Garrison and Me

Posted: August 31st, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Housewife Superhero | 1 Comment »

I’ve marveled with many women over the phenomenon of forgetting the pain of childbirth. But less often we talk about the other part of Selective Memory Survival Syndrome, that once you’re a parent you can’t really remember what it is you did with your time before you had kids.

I mean, there are some broad-stroke things you can conjure from those days. How you mindlessly whiled away weekends at matinees, slept in late–and uninterrupted through the night!–and hoarded immense impractical collections of cocktail shakers, vintage table linens, antique china, and other charming breakable, stainable, space-hogging items.

Oh, and how you sat on airplanes chanting “not near me, not near me, not near me” to yourself as people with babies struggled on board, searching with a desperate look in their eyes for the row where they’d latch in the carseat they’re balancing over their heads, clutching an infant with one arm and directing a toddler in front of them to walk straight down the aisle without wandering into random rows, or to please not for the first time all day just stop. Oh yeah and now that I’m thinking about it there were even times when we dozed off on airplanes between periods of–get this–READING A BOOK.

But, aside from those biggies, it’s harder to remember the smaller more subtle pleasures of kidless-ness.

Last weekend though, when I wasn’t expecting or seeking it, I got a welcomed dose of life before having created new life. Some friends were coming over for dinner which threw Mark and I into our usual food-prep modes. Which is to say he did absolutely everything for the main meal, and I whipped up a little dessert.

I pondered what to make with all the summer’s glorious fruit while standing in front of our cookbook cupboards. And I happened to crouch down and see my cooking school recipe binder; over-stuffed, unwieldy, and sadly long-neglected.

Flipping through it brought back visions of people I hadn’t thought about in years, recipes of old-school foods I’d never make now but love that I know how to (Yule log, anyone? Or perhaps a towering croquembouche?), and the regretful feeling that I should have taken more notes about things like which desserts I’d personally liked at the time. You know, so at a time like this–quite literally wiping dust off the book–I could venture to make something I could be fairly certain I’d be happy with.

Alas, I decided the best approach was to tab things that, despite my wretched memory, looked like they’d be good. And made a longer-term resolve to break away from my small familiar repertoire of crowd-pleasers, and start working my way through this forgotten treasure trove of calories.

Admittedly, the blueberry buttermilk tart I made that day wasn’t a terribly outrageous selection. But I discovered that less than the final product, what this girl had been missing was the process. Alone in the sunny kitchen while Paige napped and Mark and Kate played outside. NPR on our old transistor radio. And me in a long apron working butter into dough, rinsing, stemming, and sorting through blueberries, and moving through the familiar pathways of sink to cookbook to refrigerator to mixer with easy confidence.

Only a few years ago I’d pass many weekend days in this contented cooking flow. I’d go through all of A Prairie Home Companion and much of the BBC news. If I was lucky I’d even catch some of This American Life. Mark might wander in and out of the kitchen, but mostly I was alone, lapping up solitude I didn’t even realize I was storing up for winter, as it were. For a time when a little baby and an busy talkative child would make a long afternoon of baking for visiting friends seem like a sweet sweet vacation.

1 Comment »

One Comment on “Garrison and Me”

  1. 1 Wes Reynolds said at 1:02 pm on September 3rd, 2008:

    This is lovely. Thanks for it…

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