Friday, November 28, 2014

alchemy and gratitude

Today, my tiny, immediate family plus one are celebrating Thanksgiving slightly late with a semi-traditional feast around 6 p.m. Four large potatoes bake in my oven, and the nutty scent of them makes me hungry for what they'll become after I slice, empty, beat, "doctor," refill and re-bake. I'll load them into my car, along with the pumpkin pie I baked yesterday, a container of feta cheese for Greek salad and something I can't remember right now. Then, I'll drive to the north of town where my husband lives, where our daughter is staying for the Thanksgiving break.

At the end of October, I rediscovered my love of baking when I baked a batch of Toll House cookies for my husband's birthday, a simple enough recipe that I've made a zillion times. The Wednesday before I left for Patti Digh's Life is a Verb camp Nov. 6, I baked him from-scratch banana nut bread as a thank you for watching my crazy kitty.

Last week, I made a batch of snickerdoodles; on Wednesday when my furnace died, I baked a batch of peanut butter cookies while the sweet repairboy fixed what ailed my now warm mechanical beast. Later Wednesday night, after dinner with my daughter and her papa, I baked Kourabiedes - a Greek butter cookie that my mother used to make at Christmas - as a gift for my Girl's girlfriend's family for their feast yesterday.

My Girl brought most of the tin of these powdered sugared delights back home last night, and I was sad that the other family didn't gobble them up the way my siblings and I and my parents used to devour them every holiday.

But it's all right. Now my Girl can take them back to school with her to help get her through the next couple of weeks, final projects and papers, final critiques of her work and her schoolmates' work. Art school isn't for the lazy or faint of heart (terrible cliche).

I was feeling sorry for myself earlier because I missed an opportunity to pop by her papa's house to visit late this morning, and by the time I was ready to leave the house, she was already off to hang out with her other family, where there are a couple more kids, where cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents are likely to show up at this time of year. She loves them all and they love her, consider her part of the family.

And I understand her wanting to be with this large batch of rowdy people. I am so quiet and reserved, all my siblings in Texas, both sets of her grandparents dead (her papa's mama died over the summer at the age of 97), her dad's siblings scattered.

We kind of suck when it comes to family gatherings.

I miss her, but I don't want to hold onto her when she can go off to experience this world of chaotic love and mayhem that we can't give her because it's just us.

Her father has made what I think of as an extremely generous offer. "She can stay with you over Christmas," he said today when I dropped off some groceries and a brown bag in which he is baking his chicken (incredible recipe, though I don't eat chicken or any kind of fowl).

"Really? Are you sure?"

"Yeah. And she can come spend a couple of days here with me while she's home if she wants to."

I'm so relieved. Because I had her all summer, I had told both of them that it was fine and fair and good and holy that she spend both Thanksgiving break and Christmas break with her papa.

And it was fine and fair and good and holy.

But I'm so relieved.

She won't really be here that much, but there's something about having her here even when she's mostly gone that fills my heart. She imbues the walls of my house with joy and her incredible spirit and lawdy is this mushy. Everything I write here has been mushy lately.

Also, I rather lost the thread of this post, which related to the alchemy of baking, how magical it is when all these different ingredients I slap together turn into these delicious morsels.

So there's a link missing from the post title to my ache when my kid isn't around that I'll figure out another day. I'm still suffering from my empty nest, still having a hard time finding out my next purpose in life now that my Girl is out bouncing through school, plotting her future.

I'm a little slow.

In the meantime, I'll continue writing (fiction and poetry), editing (freelance) and baking because baking makes me happy.

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