They didn’t have any spaghetti pasta at Trader Joe’s today. At least, none of the normal, white-flour spaghetti that I’m accustomed to buying. If it were any other sauce, I might have grabbed the packet of whole-wheat, but I couldn’t. I’ve never eaten my grandpa’s sauce with whole wheat pasta. It just isn’t done. I got rigatoni instead.

I unenthusiastically pour the the unwanted noodles into the boiling water. Not until they’re ready do I remember that this is exactly the kind of pasta grandpa always uses. Rarely do I see spaghetti at my grandpa’s house. It’s too far back for me to remember the reason why. I think it might be his personal preference, or else, the preference of one of his many grandchildren. I suppose it’s an easier shape to eat, especially when we were younger; you can stab with a fork instead of swirling long noodles round and round, only to have them drip off the tines at the last minute. Maybe that’s it; maybe there were always too many small hands with clumsy fingers trying to eat on their own. Spaghetti stopped making sense.

I drain the noodles, and if I were my grandpa I would have found his big serving dish to put them in. It says “pasta” in bright red and green and gold lettering, and is never used for anything else. Instead I leave the pasta in the strainer and drizzle on some olive oil.

The sauce on the stove bubbles. I serve myself generously and add parmesan cheese even more generously. It’s calm and quiet. I smile because that’s usually not what it’s like. Always, growing up, I ate pasta in the company of my extended family for each Christmas and Easter and birthday and reunion, when we would all gather in the kitchen and get in grandpa’s way as he cooked while we ate cheese and bread and crackers and drank wine or one of the sodas that never seemed to diminish from the refrigerator downstairs.

Soon enough I have company, and I can’t help noting the irony when I’m complimented on the type of pasta I chose. Maybe I shouldn’t have taken credit for it; I should have admitted that it was only because Trader Joe’s didn’t stock enough spaghetti. But I’m vain and enjoy even the underserved praise.

We talk and eat and the words settle around us, warm and glowing. It’s the kind of conversation that makes the night something you want to wrap around your shoulders like a blanket. I’m happy. More than that, I’m content. I settle into my favorite chair. The light is perfect between the living room and dining room, and the smell of pasta sauce lingers warmly in the air. This is enough.


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