When I was about my daughter’s age I remember my father burnt himself rather badly while cooking dinner: a horribly large scalding of hot grease to the belly area. I can’t remember if he was cooking shirtless, but it seems like he was. At any rate he was shirtless and cooking soon afterward, because I remember staring in waist-high trepedation at the telltale ugly red weals on his hard belly, flat and muscled like a pubescent boy. My father was tall and slim and had about eight body hairs on his torso so the whole cooking-thing isn’t as Homer Simpson as maybe some people are picturing. Or I dunno, maybe that’s my deep love of the fellow talking.
I guess I think it’s pretty cool I grew up in a house with a shirtless-dad family cook. Peasants. Proles. I’ll never outgrow my heritage and why should I feel embarrassed anyway? Tonight I’m thinking of my father while I’m standing in the kitchen assembling dinner; the kids tumble about and I’m thinking maybe I’ll live in a rental my whole life, maybe I’ll never travel much, maybe I’ll die in the town I (mostly) grew up in.
I’m my own person. Unlike my parents’ preferences, tonight’s spaghetti is prepared with sauteed meatballs in a wine-butter sauce that simmers half the day. I’m remembering my dad’s spaghetti and sauce because it was the same and it was cooked relatively often and it was so unvarying I thought that just “was” the way Everyone Did It: crumbled junky hamburger sauteed in the cast iron pan, then add one six ounce can of tomato paste, one fourteen ounce can of tomato sauce, and one twenty-eight ounce can of whole tomatoes, some salt – that’s it. My dad only cooked it down about forty five minutes I believe but my memory has it simmering all day, softly popping now and then so the vintage stove would accumulate little battle-scar specks of orangey-red, my dad never cleaned the range but my mom did rigorously, the most delicious smell, the sauce, a simple anticipation, the family sit-down, delicious. Usually one of my parents would over-cook broccoli to a sickly yellow-green and my dad would swipe each wilted floret in a dollup of mayonnaise in his rather finicky left-handed dining style.
I’m having a wonderful holiday season so far full of restorative and generous acts of reflection and gifting (I do love giving more than receiving). But if I’m honest I can say the cold and the wet is fighting me every step of the way. I’ve never had a case of winter small-d-depression so intensely. It’s to the point where Any Little Thing going wrong can knock me off-kilter and I feel the danger of spiraling further into a Darkness. I know more than one reader can relate.
It’s harder for me lately to write about the Bad Times, because since I opened comments whenever-ago it is agonizing to me someone might feel compelled to offer a rescue or to believe I’m crying out for a specific sort of help or need comments to feel validated. I love comments, my incredible readers have talked me down from closing them a handful of times and continue to offer up The Awesome with regularity and a consistency I look forward to. But I’ve always wanted to communicate my thoughts and feelings and experiences precisely and whatever happened next was of less concern because I have a fault, in that the pure pleasure of expression is one addiction I may never get over. If my blog had a Patronus it would probably be Magda from There’s Something About Mary – you know, a bit glamorous, a bit foxy, yes a bit wizened, occasionally showing more of my goodies than I mean to (I know I shouldn’t stretch the metaphor to unintelligible absurdities), but cheerfully-enough, here for the long haul whatever way I’m experienced by observers.
Today I finished up a homesewn gift for my son (wonderfully soft and luxurious and simple and perfect) and contemplated another homemade gift for someone else (who may or may not read here so I cannot say more); I wiped down the kitchen counter and made up Nels’ requested dinner and folded clothes and made the bed and went out with my mother and daughter for coffee. All this is wonderful but it doesn’t quite keep the darkness (literal darkness) from trying to creep into my heart.
Another night, another shut-in against the Monster, another precious gift of my loved ones’ presence, another sleep marking time.