Last month, on the anniversary of Gilbert's death, when nobody had mentioned our annual dinner, I figured that what had been a wonderful tradition, after 30 years, was finally coming to an end.
But I was wrong. Everyone did want to continue and so last night we had the 31st GRUB (Gala Reinterment of Uncle Buddy -- his family always called him "Buddy") and I have renewed interest in continuing it until there are too few of us to carry on.
Until last year, we always met in a restaurant, which, as the years have passed, has been a less pleasant prospect, especially as some are feeling the pinch of dwindling finances. So last year Shelley offered to host it at her beautiful little house in San Francisco. It was perfect. We all brought food and, unlike a restaurant, we had time to visit with everyone, not just the people sitting around us. Shelley offered her home again last night.
There were 7 of us this year. The first time we held this dinner there were four of us and the group grew up to near 20, I think. Then we started losing people, some because they lost interest, three because they decided to share this celebration with Gilbert himself, and have passed on to whatever is beyond this life.
Jeanne Ziaja was the first to leave, all too soon and a much too young age. Her husband John continued to join us until health problems kept him housebound. Then we lost Adrian MacNamara, who was an actor and also the first president of the Lamplighters. He served as president for many years. His wife Connie came for a year or two after Adrian's death, but it was a long drive for her. Then Will Connolly, one of Gilbert's best friends, had the audacity to die. A big spark left with him and he is still sorely missed, especially because he was the organizer of the event year after year.
The wonderful actress Marie Clyde, who was one of the earliest Lamplighters and who had been Gilbert's friend and shared a house with him for many years, just gradually stopped coming.
We kept the group to people who had been his friends and didn't let word get out that we even had this gathering. We made a big mistake two year ago, inviting a friend of a friend, who worked with Gilbert but wasn't really his friend. She ended up telling other people who were hurt because they felt they should be included. We decided not to invite new people again.
Shelley lives in a part of town I didn't know existed and it's so difficult to find and get to (down a long dead end street) but it's a real gem of a house with a lovely deck on which we ate last year, but it was a little too cold this year (hear that? "too cold" ! What a lovely phrase!)
Last year my contribution to the meal was tsimmes, a baked carrot recipe that Gilbert once said he loved. I found the recipe and made it for him during the time when I cooked dinner for him once a week... and it was a great hit.
This year I brought some spinach balls that the wife of the tech director for the Lamplighters makes for all of her dinners and is always a big hit (and was again last night). It's just spinach, bread crumbs, egg, onion and butter, rolled into tiny balls, baked, and served with sweet-hot mustard. I've always loved them but had never made them before. They were a great success.
I also decided to make an Oreo cookie dessert that looked simple -- layers of crushed Oreos mixed with butter, Cool Whip mixed with cream cheese, and topped with vanilla pudding and more Cool Whip.
It would be easy to whip together in a few minutes after we returned from Damn Yankees. We got home, as we usually do and watched Jeopardy, then I watched something else and around midnight I got ready to make the Oreo pudding-cake.
The very first instruction is to crush the cookies, mix with melted butter, press into a 9x13 pan and chill for an hour! Sigh. I did it, set the timer on my cell phone and fell asleep for an hour.
The next instruction was to mix cream cheese with powdered sugar and then fold into Cool Whip, spread on the cruse ...and let chill for an hour. I set the timer for an hour and a half, but when it went off, I was just too exhausted, so saved the last layer for when I woke up, 2-3 hours later.
I actually didn't think much of it would be eaten, since there were so few of us and so much of the dessert, but I only brought home about 1/4 of it and one person even had seconds, so I guess it was worth it. But next time I decide to make a dessert before I go to sleep, I will be sure to read the recipe first!