite all those who have supported me along the way (and there have been so many). We would toast to innocence with some Gin Rickies and then toast to now with some Devil Dog Shakes. There would be fireworks, streamers, maybe even a parade. That was the grand idea. In reality though, I just kind of trickled over the finish line. I barely made it. But I made it.
Monday was Day 365 – the last day of my quest. It was also the day before a very daunting deadline which was coming on Tuesday. It was the day Lola and I have been fighting to prevent from coming. Heading into Monday, we were ready for the battle. We both woke up early and began sorting through our files and briefs before we had even finished our first cup of coffee. I let work know that I would be coming in a little late because we had to meet this deadline and together we started piecing together a plan. We’d write up the story with proper annotations. We’d plead our case using all kinds of lawyer-y words like pro se, interlocutory and quid pro quo. Lola would head to the courthouse to file the injunction. Then we got an email at about 9:30 am. Everything had been put on hold. This was a temporary victory and we still have a much bigger battle in front of us, but the August 1 deadline had been cancelled. We jumped up and danced around the family room. We hugged each other. We took a deep breaths. It was a moment of relief. We could feel some weight drop off our shoulders, almost hearing the thump as it hit the floor. When we finally relaxed, I hopped in the shower and made my way to work. Lola took a minute outside to do some writing.
It was still the last day of my quest and I had to do three things:
- It was National Raspberry Cake Day, so I had to make a cake.
- I did not have any raspberries, so I had to go shopping.
- I still had to write three blog posts and post by end of day. It was important to me to get that all done before the day was over. I wanted to really hit that one-year deadline.
I went to Trader Joe’s after work. This last week has been somewhat a reflective time about what this last year has been. I get caught up in the nostalgia of it and where it has all taken me, so going to Trader Joe’s felt not unlike the Rites of Passage part of the television show Survivor when they walk to the final challenge and pay tribute to all those who have been eliminated before them. I walked through the aisles of TJs remembering the times I had been here in search of random ingredients. I remembered my friend who had given me a cookie. It was a bittersweet trip and I hugged a cantaloupe in the middle of the store because I was getting emotional. I got everything I needed except for Cool Whip (which Trader Joes does not carry) and pretzels (which I plum forgot). In true Rites of Passage form though, stopping on the way home at the Dollar General and at Cumberland Farms for an ingredients emergency seemed appropriate for the quest too.
When I got home, I got right to baking. The Buttermilk Raspberry Cake came together in no time and before long, it was in the oven doing its thing. I was supposed to coat the berries in sugar but I forgot that step so after it was done and cooled off, I sprinkled it heavily with confectionary sugar. As a cake from the oven will tend to do, it made our house smell particularly good and Lola, who was on the couch, could smell its goodness. I cut a piece for both of us and served it to us on the couch. We had a small toast to 365 days. Lola was so proud of me as she has been throughout the journey. She was my biggest cheerleader and helper along the way and in many ways, this whole quest was a love letter to her. She was also there at almost every bite and often, as she will, provided the most colorful descriptions of whatever we were feasting on. The cake was fabulous. It was a bit tart from the berries but the cake was nice and moist and the sugar on top balanced that out. Lola gave me that reaction that I have grown to love over the last year – the eyes roll up, her hands flail outwards to hit something and she exclaims in delight, “Oh my god!” She has been a great audience for all of this.
After cake time, I retreated to my office. I had written part of my National Wing Post, so I just had to finish that up. I got that done and then took a quick break to play some NHL 2003 Hockey which has been the official video game of this whole journey. It just helps clear my mind. Then I went back and finished up my National Cheesecake Day post. I cranked through that. Admittedly the last few posts were not the strongest of my posts along the way, but I was on a deadline. All I had left to do was write my National Raspberry Cake Day post. When I started writing it, I kept thinking of the scene in Rocky II when he finally wins and all he could do was shout out to Adrien, his wife at home, that he did it. I am not a fan of Sylvester Stallone but the Rocky movies really know how to hit you emotionally. I had just shared the motivational scene with Lola in Rocky II when Adrien tells Rocky at her hospital bedside to go win. It’s when Mickey pops up and goes “What are we waiting for!??!” and the “Flying High” music kicks with the dramatic bell tolls. Gives me goosebumps every time. In any case, those movies have been in my head and it was the only analogy I could seem to muster in my blog. I posted at about 11:30. I had done it. Lola was in bed. The house was quiet. And I just sat back for a second in the peace of the moment to consider it all.
I really didn’t know what was next. I didn’t know if today should be the celebration or if Day 366 should be. I did know that I started everything a year ago by making a pie for National Raspberry Cream Pie Day and that was my plan for the one year anniversary. I still had some energy so I decided to bang out the crust before I went to bed so at 11:45 on the very last day of my quest, I was in the kitchen making a pretzel pie crust. I had to grind up the pretzels in the processor which was kind of noisy, so I was worried that I would wake up Lola, but the AC was on upstairs and probably (hopefully) blocked out any noise. The pie crust, as I knew, was easy to make. Crushed pretzels, brown sugar and butter that you mix together and press into a pie pan. Then you bake it for ten minutes. When it came out of the oven, I placed it on a cooling rack, turned off the oven and went to bed. The end of 365 days of celebration was here.
I woke up to a bunch of messages of congratulations across social media. I figured that might happen because of my flurry of postings on the night before so everyone was waking up to me having crowded their feeds. I can’t explain how lucky I feel and how special it is to have had such support along the way. So many cheerleaders and so many people that have been eager to join me in my pursuit. I would get encouragement from people I have never even met – friend of friends and even straight-up strangers. People have been behind me from Day 1 and that’s what kept me going. So as I crossed the finish line, I felt all those who cheered me on along the way crossing with me. That was celebration. I still wanted to start where I began which meant making a Raspberry Cream Pie, so before work, I cranked it out. I looked back at my post on Day 1 from last year and I oddly had not linked to the recipe. I could see how I was still figuring out what to do. I still am. In any case, I kind of remembered what I made so when I looked online for a recipe, I think I found the same one from a blog called Jamie Cooks It Up.com. It came together in no time at all and I had a whole pie ready and in the fridge to set before I left for work.
On Day 1 of the quest last year, we happened to be going to see author David Sedaris in Newport who was doing a reading at the Jane Pickens Theater. We had gotten tickets long before the idea of the quest was in motion but because it was my first day and perhaps motivated by excitement, I decided to bring him a pie to celebrate. I gave it to him (actually I gave it to his assistant). Turns out that they ate it backstage and he even gave me (the anonymous pie maker) a shout out on stage. The quest was off to a pretty big start. David wasn’t in town today so I couldn’t give him another pie, but I decided to email him and wish him a National Raspberry Cream Pie Day. He had emailed me to thank me for the pie, which was nice, so I had his email address. I just felt like he was the first sign of magic on this whole quest, so I wanted to tell him that I had done it. I emailed him the following:
On behalf of all your friends in Newport, RI, I just wanted to wish you a very happy National Raspberry Cream Pie Day.
I’m not sure if you remember me, although I can’t imagine you have been gifted a raspberry cream pie at too many of your readings. If you have been, then the literary celebrity life is more than I could ever imagine. That night was one year ago today. You were wearing culottes. I was the guy with the pie. Actually, we never officially met. I saw you on stage and also sitting behind a table dutifully signing books for your adorning fans. I talked to your manager or publicist or pie grabber – whoever was there to usher you through the night. I thought he was going to take the pie with a grateful smile and then throw it away as soon as I left the room. But then when you came on stage, you mentioned my pie in your opening remarks. You said that it had come from someone in the audience, that it was delicious and you gave thanks to the pie maker. My wife woo-hooed. I tried to hide underneath my chair.
That was a year ago. It was also the first day of a project that I was about to embark upon. I was going to spend a year celebrating every National Day. You know, the ones you hear about on social media or as the fluff pieces in the middle of the morning news programs: National Avocado Day, National Bowling Day, National Raspberry Cream Pie Day. I’m just writing you to tell you I did it. 365 days and every day was celebrated in some form or another. And while everyday wasn’t as momentous as that first day, I will say that it took me on a bit of an adventure. Not only was it a year of celebration, but it was an eventful year outside of my quest. About a week after your Newport show, I lost my job at a place I had worked for 19 years. That wasn’t part of the plan. I kept pushing on. More ups and downs would come. There was unemployment and job searches, there were bills to pay, there was Trump, there was sickness and there was hardship. That’s life, I suppose, but what I learned over the past year about celebrating every day that it makes you see the positive side of every day. Even though I’ve been knocked for a few blows over the last year, I am a bit happier. A bit more alive.
I know you and Hugh have both been worried over the past year about what happened to the pie guy. It’s probably kept you up at night. I’m happy to say he’s ok. I made another raspberry cream pie this morning (Day 366 celebrated) and you’re welcome to swing on by for a piece. And if you can’t make it, that’s ok too. Really, I just wanted to say thank you because you may not know it, but you were one of the reasons why this whole journey started out with a such a bang. When I think back at all the amazing things that I have experienced over the last 365 days, having you mention my pie on stage in Newport is right up there.
Enjoy National Raspberry Pie Day!
I sent it off to the universe being happy that I had that kind of closure and synergy on this whole year. Then he wrote me back. It’s always startling to see an email to you from someone of some renown. He did remember my pie. He even offered me tickets to his show in Tanglewood later this month. Apparently me and David are pen pals now. It was another reminder of what the world gives you when you celebrate life. There’s magic out there and we should all be looking to celebrate it every day.
At the end of the night, Lola had gone to bed. We had a bit of an argument and kind of kept out of each other’s way for part of the night. That happens, especially to couples who are tired and going through big life events. But then she sent me a text to tell me to come up to bed. We would work through it all. And to tell me to bring some pie. So on day 366, I got to enjoy a nice raspberry cream pie in our bed with the one who has made this quest all it could be. The pie is great. It’s still one of Lola’s favorites (and David Sedaris’ too). It’s a bit tart because of the raspberry, but the creamy texture brings some sweetness to balance it all. The pretzel crust brings in the sweet/salty finish.
It’s been a great year. I may just have to do this again. There’s just too much to celebrate.
Next up: National Ice Cream Sandwich Day