Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Remembering Max

Ten years ago today my son Max would have turned seventeen. He never made it that far due to an auto accident almost a month before. He is missed every day, but on his birthday I celebrate the time we were blessed to have him in our lives. This is not a sad day now, but one to remember the good times.

If you didn't know him, the images above might not make much sense. I'll talk a bit about each, starting at the left. It's a food...and this is a food blog (mostly).

He loved blackberries from an early age. Once we moved to our farm, he and his friends would make what he called feasts. They took grape leaves from the vines by the driveway

and mounded them with blackberries from the vines by the chicken house, added Gravenstein apples from those trees and a few walnuts if they had ripened before the blackberries finished being ripe.

The next image is a saxophone. He played on in middle school, but switched to the trombone in high school because there were too many saxophone players. Music was a big part of his life...from zero period jazz band at 6 am to regular band classes and a love of all kinds of music which he played with an early MP3 player.

He had to get a work permit to work at Crown Books the summer between freshman and sophomore years of high school because he wasn't old enough to work. Because he loved books, got to work with college kids, including college girls, and because once he dressed up in a dress shirt and tie people treated him as if he were older, he very much enjoyed his job at the book store. Once they learned that he was a whiz with computers, they had him not only updating their computer files, but ordering all the computer books for that section. Quite a lot of responsibility for someone barely 15.

The next image is for Star Wars, one of his favorite movie series. He would be thrilled to learn that one of his school buddies is now working on a Star Wars TV show down in Marin.

Sweetie called Max and Xam kennel mates because they slept together for years until they both got to be too large to easily share a twin bed. (There is a cute photo of the two of them asleep in the photo collage below.) His friends called Xam the anti-Max because Xam is Max spelled backwards. They were best buds.

Soccer was a big part of his life from about age 5 until age 14. He played travel club soccer for the last seven of those years. He started as a striker, but found in later years that he loved defense.

The computer was such an important part of his life that it is hard to explain it. He was in 4th grade when he received a Casio watch which had a tiny keyboard. He used it to keep track of his assignments and used the timer feature to remind him when recess was almost over. There was always a computer in the house since Sweetie was an early user at home as well as at work. Early programs that he enjoyed included a story writer one and a math drill one.

He was still in middle school when he and two other friends did a web site for Traditional Medicinals for a good fee. He was on the Internet as early as one could be and not work for the military or government. At one point I heard him laughing while he and a friend were on so I went to see what they were up to. They were on the Internet telling someone that they were PC salesmen. I asked how old they had portrayed themselves as and was told 26. I guess 26 seemed old when you were 12. By the time he died, Max had 30 college credits in Computer Science. Many of his friends work in the field these days. Seeing as they all came here and did all night computer parties where they networked their computers to play games (around 1997 - 1999) I'm not too surprised.

The background is of the beach at Bodega Bay...a favorite place, especially when he was in high school.

A few of his favorite things...and happy memories for me.

How Max looked at many ages. Unlikely as it might be, if you remember him from one of the photos, do leave a comment talking about it.

As you can see, baking has been part of family life for a long time. making Christmas cookies together, especially the decorated kind was a true tradition. Coloring Easter eggs was another, and picking out and then carving Halloween pumpkins was an annual family adventure.

Max had a very good sense of taste and enjoyed trying new foods. From the time he could walk he would take walks with his Dad in the neighborhood. At this time of year he would show up after the walk with a face smeared with blackberry juice and juice purpled fingers...and a big smile. After he learned a song at pre-school about artichokes, we had to have them, including different things to dip the cooked leaves in like melted butter and mayonnaise. He had a life long love of artichokes. Later, on a trip to Seattle, he tried snow crab and that became a special treat when we could find it. The same thing happened with lobster and blue crab...tried 'em on trips and would eat them as often as possible after that. When we went to Victoria, BC we tried a number of clam chowders, finally deciding that Pellikanos had the best one. Returning home we had to try local clam chowders to see if any were as good.

A couple of summers before his last one we did some food tastings that I planned. First I had him try regular Kraft grated Parmesan cheese, then some grated domestic Parmesan cheese, then some of the real deal Parmesan-Reggiano from Italy. He was blown away when he tasted the third one all by itself. He had enjoyed it often since it was what I cooked with whenever possible, but tasting it by itself, especially in comparison to the other two helped him understand how important good ingredients can be. We did the same sort of thing with dark chocolates and maple syrups. A fun experience!

Some people don't enjoy foods they have to work to picking crab or walnuts ...and others do. Max and his grandad Max both did and one or two times they got to enjoy it together as here, where they are picking the meats of walnuts from our trees.

Strangely enough, since he enjoyed new foods, he also enjoyed food routines. I'm pretty sure he packed the exact same lunch each day during 4th and 5th grades, with no variations. He loved popcorn and that was a favorite after school snack, easily made in the microwave day after day after day. For fast food his favorite places were Burger King and Taco Bell. His favorite soda was Pepsi. We had lots of Burger King and Taco Bell meals while doing that club soccer thing.

More happy memories...and food memories can be really lasting because they usually include the associated fragrances...which are supposed to be very long lasting. Happy food memories to each of you dear readers. Hope these memories spark some of your own.



  1. I'm glad that you have so many happy memories of your son. The way you talk about him makes it evident that he was a wonderful boy and must be greatly missed every day. Thanks for sharing all the photos. I especially like the one of him and his Grandad, each face at the same angle intent on their walnuts.

  2. Elle, your post makes me cry. Thanks so much for sharing the wonderful memories with us. *hug*

  3. Thanks for sharing this with all of us... It's proof of what an amazing woman you are to have had a wonderful son who gives you such wonderful memories. Love lots!

  4. Ah Elle, what lovely memories. I haven't been around much but just logged on to see what everyone had been up to, my own fingers stained with blackberry juice having come in from picking some in the garden. They'll taste all the sweeter now.

    Big hugs xx

  5. Thank you for writing such a personal post.

    I'm a bit older as your son would be, but I also met with my friends
    at the end of the nineties to play computer games via zero-modem cable. Popcorn was another part of the equation.
    As you said, good times. :)

  6. What a beautiful tribute to a very special son from his very special mom. Max looked the image of his grand dad.

  7. Dear Lynn, I like that one too...they were both so focused they didn't even know the photo was being taken :)

    Dear Anh, Thank you for the hug. Don't cry, just hug someone who is special to you. Good relationships are what lasts.

    Dear Dharm, Thank you! Now you can see why I especially enjoy posts that include your gorgeous children! They are pure delight.

    Dear Amanda, Those berries we pick ourselves are the sweetest! Thanks for understanding.

    Thank you all for these special and much appreciated comments.

  8. Dear Andreas, you and Max would probably have enjoyed each other...and I'm glad to know that you are a bit of a computer of my favorite kinds of people :)

    Dear Giz, Thanks! They do have a strong resemblence, don't they? They both loved jazz, too. :)

  9. I think, when I met you, I realized that this is how we keep a soul alive. We don't forget them. We introduce them as family, just family more distant now, and we remember them and the things that they loved with joy. You do this so beautifully; thank you for sharing it.

  10. Thank you for sharing this special part of your life - the fact that you an celebrate his life with such happiness shows just what an incredible mother you are and how blessed your were to have him, even though it was far too short.

  11. What a beautiful tribute to your son. What wonderful memories, yet a life cut so short!! My god, losing a child is the worst thing that can happen to a parent, and just know my heart is with you as he hovers you and your family as your sweet angel, smiling and chuckling at your photos and words *hugs*

  12. Thank you for sharing your wonderful memories of your son. Big hugs to you.

  13. Celebrate the time together! You have my heart. All these good times and the food related are beautiful. Yes I too love the one of Max with his grandfather!

  14. Anonymous12:29 AM

    How am I supposed to leave a comment when I'm crying? We were so lucky to live close enough to have our lives intertwined with Max's. The picture of him in his tux reminds me of how much he looked like Sweetie.

    He played such good sax. I think that's what he played at a concert at the university here. It was wonderful.

    From when he was a tiny child trashing restaurants when we went out, to that great photo of him cooking, food was definitely a special part of his life.

    One of the many things I loved about him was his sense of balance in life, his determination to balance all of his many interests, never getting pulled to far in any direction. It enabled him to accumulate more experiences than one would imagine possible in the number of years he had.

    I miss his hugs, and his interesting way of thinking about things. It rips me apart, reading your post, and seeing his grandfather's picture, too. I'm so, so glad that you are able to find joy in the memories. He was a fine son, indeed.

    So much love,

  15. Next Sister Down8:26 AM

    Somewhere, I have a picture of Max and his granddad picking crabs together during a summer visit to the Chesapeake Bay. In fact, when I saw the walnut picture, I thought at first that it *was* the crab picking picture. Everybody else enjoyed some crabs and then went on to other things. Max and his granddad stayed patiently and happily picking for at least another hour--probably longer! Big Max and "Mini-Max" always delighted in each other's company.

  16. Dear T & A, Rose, Lisa Michelle, Mrs. L. and Tanna, thank you for reading and commenting, and so sharing in the remembering. It is a comfort to me and a blessing.

    Dear Natasha, I'd forgotten the restaurant go round when he was little :) Thank you, sweetie.

    Dear Next Sister Down, i would love to see that photo from the crab feed. I remember I got crab juice in my camera, so it was ruined and none of the photos came out from then. The two Maxes were indeed fond of each other and had a lot in common. Thanks for the memories!

  17. Elle, so sorry it has taken me so much time to write this comment. I earmarked this post of yours and have come back several times since you first posted.

    I've kept it "unread" in my reader because every time for the past month I have started to get frayed by the day, I re-read the joyous memories you have of Max, take a deep breath and say to myself, live each day to its fullest because it really isn't the time we have but the gusto with which we live it. Max lived his life with gusto and your post and memories show that.

    Thank you for sharing with us.