For Christopher Charles Gormley 1978-2012
The aroma and taste of food is more than the nurturing of the body and the pleasure we feel when eating a fantastic meal. Food for some is spiritual, mysterious and eternal. The taste of a roasted chicken, the scent of grilled beef, the aroma of a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon or the simple pure scent of a bowl of steaming Oatmeal can unleash memories and feelings from years gone by. Things we had forgotten are suddenly present. A bite of a chocolate cookie brings us back to our grandmother’s house and we remember her love. Food releases our past and shapes our life.
Next time you make French toast and the scent of cinnamon and nutmeg perfumes your house, stop and think and let the memories come. When I was a child on certain Saturdays my sisters and I made French toast for our parents and brought it to their bedroom in the early morning. We served it on those cheap tin TV trays my mother stored in the dining room closet. They were covered in a pattern of fruits and nuts, I thought them glamorous. We’d sneaked downstairs from our bedrooms into the kitchen while our parents slept (or pretended to sleep) and gathered the eggs, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg and butter. All of us worked in unison making a special treat for our dearly loved parents. Today, there isn’t a time when I see or smell French toast that I don’t think of those days and the sleepy grins it put on my Mom and Dad’s face.
I’m going to a wine tasting tonight. Wine is alive and it forever grows and gains complexity. Its taste and body can speak to the wine connoisseur of a particular year of a grapes harvest. But for some people I suspect a simple glance at a wine label with the year of production can provoke memories and thoughts of what that year meant to them. The last wine tasting I attended was in 2001 with Christopher’s Mother, Teadee. That spring I left New York and was working in a fantastic restaurant in Cambridge named Butterfish. Teadee and I worked together as waiters and we served sweet breads, stuffed veal breast and homemade Pates and all other kinds of luscious meals. At this time I was finishing up re-writes for a play that was slated for an off-Broadway production in the spring of 2002 and that approaching fall of 2001 I was moving to California to seek a writing job in Hollywood. I was in California when the Twin Towers were attacked. I drove home the next day. I lived in California for only three days.
I first met Sue and her sister Kate and Teadee back in the early 1980’s when we waited tables together at the popular 80’s Magic Pan Restaurants. I worked there during my summer breaks from Johnson & Wales University. I first met Christopher at Teadee’s apartment in Cambridge when he was only a boy. He had a sharp lantern jaw, dark eyes, and fine features like his mother. He had a head of dark curly hair. He was a typical, rambunctious boy and the first night I met him he was in a tug of war with his mother over putting his socks on. I instantly liked him.
The last thirty years of close friendship with Sue and Teadee I witnessed Christopher progress from young child to teenager to young adult and into a fine young man. He was what I like to call part of my life family, the group of people by sometimes no choice of our own, we go through our life with. Some of these people we love, some we like, some we dislike. I loved Christopher. I only knew him as a respectful and good boy and when he became an adult, like all young people, he was a man searching for a meaning to his life.
I saw Christopher for the last time five months ago. He came back to Boston from his new home in San Diego for his grandmother’s Wake. He greeted me with his usual handsome smile and a high-five followed by his famous, “Wasup John!” He was no longer a boy, but a full-grown man proudly showing me his two adorable children. He had found his meaning. I was proud of him. Christopher was one of the first people I witnessed grow from child to father.
Christopher lost his life on Saturday. He was 33. His memory is alive and will continue to evolve. He is not gone, but has just begun. His life was fine. He is with us forever and in all that is good.