LRGCC

Photograph by Marc Montefusco



Photograph by Julieanne Frascinella

On September 1st of 1978, I was born.

 

 

 

On the first of September of 2014, Marc Montefusco was hired as the Director of Horticulture at Reeves-Reed Arboretum.  

 

Sometimes a mushroom is just a mushroom

He was the birthday present I never asked for and, as I would later tell him, one that I hadn't wanted.  Ours would become a complicated relationship full of love and contention.

  

Cakes 

 

It is our tradition to celebrate everyone’s birthday with a cake baked or bought by a fellow colleague. Crumb cake, chocolate cake, ice cream cake. I’d had every delicious offering and, well, wanted something new, so on my birthday I jokingly requested a Lavender Rosemary Goat Cheese Cheesecake. Upon being told that this was outside the purview of our arboretum bakers, I conceded defeat and anticipated a delicious chocolate cake as my fate. Alas!

Then to my surprise, on the Day of Cake, there it was.  Amazing, gorgeous, delicious, never-before-baked-or-eaten at Reeves-Reed Arboretum.  The Cake.

The Lavender Rosemary Goat Cheese Cheesecake.


LRGCC by Doreen Schindler
 

Baked by our lovely Office Manager and goat enthusiast Doreen Schindler.  One of the kindest and most beautiful souls I’ve ever met.

 

 Watercolor by Marc Montefusco

Marc

 

Cake Day is Staff Meeting Day.  Staff Meeting Day is at lunch time.  Usually at lunch time, Marc preferred to take his slice of birthday cake to his apartment on the second floor of Wisner House and save it for after he ate his lunch in private.

But not that particular September.  He was intrigued enough by this strange new cake to spoil his lunch and . . .

 

His eyebrows raised, he nodded his head, and a smile spread across his face.  If memory serves, he declared it the best cake he'd ever tasted.  Marc was a sensualist when it came to food, and when he enjoyed something, he really reveled in the experience.  He'd wax rhapsodic about an especially delicious meal.  He once became prosaic about yogurt.  He was astonished about the unexpected pleasure brought from Doreen's surprise Lavender Rosemary Goat Cheese Cheesecake.

 

 Photograph by Marc Montefusco

 Partings

 

In the following months we said goodbye to Doreen as she took another job, and it was a sad parting.  Life and work went on, birthdays came and went, cakes were enjoyed.  My birthday came around again.

Le sigh. Delicious chocolate cake please! —seriously, this concoction of Flora's is lightness and goodness and just the perfect amount of sweet.  Give me a cold glass of milk and I’m in heaven.  It was a hardship I was willing to bear in Doreen’s absence.

 

 Then, my Cake Day came. And, who is that? Why is Doreen here?!

  

“Lavender Rosemary Goat Cheese Cheesecake b!t<hes!!!!”

  

Doreen was there because she’s a golden-hearted Goddess sent from the heavens.  Even though she no longer was a colleague, she brought me my cake.

 

 

And Marc spoilt his lunch again.

 

 
Photograph by Marc Montefusco

Chance Meetings

 

 Laura joined Reeves-Reed Arboretum in a serendipitous plot of its own (a ringing phone not meant to be answered, a chance conversation, one of the best people that has happened to the Horticulture Department).

 


Photograph by Marc Montefusco

 

Time went on: cakes, pies, berries and cream.

 

 

Partings are Such Sweet Sorrow

 

 

February the 20th of the Year of Our Lord 2019.

 

 

Marc Montefusco, Director of Horticulture at Reeves-Reed Arboretum, resigned.

 

Planted by Marc Montefusco

He’d received an amazing job opportunity at The Cloisters (can we talk about my baby-bird imprint on The Unicorn Tapestries which are housed there?  Can you say “jealous”?!).  I was so happy for him.

 

Can you guess what his going-away cake was?

 

Everyone together now!:

 

Lavender Rosemary Goat Cheese Cheesecake!!!!

 

This time I made it.

 

 
Watercolor by Marc Montefusco

Eleven years with RRA, and I was never once in the baking pool.  Because of reasons that are best not explored at this juncture.

 

But this time I made the cake.

 

 

The Cake.

 

 

The Lavender Rosemary Goat Cheese Cheesecake.

Because Marc was the birthday gift I'd never asked for, and because he loved my birthday cake the best.  It makes sense in my head.

Laura was with us: our beloved Horticultural Assistant, and (I hope she doesn’t begrudge me this) Marc’s protege.

 

It was her first taste of The Cake.

 

 

On Laura’s next birthday, in November, she requested The Cake.

 

 

My special birthday cake; Doreen’s exemplar of kindness and love; Marc’s expression of enjoyment triumphing over habit; delight for Laura’s tastebuds.

 

 

I once again made it.

 

 

(A side note is that my mother made me a cookbook of favorite recipes. It’s called “Julie Can Cook: BUT I DON’T WANT TO!”.)  

 

 

The Cake is had, it is enjoyed (I ain’t bragging, just speaking truth), November turns to December turns to January of 2020.

 


Photograph by Marc Montefusco

Never-Meetings

 

I’d had plans.  We all do, don’t we?  Call mom on the weekend, apologize to your friend for that stupid thing you said, go to that concert with your brother,  Just random plans.  Everyday plans.  Coffee with a friend.  Job interview. Babysit.  Go to work.  See that friend after the Stay-at-Home order was lifted.

 

I’d had plans to visit Marc at The Cloisters and bug the snot out of him and get a private tour.  Instead of my annoying boss, he’d finally just be a friend and colleague. I’d get to see him happy. 

Wanna make God laugh?

 

Planted by Marc Montefusco

 

Marc was the quintessential Clint Eastwood of Horticulture: “get offa my lawn!”.  When we (the arboretum staff) saw the newspaper article where they interviewed him and what is was like working in a closed-to-the-public Met garden, we laughed because we figured that he was in heaven.

 

He was a beautifully complicated man of gentility, curmudgeonliness, crassness (oh the jokes I’ll never share!), plus more than a dash of magic when you saw him with children.  He was the Lichen Man for our Hands to Nature programs.  

  

tipitiwitchet

On the 6th of January, 2020, Marc Montefusco, brother, father, husband, son, and friend, passed away.  He was a Renaissance Man.  Artist, Horticulturist, Writer, Musician, Carpenter, Gentleman.  I’m sure there are many facets of him that I didn’t know.

But I know he loved Doreen’s Lavender Rosemary Goatcheese Cheesecake.

 

Photograph by Marc Montefusco.  Somewhere out there is the painting.

 

Time Passes

 

September 2020

 

I think I got a gourmet fruit cake?

 

 November 2020

 

I made the LRGCC cake for Laura.  We ate it outside because of the pandemic.  I don’t remember it.  I don’t really remember 2020.  My memory skips that year when I try to calculate time.

 

2021

 

 Doreen is back, thank all that is holy!  It’s been years, but I was able to celebrate my birthday with a LRGCC.

 

 

November 2021.  I’m notified that Laura’s birthday is coming up.  I ask her what she wants.  Our new Director of Horticulture tries to convince me that Laura wants a chocolate cherry cake (he’s been trying that line since I made him his birthday cake.  My secret identity has been fully exposed).

 

Laura was hesitant to ask for what she really wanted.  

It’s been eleven months since we lost the chance to see Marc again.

Sharing food is a part of community.  Breaking bread together brings us together.  If smell is the sense closest to memory, taste is the second closest.

 

 

Taste is a memory that ties us together, connects us to our past, helps us hold onto that past.  To our friends, our culture, our community.

 

 

Your mom’s tamales, your grandad’s cauliflower soup (weird but delicious), Gramma's creamed carrots you could never get right.  Food connects and reminds us and brings us joy and sometimes fresh sorrow.

 

 

Marc is everywhere here at Reeves-Reed.  In his mistakes, in his successes.  His legacy will linger long after you and I have been forgotten and humans are fairytales written by rabbits. He has planted trees for generations that we will never meet.  

 

 

Lavender is for serenity.

 

 Rosemary is for remembrance.  

Goatcheese is for the goats he brought to the Daffodil Bowl.

Watercolor by Marc Montefusco

"Your realm is blessed beyond any land's deserving because they have passed across it in freedom. As for you and your heart and the things you said and didn't say, she will remember them all when men are fairy tales in books written by rabbits." - Schmendrick, Last of the Red Hot Schwammis, 'The Last Unicorn' by Peter S. Beagle