the saga inverted me.
Jonas had asked me to come to Pennsylvania in early September, to enjoy the campus before he really had to get down to it, before all night cram sessions and the daily duties of collegiate life took over. I thought about it and I almost went , but something told me that I 'd better not cut the summer short that way. There was walking and cooking and cleaning to be done. Things at home and things outside were still summer-hot. Suburbia gets to be a lifestyle you're afraid to abandon.
When my mother smiles you can tell that she is a mother. On the first floor of my home there are five rooms and three doorways, but only one door. Three times during the month of September I sat on one side of a doorway and she stood on the other side and she smiled.
"Oh Ryan, how we will miss you when you go. Who will cook for us?"
These were never her exact words, but she has over 50 years behind her eyes now so her facial gestures and vocal intonations craft her words into this kind of language. After two years of school at Simmons she had achieved the rank of Nurse Practitioner. Then, after three months at Mass General and six months of downtime she landed herself four long hours days a week at a doctor's office in Wellesley. She frosts her hair to keep it bright and golden.
I do not know when or how I learned to cook. When I was young and it was winter I would watch Square One TV, and 321 Contact, because I was that kind of kid. Every night at exactly seven o'clock my father Don, mustache and all, arrived home and we ate the dinner Mom had prepared.
"Don't forget to wash your hands."
Two years of apartment life had learned me well how to cook for myself, I guess. The secret involves learning how to embrace the coy frustrating joy of delayed gratification and turn it to your culinary advantage. Like the way those two weeks before Christmas are better than Christmas itself, except that when your cooking you can watch the end result and even taste it to make sure that the presents come out right. I don't feel brilliant for using that kind of metaphor, but I guess that's what happens when you have an English degree from the University .
For example, I made a stir fry and boy was it yummy. I know because my mother made a yummy sound and said it was good, the same way she says that her own meals are good. Sometimes we have conversations about movies or dreams or today's events and she suddenly speaks up with a remark that makes it seem like she is confused, except that she experiences no confusion. Even my dad gives me a knowing smile, and I wonder if she was just thinking about something else or if people make different sorts of connections when they get older. Now when I look at that pile of dishes after a hard day's work and 75 minutes of cooking and 25 minutes of eating I make the same face mom used to make.
"I just want to sit and read the paper and unwind."
There are five of us, so the dishes pile high, gleaming with tiny droplets of olive oil and sometimes staining the counter. There is a little spot by the toaster where, over the last 12 years, the smooth white Formica of our counter has worn right through thanks to the collective hours of scrubbing and sponging. We pile the pans and plates onto this spot and sometimes I wait until later to wash them. The bits of stir-fry are glowing burnt and the kitchen resonates with the flavors of supper and the colors of my artwork and the sound of the dishwasher slowly whirring. Another good meal. My sister doesn't really eat vegetables, but she seemed to enjoy the chicken and besides, I know that she cares .