Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Letting off steam


As I read the instructions on the chamomile ‘aroma therapy’ shampoo bottle to make sure I’ve gotten it right (… do I rinse and repeat or is one wash sufficient?) the bathroom door swings open and a draft of cold air wraps a death grip around my cocoon of comforting steam.

A tentative voice cuts though the fog. … “Have you seen … ?”

Immediately, a new kind of steam swirls around me replacing the quickly receding mist from the spigot.

Before I even know what it is that I should be looking for among the tub toys, empty soap bottles and … oh, right, the whisk I use to make bubbles for ittybit’s bath … scattered haphazardly on the shower floor, I have lost patience as if it were that last sliver of soap through my fingers.

There are no keys, shoes (work boots or sneakers), wallets, pens, tools or utensils (except for that whisk) in the general vicinity of my shower. There are no cell phones, belts, black socks or that favorite shirt swimming among the suds that I can see.

Why is it, I wonder, that I am the keeper of the whereabouts of items big and small, which, for all intents and purposes, I might not even know what purpose they serve in the first place?

I am picturing the looming question and the steam is reaching my ears:

“Have you seen my collapsible flugal binder with the non-conducting elastic grip? I bought it yesterday, but now I don’t know where I put it.”

I don’t know, perhaps it’s with the expandable ra-mastan with the protective cover that came in the mail last week, I silently respond to myself.

Shallow breath … then explosion:

“Listen, I don’t know where your soccer clothes are, check the laundry. The mail is in the basket and your car keys are hanging on the hook /where they always are/! If you’re looking for your Leatherman: I think he left the building with Sarah Lee, but you might want to look UNDER that three-foot pile of flotsam and jetsam that’s been accumulating on the kitchen counter just to be sure.”

One would think I would be a little more sympathetic.

After all, I am the same person who loses my wallet at the drop of a hat and can never find my keys. The difference, of course, is that in most of those instances I am able to mentally retrace my steps and come up with a probable location in fewer than five degrees of separation.

Even when I think it’s a lost cause, such as the time I dropped my wallet in the Bowery and discovered it was missing on the train ride home, a few days later I found the wallet had miraculously appeared in my mailbox — credit cards, license and all (minus a four-dollar finder’s fee).

But I can’t think about any of that now, with suds stinging my eyes. I turn my attention back to the question feverishly answered but not yet asked.

“… Uh … I was just looking for the whisk. I was gonna make waffles. … Never mind, don’t worry about it. I’ll just use a fork.”

Friday, November 18, 2005

Thanksgiving needs more hurdles

In August I was so hungry I told my husband “I can’t wait for Thanksgiving.”

He suggested I make myself a sandwich, and perhaps that would tide me over.

Food holidays are the best of all. There are no sizes to get wrong or cards to address, and when the fourth Thursday in November rolls around the toughest decision any of us are force to make is what kind of pie to slab on our plate. Of course it’s a problem easily solved, just try them all.

Perhaps I haven’t learned enough about cooking to be intimidated by turkey day, or perhaps it’s just because I don’t have a love affair with food that makes the possibility of a kitchen disaster more fun than fearsome.

My mother once steamed a turkey over the stove after the element on her oven decided it was quits midway through a 30 lb. bird. She came up with the plan out of desperation, as she was hosting a houseful. The fact that her mother-in-law raved it was the most succulent turkey she’d ever had became a bragging right for my mother.

My own mother-in-law tells about the time the cloth she soaks in broth and drapes over the turkey disappeared following the final baste. It turned up during the meal, when, to her horror, her dog came coughing into the dinning room and retched up the rag.

We have friends who have scorched their lawns beyond repair or nearly lit their houses on fire by frying turkeys in the backyard. And there’s been talk of people cooking all kinds of things by accident along with the turkey — from band-aids to sink stoppers and even, sadly, pet rodents. Every time I hear the tales all I can do is furrow my brow and wonder —

I think those little catastrophes are exactly what our Thanksgiving needs. How else would we know to be thankful? How else are we to tell one from another if not by the year the turkey blew up, or the time the dog ate all the pies while we were watching football?

I’ve hosted Thanksgiving more than a handful of times, and the most exciting thing that’s happened is the time I forgot to remove the package of gore the people at the turkey factory leave behind.

I am by no means a perfectionist. There is no innate talent that causes the turkey to always be tasty, the potatoes to be fluffy and light or the stuffing to have just the right blend of seasonings. My husband’s specialty — creamed pearl onions — are always tender and savory. My mother’s gravy is consistently creamy and smooth, and the wine, thanks to my father, is always reserve and plentiful.

Somehow it seems as if there should be some obstacle that makes Thanksgiving a headache. It is after all a HOLIDAY.

I’m fairly certain that if the electricity went out in our house on Thanksgiving morning and stayed out all day, my husband would figure out a way to cook the turkey with a blow torch or a space heater. If it didn’t work, of course, we could be the first in our family’s history to serve a gathering of 10 hungry souls cold cereal and juice boxes. Now that would be a story we could proudly hand down to the grandkids.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A little leftover logic

For a society that has gone to the moon and back, figured out a way to send a 3,000-page manuscript through the phone lines (if you’ve got the time and paper to receive it) and brought the suburban shopping mall experience into our living rooms (or wherever you keep your computer), how is it possible that there are kids sitting at a school cafeteria table at 9 a.m. sinking their teeth into lunch?

One would think with all these time-saving technologies that have come to the marketplace in the past two decades, there’d be enough time for a midday meal somewhere round about midday.

I know we’re all wired a little differently, but I’m fairly certain there are few of us who are sitting down to eat our Wonder Bread sandwich an hour after eating our eggs and toast, but that’s just what’s happening in schools across the nation as populations grow and educators try to do more with less.

There are so many problems with education in this country, it may seem a little nitpicky thing to rail against such a practice as the time lunch is served, but I can’t help but think such inconsistencies are indicative of the problems and not aside from them.

How is it possible that this type of scheduling isn’t considered as inhumane and school-yard bullying? How is it possible that we all just don’t stand up and demand satisfaction?

It almost seems as if the more we know about nutrition, health and its impact on learning the less we are inclined to intervene.

Is it possible that convenience is something that we have come to rely on more than our sanity or even our own well being?

I bristle mostly because I picture my own ittybit, just a few short years from now, sitting on a bench eating her ham sandwich at some ungodly hour (presumably minutes before gym) and I want to scream, despite the fact that she routinely asks for, and I provide, chicken for breakfast and waffles for lunch.

I marvel at her choices: She’ll consistently pick green peas and yellow peppers over cookies and potato chips. She likes vegetables and meat, although she’s tasted chocolate and heartily approves.

My mom likes to remind me that she thinks we were all born with perfect appetites but our diet — whether it be self-imposed restrictions or monthly menu plans — is the monkey wrench that gums up the works.

Deep down I know she’s right, and I know the example I’m setting isn’t to be exalted. After all, I’ve been known to eat out of vending machines far too often, and practically live off of meals-ready-to-eat packages I horde in my desk drawer, ‘nuking’ them promptly at 10 a.m., starving because I’ve eaten nothing but leftover Halloween candy for days.

Perhaps eating a turkey sandwich at 7 a.m. wouldn’t be the worst thing I could do, after all.