It was a hot day in early June when I came home from school to find a note from my mother left for me on top of my white eyelet comforter. The note was attached to a copy of the coveted, and in many households, and even libraries, forbidden “Forever” by Judy Blume. The note read,
“I hope you’ll always talk to me no matter what.
I’m here for you always and FOREVER.
The book was signed to me by Judy Blume. Holding the paperback to my chest in my air-conditioned bedroom in South Orange, NJ, I lifted the book and breathed in the scent of the pages, thinking to myself, “I have the coolest mom ever.”
The following Monday my mother received 5 different phone calls from 5 different mothers of various classmates at the exclusive, all-girls prep school I attended in Summit, NJ. This was followed by an aloof and disapproving call from the headmistress of the school. It seemed they didn’t share in my definition of cool. My mother pulled my transcripts immediately. By the fall, she had moved me to another nearby private school. She was southern-strict, but literary-liberal and had no time for small mindedness. On the last day of school, I’m fairly certain I saw her lift a small, delicate middle finger and aim it at the stocky headmistress’ rectangular back. My mother’s head was thrown back in laughter as we peeled out of the parking lot in her little red convertible.
“Forever.” The forbidden book of my young adulthood that all of my girlfriends snuck and passed around amongst each other. Young love, teenage sex, a tale of romance that they thought would last forever.
I had my own version of the main characters Katherine and Michael’s “Forever” love when I was in high school. Ours was a nearly four-year-romance. Sophomore girl falls HARD for Junior boy, cheerleader falls in love with the captain of the football team, innocent love turns steamy. It was an intro to love that has served me well, in spite of the few minor heart attacks I’m sure it must have caused my parents along the way. We lasted through my freshman year at The University of Maryland. I truly believed it would last forever. I can still feel the weight of his leather varsity jacket wrapped around my shoulders. I can smell the sweet summer air as it glides through my fingers, my arm stretches out the window of his Saab as we drive aimlessly through the velvet black night, down familiar back roads, Bon Jovi playing through the radio. The sweetest of kisses, his cologne lingers on my clothes; I breathe him in; he breathes me in; we disappear into each other.
Here I stand in my own kitchen. 47 years old, married, mother of two. My oldest son is just two years shy of where I was when my “Forever” love began. And as the heat of June rolls in like a thunderstorm, cool, crisp salads move center stage and I make my own lightened-up version of The Cobb Salad. It immediately takes me back to the pivotal and heart wrenching scene in my favorite Judy Blume novel.
Katherine stands in her kitchen preparing a salad for dinner on a muggy, New Jersey summer evening. Her throat closes around the hard boiled egg she just swallowed, as she realizes that her parents are beginning to pump the breaks on her romance that has heated up past their parental comfort zone. Tears well up in her eyes and her heart tightens as they inform her that, like it or not, she’s going away for the summer. Away from Michael. Away from what she thought would be forever.
This is not a soft, warm, comforting bolognese kinda dinner. This is crisp, this is new, this is young, this is a throw-caution-to-the-wind-and-fall-in-love kinda dinner. The egg will ground you, the tang of the vinaigrette will awaken your senses, the roasted red pepper sings, the cheese comforts. Adventurous, yet familiar, this Cobb tastes like first love. It is a staple. It is universal. It is timeless. It is the purest kind of love that we all need to remind us of what our hearts are capable of.
Even at 16.
Always and forever.
Forever Summer Salad
- Large, shallow salad bowl (Jule's favorite linked below!)
- 1 heart Romaine Lettuce, washed, dried, and chopped Pro Tip: wash and dry your all your lettuce at once, then wrap in paper towels and store in a Ziplock bag in the fridge, so it's ready for easy use during the week!
- 1/4 cup Grape Tomatoes The smaller the tomato, the sweeter
- 1 small Cucumber (or half a large cucumber), peeled and chopped
- 1-2 slices Turkey Bacon, cooked to a crisp and crumbled
- 1 Hard Boiled Egg, chopped
- 1/4 cup Roasted Red Pepper
- Fresh Parmesan Cheese, sliced not grated I use a vegetable peeler like the one linked below to create ribbons of parm. Feta works too. (I personally shkeeve blue cheese).
- Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to taste
- Combine all chopped ingredients like confetti.
- Top with slices of parm.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Dress your salad like it's going on a first date.
Find all of Jule’s summer salad essentials here~
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All illustrations by @courtneycoloring.