Disassociation Dessert

Wait until the older kids are at school and the youngest is taking a nap with the bedroom door closed. Then make your chocolate sauce in secret. In the blender, add one half cup of sugar, one half cup of powdered milk, four tablespoons of cocoa, and four tablespoons and one teaspoon of hot water. Blend on high for thirty seconds. Scrape down the sides. Give it ninety seconds more at high speed.

The author’s industrious mother in her kitchen

The author’s industrious mother in her kitchen

Grab a spoon from the drawer and eat the whole batch of chocolate sauce sitting at the kitchen table. Don’t bother with a bowl, there are enough dishes to wash and laundry to fold. You should probably clean the bathroom too, but it can wait.

Each taste of the rich smooth chocolate melts it all away: your husband’s yelling, your kids’ demands, the complete lack of intellectual stimulation of being a housewife with four kids. You wanted this. You sigh and savor another bite.

Sometimes you mix this up on steamy summer nights to dollop over ice cream for the whole family, dessert for a dinner of popcorn when it is just too hot to cook.

Years later, when your younger daughter asks you for the recipe, stall her, make excuses, refuse to write it down. Finally relent and tell her what to write on the recipe card.

She will prepare it once for her children. Then she’ll file it away and never make it again.

- Margaret Shafer writes on two acres surrounded by cornfields in the Midwest. You can read her stories about life, her travels and general thoughts about the world at unfoldingfromthefog.wordpress.com.



How to Transport a Thanksgiving Turkey

Start by buying a bigger bird than you think you need. It will be frozen solid so don’t wait until the last minute like last year. On Thanksgiving Day, get up at 4:00 a.m. In a dark house with a single kitchen light burning, make stuffing by tearing two loaves of Wonder Bread into little pieces. Add onions and a lot of sage. 

Wash the bird and study the skin for pinfeathers. Pull them out with a paring knife until you can run your hands over the bird’s skin and not feel a single feather. Pack the turkey with stuffing and put it in the oven. Turn off the kitchen light and go back to bed. At 9:00 a.m., when everyone is awake and dressed for Thanksgiving, take the midnight blue roasting pan with the nearly done turkey out of the oven and set it on top of the stove. Put the lid on the roasting pan. Wrap the lidded roasting pan in a dozen layers of the Detroit Free Press and tie with twine. Call one of your children to put their finger on the knots so they are tied nice and tight. Place the wrapped roasting pan on more layers of newspaper in the trunk of the car.

Ride three hours in the blue and white Chevrolet your husband is driving. Listen to your kids in the backseat counting telephone poles and reading Burma-Shave signs. Worry a little that you didn’t buy a big enough bird. Doze off with the smell of roasted turkey heating the car and wake up in your mother’s driveway. See that your brothers are already there and know they are having cocktails and joking in the kitchen. Put the turkey in your mother’s oven and then look for the yellow baster you left in the drawer last year.

The author's Mom and Grandma after dinner.

The author's Mom and Grandma after dinner.

- Jan Wilberg grew up traveling two-lane roads in Michigan and would still rather be in a car than anywhere. She is a daily blogger at Red's Wrap and has had essays published in Newsweek, the New York Times Modern Love, and three anthologies. She was a 2015 BlogHer Voice of the Year, selected for an essay called "Blindsided" about coping with severe hearing loss. Now a cochlear implant recipient, she is reacquainting herself with the hearing world but still likes the printed page better.

Copy Your Life

Every time my dad would travel somewhere, even if it was just to Tijuana for the day, my grandmother would make him Xerox all of his documents.  In case there is an emergency, it is important to be able to prove your identity.

Not just your passport, which the US State Department recommends, but literally every document you might need in your life ever. What if you are detained by a Mexican cartel or someone steals your wallet or if you get into legal trouble or if there is a storm or an earthquake or if? Or if? Or if?

So, Driver’s license. Check. Social Security card. Check. Credit Cards. Check.  Recent photos, medical records, and bank account information.  Also check.  Sandwich club cards and contact information for high school friends.  Probably all that too. Just to be safe.

Preferably, all of this will be contained in a meticulously organized stack, contained in a manila folder that can then be contained in a filing cabinet inside the den next to a computer that needs to boot up for five minutes.  You never know what might happen, so best to get your affairs in order ahead of time (even if those affairs are really just peace-of-mind-Xeroxes). 

For all of the traveling my father did she never stopped him. Instead, she just kept an ever-growing anthology of his papers.  Just in case.

the author's grandma, sans anxiety

the author's grandma, sans anxiety

- Alexandra Bay is a an aspiring writer trying to find her place in the world. Alexandra graduated from the University of Arizona with a MA in history the same weekend that her grandmother died and, shortly after, packed up all her belongings to live in a truck.  Alexandra now lives in a house in Salt Lake City where she is eagerly awaiting summer.

Fleischkuechle

She made Fleischkuechle, a strange sounding name for hamburger rolled in flour and fried in a pan. Afternoons, school finished, I’d watch her at the stove, her hair sometimes stacked up in curlers like a fern, sweat trickling down her cheeks from the heat in the kitchen, the spiced tang of meat ripe in the air around us as I sat at a table struggling with math homework, struggling with puberty, struggling with being her son.

She was a focused chef. All the good ones were, she said. We were poor but still she was a chef. I wished she'd pay me as much attention as the food she prepared.

My brothers were always away and I wasn’t sure how to talk to my mother so I’d make up terrific lies that she may or may not have believed. It gave us something to talk about.

“Here,” she’d sometimes say, tossing me a potato peeler. “Strip these as fast as you can.” Strip for peel. A dozen potatoes on the counter, things that looked more like gourds or discarded embryos.

“You are the smart one in the family, reading your poetry,” she said, snickering. “But you can still do things with your hands, or else you’ll go soft.”

1916 color lithograph by Yvonne Vernet from the  Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog .

1916 color lithograph by Yvonne Vernet from the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog.

As I peeled potatoes I felt Mother coming up behind me, which made me speed up the slicing of the skins. I wanted her to think me capable of carrying out a command. Cigarette smoke wafted over my head and into my eyes, stinging, and I hoped they wouldn’t water.

She leaned across my shoulder and took one of the spuds in her hand, inspecting for a moment, before thrusting it close to my face. “You’re careless. You’re missing the divots, the eyes. See, there’s still dirt and skin there.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Yes you are,” she said, dropping the potato on the table. I heard it thunk, watched it roll off and bounce across the floor. 

“Pick it up and wash it,” she said.

We raised and butchered chickens. It’s a scary thing when you’re nine. The beheaded birds would fly off squirting blood, dead but somehow still alive, like me, I’d think.

 

Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State, an editor at the online magazine Literary Orphans, and the author of I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE AND NEITHER ARE YOU out now from Unknown Press.  You can also find him at lenkuntz.blogspot.com