What’s Real

My husband and I waited all day for the arrival of our imaginary grandchild.  It’s a boy.  His name is Jackson.  He’s quite real.  What’s imaginary is the idea that we are his grandparents.  Jackson was already nine months old and we had yet to meet him.  That’s because our surrogate child lives in Northern California and we haven’t been up there since the birth, and she hasn’t been here.  A brief explanation of Jackson’s mom, Tory.  When my daughter Augie started second grade, I spotted this tiny, adorable student in her class.  She looked dazed and confused, kind of lost.  I asked Augie about her and she told me that Tory was new at school.  I said, “Let’s bring her home.”  So, we did.  And she stayed, occasionally for months at a time.  The chaos in her own home made it appear that our family was functional.  Everything’s relative.  Secretly, I liked that she thought we were “normal.”  We got so much more out of the deal.  Tory was a real find.

Now, many years later, I texted Tory, though I was concerned she was on the road and might glance at her phone while driving.  But it’s Tory, more adult than any of us, even at thirteen.  She had to be.  I get texted right back.  Oh, did you think it was today I was coming down?  It’s tomorrow, and then I have to leave the following day.  I walked into my husband’s home office.  “I got the day wrong.  There’s a movie in Santa Monica, want to see it?”

Michael and Jackson!!!

Waiting for the film to start, we decide on dinner:  Blue Plate’s new taco joint in the just-opened and ultra modern Shore Hotel.  But when we arrive later, things aren’t looking good — instead of customers, there’s still construction equipment.  Annoyed, I march up to the front desk and tell the clerk that a July opening was announced online, and now it’s the beginning of September!  Like that will change something.  Ivy at The Shore Restaurant, a door away, is now calling to me, and minutes later, we are seated on the lovely patio, on a beautiful, still-summer night.  No “grandkid” until tomorrow, but tonight I will be having delicious soft-shell crab in a lemon butter sauce.

Shit.  I look for my new, faintly expensive sunglasses, but they’re not in my purse.  I hate losing anything.  I need to go right back to the theater where they probably fell under my seat.  My husband, Desi to my Lucy, doing his best not to look annoyed, offers to make the three-block run.  I thank him and imagine that whoever cleans the theater between movies is now sporting my hip new shades.

Just as he leaves, my favorite brown bread arrives.  This bread is the real reason I have always loved The Ivy.  I relax a little, digging in, as I recall my first exposure to this wonderful non-gluten-free delight.  I was a new mother, living just a block away from the original Ivy Restaurant in West Hollywood.  I would wander by during the day with my baby in his secondhand stroller.  I looked quite homeless in my tattered clothes — clothing purposely tattered, I might add, by an expensive Japanese designer from a store called Parachute.  But the people who worked at the bakery assumed I was living on the street, so on a regular basis they handed me free loaves of the luscious bread.  I guess they didn’t recognize me when I showed up at night with my actress friends to pay for a real meal.  Must have figured it was my rich Beverly Hills twin from whom I was separated at birth.

me, pushing Oliver in his stroller, 1984

Back to the future, in Ivy at The Shore, I’m mindlessly scarfing my favorite brown bread.  It’s never pretty when I do this because I like it when it comes out piping hot, and I only like the bottom of the bread, not the top, so I tear at it, burning my fingers and shmearing butter on in big globs.  I’m already through with this first loaf and onto my second when my husband comes trotting up the street clutching my shades.  Panting from his six blocks round trip, he slumps down and surveys the scene.  He scans the grotesque mess I have made tearing the bottoms off and leaving the tops, the two empty dishes of butter, my mouth filled with bread.  And as I try to verbalize a thank-you, specks of it fly out onto my chin as well as across the linen tablecloth.  He looks at me and says matter-of-factly, “If this were our first date, there wouldn’t be a second.”  I laughed throughout the rest of our meal.  I was so grateful to him for finding my glasses that I went to the host who had offered a free glass of champagne earlier, and collected on the offer to present to Michael.

We spent the rest of the weekend pushing our pretend grandson around in his stroller.  On Monday, my husband left a wrapped gift on my desk with a note that said, “After thinking it over, I’ll go for the second date.”  I unwrapped it, and saw a small-framed favorite photo of me as a little girl with my brother Alan, and our beloved dad.

framed pic Michael gave me

On my dad’s deathbed in 1996, and in one of his last known conversations, he called Michael, my then boyfriend in to have a “chat.”   Like the Godfather, without the threat of a horse head, my dad told him he was worried about me  — which I believe was his way of trying to enlist Michael to marry me, though he never framed it that way.  My dad had taken such amazing care of me for those first forty-two years of my life and his wish was that someone as wonderful as Michael would take over.  A few years later, we did get married, thirteen — or is it fourteen — years ago, October 23rd — or is it October 24th?  The other day my brother told me he thought that our dad was instrumental from above in making Michael marry me.  Who knows?

Note Michael wrote me the day we got married,

The Ivy Restaurant

guess it’s October 23rd

The Ivy Restaurant in town or at the Shore.  I highly recommend the chocolate chip cookies or key lime pie for dessert.  Crab Cakes are excellent.  Crab salad is delicious.  In season stone crab with mustard sauce.  And, of course their to-die-for-brown bread.



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13 Responses to “What’s Real”

  1. Hoov says:

    Two (y) (y) up. Aloha and happy annv…..

  2. gari says:

    loved it as always!! craving hot bread with butter now~your stories are always delightful and very entertaining~i love when you talk about your dad~my dad was gone by the time i was eight so i always enjoy hearing about what it is like to grow up with a dad~thank you for sharing your life fredde~

  3. Julie Phalen says:

    And yet another great story. Thank you Fredde, happy anniversary!

  4. pauli says:

    Your dad is still watching out for you Fredde. Although I never met him I cannot imagine him being able to look away from the the love of his life. Congratulations on your anniversary and may you have many more wonderful bread filled moments with Michael.

  5. robin says:

    awwww. such a sweet tale. i love you too, because of all those reasons. not gonna be your husband, though…xxx

  6. Kim says:

    I love you too for all the same reasons AND I would be your husband! So there!

  7. Joy aroff says:

    You hit the proverbial “jackpot” with wonderful Michael. Bless you both for continued happiness together. You both are fortunate as I am sure the “Duke” knew.The brown bread is the reason I first went to The Ivy when it opened on Robertson. In later years, my son, Michael, worked for Lynn and Richard absolutely until he took his last breath. He was loyal, loved them and they were good to him.

  8. Doreen says:

    Michael totally gets you and loves you for all the same reasons that I do!!
    Happy anniversary to you both!!!

    And now…..I’m craving that damn hot brown molasses bread from the Ivy!!

  9. zach says:

    Happy Anniversary, Fredde, and thanks for the delightful story that elicited an involuntary laugh at “If this were our first date, there wouldn’t be a second.”

  10. Augie Duke says:

    Awe i love my best friend, baby , Step dad and you.. I am one lucky girl…. to have all you in my life

  11. Mary Jo Frazier says:

    About time I caught up with the inner workings of Ms. Duke. So glad to have finally found your web site.
    And, Michael should have married you for that dazzling smile of yours. xoxo mj

  12. Jackie says:

    bread in my mouth, butter on my fingers, and thoroughly filled up with your love-filled life. how do you do this? so much love in every line…the champagne
    also goes to you!

  13. alexandra says:

    Fuuuunny! i laughed so hard! and
    after the mayo disk sandwiches, well you are a riot! they sound good
    working my way thru your blog…. 😀
    twiggy, white boots Love all the old pictures of your stylish ways; your mom & dad
    and your mr. is dreamy
    i still like the 60’s
    the last time i ate at the ivy was probably with you and stacey….gosh i am lovin this xoa

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