I would post this
with a photo of a kitten
in a party hat: Happy New Year
to my friends who celebrate
My version of Happy
to my friends who celebrate, and to those
who don’t, ignore this post, ignore
this message, this meme. My children
are schooling me in memes
over dinner, and I’m sort of getting it –
like existentialism or containment –
high school terms I grasped well enough
to pass the tests, but which I couldn’t define
Here are things I know –
Your hand on my back at 2 am
when I cannot sleep…
The Purple Fiddle coffee mug
drying on the sill…
Half a pot of steel cut oats…
Snow, light as feathers
beyond the bow window
Yesterday Josh asked for a mini fridge of his own so he can age meats in the basement. This is what you get when you give your sixth grader Kenji Lopez-Alt’s The Food Lab for Chanukah.
So far my boy has made mac and cheese (gluey), a French omelet (delicious, but requires some work on technique) and buttermilk pancakes (heavenly.) He flips through the giant book over breakfast, recites tidbits while I make dinner, and has explained in great detail the best way to boil an egg. He is also intent on scoring some copper pots as soon as he can afford them (bar mitzvah money, perhaps?)
I love to cook, and thanks to Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, have learned to make most of my favorites without a recipe. I remember reading from my mom’s vast cookbook collection over bowls of cereal and grilled cheese sandwiches at the kitchen table all through middle school and high school – The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, Maida Heater’s Chocolate Desserts, and Still Fiddling in the Kitchen, a fundraiser for the National Council of Jewish Women. I once spent months copying every recipe from her collection of recipe cards and mimeograph sheets onto pastel 3 x 5’s, then filing them by category. It made a great, labor-intensive birthday gift.
My mom handed me a paper bag of mini jello molds yesterday – a little something for Josh to play around with. She found them in the basement with some old suitcases and other useless things. We are going to fill them with water and make fancy ice shapes for a punch bowl tomorrow night.
Right now, Josh is in the kitchen with my sister making banana pancakes. The house smells like butter.
Jeannette: Mushroom Barley
I can hardly
keep my eyes open
the day she brings soup
in a jar — recycled; no obligation.
The baby is crying. I nurse her
over that first bowl.
Wendy: Butternut Squash
is fragrant with onions
and cinnamon. I scoop
from its shell, puree it
with vegetable stock. This
is the soup I will bring
when your new baby arrives.
Sandra: Matzo Ball
Thigh bones disintegrate
between my fingers
like you taught me —
pressure cooked to a pulp,
steaming up the windows. Strain it
then heat again Friday afternoon.
Add carrot slices,
matzo balls, bits of chicken.
Ellen: Split Pea
All I want
is soup for my freezer.
from my sister.
Yes, we really did spend a week in Accident, down the road from Deep Creek Lake. Until recently, I didn’t realize that a slice of Maryland was sandwiched between Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
See if you can spot Accident in the top left corner of this map. I can’t help wondering why there’s such a narrow bit surrounded by other states. Whatever the reason, someone also thought it would be a good idea to bring Highland cows to Accident. We learned a lot about them… and which were the best ice cream flavors at Lakeside Creamery, and how to play our own version of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me. We had a whole week with our dear friends – 4 adults and 7 children in a rambling house in a beautiful part of the country. I even started this poem while we were there.
I did not expect cows
beyond the driveway fence
content to take pancakes
and stale baguette
from our hands after breakfast
I did not expect our boy
to navigate waterfalls
so casually, the current
dragging him down
so he could climb again
I did not expect guitar music
and whiskey in the dark
or your hand
slipping into mine
whenever I walked by
I haven’t opened the duffel bag. Eighteen hours till we leave for the bus, and I haven’t even peeked. I am itching to unzip that big black bag, even a little crack, but so far I have resisted.
My 11 year-old son packed himself for camp. I asked if he wanted me to double check, and he said no. When I asked myself why I wanted to, I realized that I had no good reason, save a mom’s anxiety that her darling might not have enough bathing suits or pj’s.
The packing checklist is marked up, the box from the Ziplocs he likes to stuff underwear and t-shirts into is empty. The duffel bags are full. If I encourage independence and then follow him to the corner, does that make me a liar? A worrier? A normal mom?
I don’t follow him to the corner. Last Tuesday I sent him off to Royal Oak with a buddy, even let them cross Woodward Ave., and I didn’t watch. Three hours later they returned, smiling, satisfied, thrilled that the server at the tea shop treated them like real customers, annoyed that the clerk at the movie theater did not (though she did sell them tickets to see Minions anyway.)
If I say I trust him, but I’m double-checking, he’ll know. Kids have a sixth sense like that. They listen. They watch. And so I am not checking.
Wednesday afternoon I let him push the cart at the grocery store. Every time he careened around a corner I warned him to slow down. I took over in the produce aisle because there were so many people. He told me he could handle it, and I didn’t let him try.
He will leave for overnight camp tomorrow morning, and I will assume that the pens he packed have ink. I will trust that the swim goggles are properly labeled. Tomorrow he leaves on the bus. I will send postcards and silly socks. He will not think of me much. And that is as it should be.
This Friday’s poem is a revision of something I wrote MANY years ago. The 4 year-old is now nearly 18. Her curiosity, fashion sense and religious questioning are still intact.
Is God In My Seatbelt?
Four-years-old, and she really needs to know.
I pause, mid-buckle; running late
for preschool. We have been talking
about how God is in trees and fish,
her baby brother and sunflower seeds.
But a seatbelt? I don’t know.
Tell her yes,
says my rabbi friend – some smart person
invented the seatbelt,
and God was in that person.
I bring it up days later, but my daughter
has moved on to other things –
like which bracelets match flowered socks
or how to keep a headband on a stuffed tiger.
She nods gravely, humoring me for being slow.
What I really want is gum, she tells me.
Can I have some while we drive?
Joe and I hatched the idea for Friday poems over coffee in Ferndale one afternoon. Let’s just write, we agreed. No comments, no praise. Just send a poem every Friday. See where it takes you.
Three months into the experiment, I’m hooked. Even when I put the piece together just before lighting Shabbat candles or grab a stanza from three years ago and polish it into something more presentable, the Friday poem always refreshes me for the week. It reminds me that I’m a writer.
Here’s this week’s contribution, composed in a parking lot between a doctor’s appointment and Josh’s archery day camp awards ceremony.
May all your favorite bands stay together
– Dawes, “All Your Favorite Bands”
May you get to the bottom
of the strawberry box
without a single moldy surprise
May you catch a firefly
on a balmy night full of fireworks
over the wide green golf course
May you finish your favorite book
sprawled across the hammock
in that shady spot behind the garage
May your dog snuggle
close in your bed
without hogging the covers
May your chocolate chip cookies
emerge from the oven
with crisp edges and gooey centers
May you hear “I love you”
every day of your life
the way I mean it this morning