The car is parked, somehow (I don’t remember that part), and we are on bicycles. Mine wobbles a bit, and I am trying my best to avoid steering myself into the water, the way the bike wants to go. Dad has the picnic on the back of his bike, keeping an eye on my sister with training wheels scooting along. Mom is walking across the grass in another direction, but she is not lost.
We circle the path, and above us are millions of petals, an impossible shade of pink-white, bursting from gnarled branches in a riotous, splendid show. It’s amazing and yet it is exactly what I expect, because my birthday is when the cherry blossoms come out, every year.
It is crowded here. Tourists are taking pictures, people are walking home from work, other children and parents are playing, and cyclists are passing through. A memorial in marble, usually the main attraction, is the backdrop. And all of us are reflected again in the shiny surface of the basin that we are riding around.
Mom has laid out the scratchy wool blanket. I put my kickstand down and run to see, the dirt from my shoes getting onto the blanket. It’s there. The small, round bowl with the Saran wrap on top, next to the big wooden bowl full of Ruffles (it is always Ruffles) waiting for me to go first. We surround it, us four, but my chip is ready and in there before anyone else’s.
Clam dip. Smooth and cream cheesy and slightly fishy, in an oddly approachable way, and tangy-onion-lemony. My mom’s recipe. My favorite. Made just for me, always, on my birthday.
I’m 48 now. My mother is gone. I make the dip on ordinary days. And yet, at the first taste on my chip (it is almost always Ruffles), I feel my mom loving how happy I am. I see cherry blossoms, the back of my Dad’s bike ahead of me, and my sister’s small Mary Janes furiously pedaling along under a fluffy pink-white sky.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: an hour in the fridge
- 2 (3 oz.) packages of cream cheese, softened
- 2 Tbs. mayonnaise
- 2 Tbs. finely chopped green onions
- 1 can minced or chopped clams, drained
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tsp. garlic or regular salt
Using an electric mixer or a strong spoon, cream the cream cheese and the mayo together until smooth. Blend in the other ingredients by hand. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more lemon juice or Worcestershire sauce as needed. If you have time, cover and chill for at least an hour to blend flavors, then bring back to room temperature before serving with chips.
* Photos, and demo of proper dipping technique, courtesy of my sister, an incredible mom who is keeping this magical tradition of clam dip under the cherry blossoms alive for her own, very lucky, daughter. Happy Mother's Day, Diane!