I Will Try Not to Talk About the Heat

It does not seem possible that just 26 percent of the oil from the oil spill is left in the Gulf of Mexico. Yesterday, there were 60 years of damage to contend with. Today, poof. All gone. Please.

When did things become all or nothing? When did we lose the gray? Everything is gray, really. Do the people telling us these statistics (gained, apparently, from projections, not real data), President Obama included, I’m sorry to say, really think we are that idiotic? Everyone takes science lab. Everyone can feel a spin.

So, when you stay in your house the whole day because it is too hot to go outside, you get a little stir crazy by, oh, 3:47. Then, you go out. You think of somewhere to go. I went to the bookstore, then to buy paper for my daughter’s birthday invitations and then, to the supermarket to buy lettuce and mushrooms. Clearly, I could have survived the evening without lettuce and mushrooms. It wasn’t even cold in the ice cream aisle, where I went on purpose to feel cold. It was hot in the ice cream aisle, where you usually need a parka.

If they only said to us that the cap is working and that there is much more cleaning up to do, the silly news people and I wouldn’t be feeling as if we were told a fib and talking about it. It would have been such the smarter strategy. 




I Do Not Know What I Have Written Because it is So Hot

Oh hi. I’ve been missing, I know, and I apologize. Been doing other things. Seeing other places. Thinking other thoughts. Well, not really. It has just been hot. So hot. So hot that you can’t do other things, or see other places or think, anything. At all. No thinking. 

It has been crazy hot, in the 1oos, for days. Years, it seems. Yesterday, it was 106. Today, they said on TV that it was 102, only 102. They lie, those people. It was 129. I know, because I went outside two times. It was 129, without a doubt.

I have never adjusted to the heat here in Texas. Imagine opening your oven while a roast is roasting, just to see how it’s doing. Imagine that waft that hits you in the face and makes you worry that your eye lashes are burning off your lids and falling off. Imagine that scare, knowing how bad you will look with no eyelashes. Imagine having nowhere to  put the mascara. That is how hot it is here. It’s no-mascara hot. It is Hell. With the flames and pitchforks. 

I am delirious, even with the air conditioning. Air conditioning is like killing a bear with a fly swatter. Why am I talking about killing bears. It is 129, that’s why. Okay, bye.

The Whole Cooking Thing

“Spice Up Your Dinner With an Asian Salad,” the entreaty came, sprawled across my computer screen. Go ahead. Spice it all up. As if it’s not already spiced, or partially spiced, or certainly spiced enough, given the other issues of the day. Immediately, upon reading the dictate, I had visions of serving people in kimonos, chopsticks in their hair, rice paddies to their backs. Scents of soy and teryaki infiltrated my olfactories and I, let alone my kitchen table, felt instantly, well, spiced up.

I don’t mind cooking. When I was first learning, I viewed it as a creative process. I worked in the department of a women’s magazine that edited food stories, so I read a lot of recipes, mainly to make sure that “T” meant tablespoon and that we said “1/4 tsp” instead of “1/4 cup.” That is bad, when it comes to salt. And yeast. During this time, I also amassed quite a collection of plates and cups and such, none related, except to me. 

Before I had babies, I was at my zenith. Top of my culinary arc. The corona. I made a lot of tasty and beautiful things. Now, fourteen years after they were babies, I still cook most every night, but have fallen into a bit of a predictable pattern, I must say. I have the books, I have the knack, I have the inventive spark. But by the time dinner comes around, I’ve used them all up on other endeavors.

So, when I was told, so forcefully, to spice up my dinner with an Asian salad, I took a little offense. Who the heck are you, telling me to make an Asian salad. But then, I realized that making an Asian salad is exactly the kind of thing I would do if I had the time. I would make the time, I declared, talking to the screen. I read on.

You, that would be me, will need…dried shrimp, sliced pork, hot chilies, preserved radish. What is “preserved” radish? And how long has it been preserved? And in what, where, how, by whom? Okay, then. Preserved radish, fish sauce, and to round out the list of staples I would have in our pantry, tamarind juice. Oh yes, pass me a little tamarind juice, won’t you? It’s right there, on the shelf next to the oyster butter.

Please. 

I lost my enthusiasm. I cannot cook an Asian salad, tonight anyway. I will have to fly to Korea to buy the ingredients. This is insane, I thought. Often, I play a sort of game-show game with myself. I am told that I must cook a meal using just five ingredients that exist in my freezer, fridge and pantry. Sometimes, I get to use six. Then, ready, set, go…select them, whirl the possibilities in my head, and begin.

I clicked off the Asian salad web page and went into the kitchen. Mushrooms, carrots, hoisin sauce, chicken, rice. You want Asian? You got it.


Just a Little Mom Thought

So, Mom and I talk every morning on the phone. She is in New York. I am in Texas. We have the same kinds of conversations that we’d have if we were next door neighbors. Yesterday, we were talking about kids, and how you can expose them, and show them, and lead them, and set they up for all great things, but that you cannot do the great things for them. You can, and should, let them know the great things are possible, achievable, with hard work, and sometimes, if you are lucky, with less hard work. But in the end, you you cannot play the trumpet, dance the dance, take the test. 

Some parents, I think, let themselves off the hook, knowing that they can’t take the test. “Well, little Jimmy will just have to figure it out for himself.” That is ridiculous, when little Jimmy is, well, little. And kids are little longer than they are not, or longer than you think. Some adults are still little. I say, tell him what he is capable of and what is expected. Give him the ball, the book, the paintbrush and no room to back down. Kids don’t know about humps, and even less about getting over them. It is our job to make them reach the hump. Once on the other side, they will be happy we did.

This is all rather general, I know. I have a story, but my daughter wouldn’t want me to tell it. I will say, though, that she is now on the far side of the hump. I have gotten “Thank yous.” She has gotten more. 

 


Wait Just a Minute

The kitchen clock stopped working. This is not astounding, I realize, but there is meaning in its demise, a message. No, not about time hanging mid-tick, or passing, underutilized, nothing prosaic like that, let alone guilt-provoking. Nothing about my buying it twenty-three years ago for my first Manhattan apartment, so modern, slick, or toting it to five different cities and ten different kitchens, without kids and with, with mates and without. None of that. Today, the clock, though stuck, still serves.

Before I knew this, though, I took it down from the wall, feeling the way you do when something gives out. I attempted to resuscitate it, trying assorted batteries, tapping its sides, flipping it like a dime, sun from the window catching its silver face. But the hands remained still. That is it, I thought. I put my clock on the counter. Done. We did not need a functional object not to function, not to tell my daughters and me what the time is, really, the time that other people know and rely upon, then, that minute. We would replace it with something new and effective.

But then, I looked at the wall, yellow, naked, except for the nail. It would have been easy to wiggle it out, just a firm grip at its base. I grabbed it with my thumb and forefinger, then let go, sitting down at the table underneath. I cook every night, a complete meal from scratch, no matter how busy, how much homework, how late practice runs. And we sit at the table and have dinner, give the report, tell the joke, relay the story. Was there an allele question on the test? Mommy, any news about the book? You wouldn’t believe what Mr. Matthews did today.

It is hard not to check the hour, with so much left to finish before the day ends. I wish the time at the table could be longer. It is an important time. It struck me, at the table in front of the wall, that we could put the ticking on hold, laugh at it, dare it not to press on. I picked up my twenty-three year old clock, bold and shiny, and threaded the nail right back into its hook. Eight-seventeen, the hands read, at two p.m. Audacious, it was. Wild.

With fresh purpose, and a certain spunk, it now protests the minutes that are too quick, the seconds that are too full, stealing for us a wonderful and reliable pause.

                       

Life Lemons

I was standing on the sidewalk in front of my house on Saturday when a little girl, maybe nine, ran towards me.

“Did you see three boys with a lemonade jar?” she asked, panting.

“No,” I said. “Why?”

“They stole our jar right off the table,” she said, pointing a half block behind her where two other girls were standing. “We were having a lemonade stand.”

“They stole your lemonade from your lemonade stand,” I said, aghast.

“Yes.”

“Swiped it right off the table?”

“Yes, and then they ran this way.”

“That is awful,” I said, “and completely criminal. Are your parents home?”

“Yes.”

“Did you tell them?”

“No.”

Wow. Taking the law into her own hands, and feet. She was fast.

“Go tell them, and maybe you could get into the car and look for the boys. And meantime, I will keep my eyes open.” 

She thanked me and sped off. It was quite the prank, I thought. But usually, pranksters know their subjects. And they come back later to laugh about it. These were strange boys, though, which made the act feel malevolent and immoral. They did not know the little girls. They weren’t big brothers. They weren’t going to return with the jar, I didn’t think.

Hard to turn this one into lemonade.