One of my New Year’s resolutions is to focus on healthy eating, but I just ate four handfuls of stale Honey Bunches of Oats cereal. Because, you know, fuel for writing. Don’t judge. I judge myself plenty enough.
Hello, 2018! Welcome. I speak for many when I say we’re looking forward to a year filled with global peace, clean air, and a newfound commitment to eradicating poverty worldwide and protecting the critically endangered Western Lowland Gorilla.
KIDDING! We’re at the dawn of the apocalypse, of course. I’m secretly stocking cans of Spaghettios and decks of cards. Do firefighters have to respond to the apocalypse? I don’t even know. It seems pointless.
Despite the impending doom, we here at the My Left Hook household have managed to get things done. I had a colonoscopy! For about 12 hours, I was at my ideal weight. And colonoscopy anesthesia? To die for.
We also managed to get away for the holidays. Last year for Christmas, you may recall, we went to the Bahamas, just the five of us, and it was magical. This year, the airfare totaled approximately a billion dollars, so we drove to North Carolina and rented a cabin instead. And again, it was magical. The gorgeous cabin helped – wood beams everywhere, breathtaking mountain views, a real fireplace – but the solitude brought us a peace we badly needed. The drive reinstated in me an awful fear of the gods – the roads seemed about six inches wide and were sandwiched between a mountain and a sheer cliff, with no safety barrier. It was perfect for mountain goats. As a result, we limited excursions, and spent most of our time in the cabin. But a couple of times we ventured out. On the day after Christmas, we braved the drive down the mountain and set out for the town of Cherokee, which is part of the Qualla Boundary – a Reservation held in trust for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
After the descent from the cabin, as we hurtled down the highway, Scout played the song Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, and all five of us belted it out like rock stars. My heart surged, and I decided we are the coolest family on the planet because the husband and I are raising spectacular kids who know all the words to a Freddie Mercury song.[Interjection here by the BFF, who started laughing when I told her the story. “Why are you laughing?” I asked. She said, “I’m laughing because you think that’s cool.” Sigh. It makes me sad that I can’t ever share with her my love for Brandy, (You’re a Fine Girl) by Looking Glass.]
Soon after the song ended we stopped for gas. As I exited the car, my feet became trapped in my purse straps, and I stood up, then toppled over into the parking lot like a felled oak tree. I thought I had broken every bone in my body, so I just laid there for a moment, waiting to die. The children began wailing in concern; the husband sauntered over from the gas pump and looked down at me like he was evaluating a flat tire.
I slowly rose to my feet. I had landed hard on my right side, and I pressed my fingers against the side of my chest, evaluating for trauma. “Oh, the boob?” exclaimed Neale. “It HURTS when you hit the boob!” Yes. It does. Somehow, in the span of five minutes, I had gone from coolest mom on the planet to elderly tourist woman nearly breaking her hip in a gas station parking lot.
But isn’t that a fair life analogy? Moments of joy and revelry interspersing periods of fear and resignation? I wish there was less resignation, more joy, but perhaps that’s a ratio I can adjust through a mere change in perspective.
Example: I let the dogs out yesterday, and they bolted for the figure eight racetrack they’ve etched into the yard. Round and round they flew, one chasing the other, switching leads, tackling, stopping here and there to sniff gross stuff. I sighed with the constant work of it – letting them out, calling them in, wiping their paws. But then I smelled something so lovely it cleared my brain. Each dog, as he/she rounded a corner near the garden, was brushing against my enormous rosemary bush, and the sharp fresh scent of it was bursting into the air and wafting toward me. It made me giddy, this unexpected life bonus, and suddenly made the work seem less like work and more like a life bonus.
The fear and sadness will return. It’s here in my heart, wrapped warmly right now by my dad’s old fleece, and in my son’s tears as he confesses to me his fear of growing up. And I weep for this planet, where families languish forgotten, impoverished, living/not living in uninhabitable ruins, and world leaders use death counts to boast of their efficacy.
But in order for me – for any of us – to work toward societal betterment, we must first place value in what we have. So I find hope and joy in the contagious enthusiasm of Bohemian Rhapsody, the smell of rosemary infecting a Sunday morning, and in the reassuring music of this very first morning of 2018 – a lone bird chirping, the tap-tap of my fingers on the keyboard, my daughter yawning loudly in her sleep. A little dog smacking her lips as she curls into my side.
Finally, if you’re as concerned about the state of the world as I am, please put your black-eyed peas to simmer right now. The world needs all the luck it can get.
Heat up some oil. Add in chopped onions, celery, garlic, and maybe half a green pepper. Or red pepper, I don’t care. Stir until veggies are soft, or until kids start asking what smells so good.
Add in fresh black-eyed peas. You can get them in the produce section this time of year. Also add some ham if you want, or some sausage. I’m thinking of going vegetarian so I’m not going to do that. Stir it all together. Add a couple of cups of some kind of broth, enough to cover beans completely. Season to taste – I usually add salt, pepper, Kitchen Bouquet, and a tiny dash of worcestershire sauce. Lower heat and simmer for a while.
When beans are soft, spoon some out and mash them, then add back into pot. Taste it, and adjust seasonings if needed. Sometimes I add a dash of honey.
SERVE TO MUCH ACCLAIM.
**Don’t start asking me about measurements. This is how my grandmother GanGan taught me to cook. Every time I asked a question, she’d say, “Aw, Lawd. Ya gotta judge.”