For us, the holidays are a time of Wigilia leftovers. We’ve begun our lunch two days in a row now with barszcz z uszkami. The Girl likes her barszcz without the “ears,” (i.e., dumplings), though. For sane people, it’s the wild-mushroom-filled dumplings that elevate the dish to perfection, but the fact that L loves barszcz is enough.
It’s not the barszcz she’s used to, though. This is peppery, clear barszcz, made with fermented beet juice to give it an edge. The result is a testament to the Girl’s love of the soup: it’s peppery enough that afterward, she fusses about how her throat burns, and she eats it knowing this is coming.
After lunch, I pack her small bike and helmet in the trunk, and we head for our favorite park, leaving K at home to rest and enjoy some quiet. L quickly makes friends with a young Latino girl her age who is also on a bike, and the two spend the next ninety minutes together, playing games, comparing notes about second-language abilities, and being five-year-olds.
Later, when L and K are both in bed, I occupy myself with old pictures. I look through the pictures of our wedding in 2004, pictures I’ve seen dozens of times, then move to pictures from the day after: a small garden party, family and friends relaxing in a surprisingly warm day in my in-laws’ yard.
I drift into thoughts about how different this life is from that, and how similar.