Friday, December 12, 2014

Cookie Momster

All I have to look forward to is the removal of stitches from my gum and the green light to eat food. I want a hamburger. I don't usually eat beef but I may stop at In-N-Out and yes, I'll have fries with that. I suspect being unable to eat solids is more traumatic for me than it would be for most people. It's such a stupid thing to feel sorry for myself about and I attribute this to a lack of character and willpower. How many people go from a Weight Watchers meeting directly to a restaurant to order flan AND ice cream? Despite this little spree, essentially I subsist on fat free yogurt, sugar free pudding and jello plus mashed sweet and russet potatoes.

There are some popsicles and ice cream in the freezer but this appliance has been an ongoing source of frustration since its purchase last year. Helpful hint: It is not prudent to purchase a refrigerator only because it's a cool color (Wasabi). We've gone round and round with different service companies. The retailer we purchased from has been more than supportive. They've even offered to replace the unit with a brand new one but Wasabi has been discontinued so my only option is stainless steel. Nope. The problem du jour is that the freezer won't close unless we prop the bottom up with tuna cans and books. This means that in order to fetch a popsicle I have to jam objects under the heavy door in order for it to shut fast. This requires Himself's grudging assistance so I limit my popsicle intake to one a day.

Working at home is very easy these days so I decide to stay there for the service call. Himself could likely handle it but because he has so much less invested in the refrigerator than I do, I don't entirely trust him. As we've had so much trouble with the fridge, a service supervisor directly from the Viking Company has been summoned. I wax on a lot about the advantage of being old is that you no longer are bound to give a rat's ass what anyone thinks. The anticipation of a service call proves how full of shit I am. First of all, I notice that there are smudge marks on the fridge and fingerprints on the handle and take to it with a sponge. But the interior too has remnants of little spills so I move stuff around and clean the shelves. A lot of the jars and containers look less than pristine so I wipe these down too.

There is an accretion of dog hair, dust and popcorn kernels jammed underneath the freezer which I lie on the floor and dislodge with a toothbrush. I mop the area and while I'm at it, scrub down the rest of the kitchen and then the living room floor. I spy some coffee stains on the counter adjacent to the fridge and end up cleaning all of the kitchen counters. I worry that the serviceman will think that we're pigs or worse, that our lack of cleanliness is somehow at fault for the appliance malfunction.

When I stay home I wear a house dress, rubber flip flops and eschew makeup and a bra. I have a prosthetic front tooth that fits over an incision site. I only wear it when I'm out in the world in order to accelerate healing. The TV is usually on while I sit on the couch parsing through business e-mails. My inclination, when someone is expected, even a service person, is to put on real clothes-including bra, apply makeup and fake tooth and turn off the TV. It occurs to me that even if the repairman were to cast judgment on me, it doesn't matter. It is not a social interaction or a job interview. It is an accomplishment that as the hour of the scheduled appointment approaches, I remain on the couch in my schmata, sans bra and tooth. At least the kitchen is clean. There is a knock at the door and I make a split decision to turn off the TV. It is Forensic Files and experts are discussing DNA evidence gleaned from a rape kit. Fortunately, it's a rerun.

The repairman informs me that mainly his job is advising other repairman and it's been a long time since he's been out in the field, implying how special I should feel to merit his personal service. He goes to work confidently on Wasabi, all the while grunting, panting, sighing and talking to himself as he dismantles the freezer and diagnoses its problems. His vocalization is so continuous that I miss the cues as to when he expects me to respond to his patter. Nevertheless, the repair is complete and there is no comment about the cleanliness of the kitchen or the slovenliness of my person.

I can have a popsicle now whenever I want but I am still deprived of chewable food and am not finding much equanimity regarding Spuds departure next week for Israel. Yes, I traveled a lot and to more remote places when I was younger than he is. There were no cellphones or ATMs in those days. He will be on a Birthright program for the first ten-days so it is likely that a potential Jewish parent will be keeping an eye on the lad. After though the boy will be traveling and staying with a friend's family for ten days. He assures me that he will be fine but when I ask him to call me he says his phone is dead and he's been sending text messages via his laptop (which I confess I wouldn't know how to do.) BUT, the kid who is traveling half way across the world and will be at least on the periphery of dangerous territory and he doesn't even have it together enough to keep his phone charged. And if I didn't have concerns about his competence, Spuds has been gone since early August. He was absent for his birthday and Thanksgiving and will miss Hanukah, Jewish Christmas and New Years. I know that the kids will spend more and more time away but this long stretch is radical. I expected to ease into this new life stage more gradually. No, I don't want them home still when they're in their forties, cutting up my food and trimming my nose hairs. I've just spent over two decades in the frenzy of raising them that it never really dawned on me that I wouldn't really know what to do with myself when they left.

Deprived of kids and food and travel plans I seldom make it off the couch. It takes enormous will to get myself off the sofa and upstairs at bedtime. The effort required to wash my face, brush my teeth and change into my nightgown is daunting. I wake in the middle of the night unable to turn off lists of possible catastrophes. My phone whines with an emergency flood alert at three in the morning. Rain is pounding. I commit to not getting back to sleep and drink coffee. It is cookie baking season. For years I've sent my best clients and business associates baked good for the holidays. While the kids were home I handled concessions for their theater group and did large scale baking several times a year. Now the business baking is my only big kitchen project.

I did a complete kitchen remodel about eight years ago and I still appreciate how lucky I am every time I cook or bake. I throw an apron on over my nightgown and arrange all of my ingredients and bakeware on the counter. The rain doesn't let up. The oven is pre-heated. Butter and sugar are creamed in the mixer. Dry ingredients are sifted. Cookie sheets are lined with parchment. In an even rhythm I shape cookies and roll them in sugar and line them up in even rows. I have baked so many cookies in my life I don't even need to use a timer. The aroma tells me when the trays need to be rotated in the oven and when they're ready to come out. Cooling racks laden with warm cookies, even if I can't eat them, the familiar repetition of the baking process, knowing that something I do well makes people happy...This simple, trifling thing restores my soul and the dark clouds are only outside. But I'm still pretty set on that burger.