Something I’d never done before last night: sat up late at my kitchen table with my friend Kingsley, looking at the family photos he’s brought with him from his home in Queens.
Kingsley: And this was taken at my father’s 70th birthday party.
Me: Look at that cake. And look at his smile!
Kingsley: He was so happy that night.
Me: He was a wonderful man, wasn’t he?
Kingsley: Everyone loved him.
I’m drinking a glass of water. Kingsley is drinking a cup of tea. The dog is asleep under the table. Hobbes the cat is prowling about, trying to sneak the dog’s food when he thinks I’m not looking. We’re going through the photos one by one.
Me: Look at your cousin Sally in this photo. She’s laughing, isn’t she?
Kingsley: She has so much fun. She laughs so loudly sometimes. Once in a while you do too; that’s how you and Sally are alike.
Kingsley, who is 78, is in his nightclothes: an old t-shirt and worn shorts. His house flipflops, which are jeweled and which he bought in Chinatown years ago, are on his feet. It’s been a long day for him. I picked him up at the airport, we went grocery shopping, and now it’s late and we’re sitting up in the kitchen so that I can see the family photos.
Most of the people in the photos, with the exception of Sally, who is 92, and Kingsley’s younger brother, are gone now.
I take my time going through each one. We come to a series of three photos, none of which feature family members and all of which are very Kingsley in that they feature food, in this case, a pie in various stages of creation.
Me: Were you making an apple pie here?
Kingsley: Yes. I was experimenting with apple pie-baking. I wanted to see if I could create a pie that wouldn’t end up with that soggy crust.
Me: And? Success?
Kingsley, nodding: Success. I used apples, walnuts and a lemon. You can see them here in the first photo. Then, instead of a top crust, I spread the pie with sour cream and grated lemon peel on top. That’s the second photo. Then I baked it, and some of the apples turned dark, which gave them a nice texture. The sour cream melted in and the pie turned out great.
Me: Hang on. I’m going to take a photo of each of these pie photos with my cell phone.
Kingsley: No, no. You can have the photos themselves.
Me: Are you sure?
Kingsley: Yes, I’m sure. Just keep them. I don’t bake pies anymore.