Today we celebrated my Lolo’s 90th birthday. And let me point out that Lolo is the term for Grandfather in Tagalog. The story goes that it’s an abbreviated form of abuelo, the Spanish word for grandfather. Whatever the case, it’s a word that always brings me fond memories, because I am my Lolo’s oldest grandson. And for a while, I was my Lolo’s world. And he always was, and still is, my main man.
The first memory I can remember of actually cooking is with my Lolo. My immediate family spent the night at Lolo and Lola’s house in Westchester County, NY. I woke up early, and Lolo was already awake and in the kitchen.
“Good morning, son.” Lolo said. My grandfather only calls me by my name once in a while, he mostly calls me son.
“Morning? But Lolo, it’s still dark outside, it’s still night!” I replied.
Lolo pointed at the clock in the kitchen. It was above the cabinet where they kept the cookie jar. Now that I look back at it, there was only one time that cookie jar held cookies. Every other time it held saltines.
“You see son, when it’s dark outside and the clock goes past the 12 on top, that means it’s morning. When the sun is out, and the clock goes past 12 that means it’s afternoon.”
“Are you hungry, son?”
“Do you want to learn how to cook breakfast?”
I nodded eagerly. I always liked watching my mom cook, but she would always tell me not to play in the kitchen.
“Did you brush your teeth, first?”
I shook my head. Lolo hadn’t yet retired, he still had his dental practice. I never went to the dentist as a child, because Lolo would examine my teeth in his workshop in the basement. I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth. Lolo always gave me a new toothbrush every time we went to the house upstate.
When I got back into the kitchen, Lolo was waiting. He would never start things without me. He always waited for me, and showed me how to do things from start to finish. He did that when he fixed my toys, when he would spray paint pine cones for me to play with- when they dried. Lolo always was and still is, my main man. I could never do anything wrong in his eyes, and he would always say “yes” when my parents would say “no”.
“How about we make an omelet, son? Do you like omelets?”
I didn’t like omelets because they were too big. But I said yes anyway.
Lolo held up two eggs in hands. “How about two eggs, son?”
Lolo cracked the egg into a bowl. He put a fork in my hand and told me to move the fork around in a circle really fast.
My little hands didn’t move fast enough. The eggs took forever to beat. But Lolo, never took things from me- he always let me have my moment. So he waited.
“Maybe we should put something in the eggs, son.” He walked over to the pantry that was in the wall alongside the stairs to the basement. He returned with a can of vienna sausages, and held them up for me to see.
“How about this?”
“I like those! Yes!” I replied.
He smiled. Lolo always smiled whenever I was happy.
This is where my memory gets a little fuzzy. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but I remember he pulled out a butterknife and let me slice the vienna sausages. They were clumsy chunks, uneven and oddly shaped. But he didn’t fix them. He just put them in the pan with the eggs, and then- there was an omelet.
I remember him cutting the omelet. He put a small portion on the green-leafed patterned Corelle china. He put a bigger portion on his plate.
“Do you want rice, son?”
I either shook my head or said no. I didn’t like to eat rice for breakfast.
And we sat at the table and ate the omelet. Lolo and me. It was morning, but it was still dark outside.