Friday, September 21, 2012

like caterpillars make cocoons

My kids’ school is on the other side of town. I don’t mind the drive most of the time: I infer things about their days from the occasional questions and commentary; little beams of sunlight through the silent fog. “Do you think glass is a solid, liquid, or gas?” Once we’re home we scatter: Abbott to read, Cal to build with Legos, me to put away the evidence of the day, making room for the next.  Lunch boxes are unpacked – wrappers in the garbage, apple cores in food waste, ice packs back in the freezer.  I sort the mail. Then I summon them to the kitchen, and we start the next phase of the day. Piano practice. Homework. Dinner preparation. Cal sits at the snack bar, next to where I’m working to do his homework as I chop, steam and sauté. Abbott sits at a nearby desk. Cal sets the table; Abbott clears. We eat early on school nights– most nights at five. Sometimes we get in a walk after dinner.

Humans perpetuate rituals in the same way caterpillars make cocoons. It’s our nature. Every fall, every school grade has a picnic. Whenever these types of events come up, I have to overcome the same inertia to get myself out the door. I never want to travel across town at rush hour. Getting the boys to bed early, then settling in with a book and a glass of wine sounds infinitely better. But I love my children, as all parents do, and I don’t want my kids to miss out on prime social time with their peers. So off we go, and we come home glad for having made the effort. I start out by taking pictures of them with their friends. Eventually, I warm to the social scene; going against my basic nature I touch base with most families. We parents, now familiar – it’s second grade, after all, and only a few new families – catch up on the intervening time since we last connected. We talk about our impressions of the second grade teachers – quietly, as they’re present at the picnic – and we agree, so far, so good. When the sun has finally vanished, and all that remains of the light is contained in one thin, pink, angled stripe of a cloud, we drive home again.

For the kids, these picnics don’t involve eating, beyond grabbing a brownie or a rice crispy treat en route to the merry go round. If it’s a potluck, they don’t want to try the food prepared by the other parents. If it’s a picnic in which each family brings their own food, nobody wants to stop long enough to eat. So last night I decided we would eat before we left, at 4:30, like toddlers. We ate a meal that tastes like September.

pasta with raw tomato sauce

3 cups roughly chopped ripe tomatoes, or 1 - 28 oz can of good quality crushed tomatoes, like San Marzano
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound pasta
freshly grated parmesan

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

Put the tomatoes, oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and basil in a broad-bottomed bowl. Mash together with a fork or potato masher.

Cook the pasta until al dente, then drain. Toss the drained pasta with the tomato sauce, divide between four plates, and top with grated Parmesan.

Yield: 4 servings


emily said...

i adore you.

Denise | Chez Danisse said...

"So last night I decided we would eat before we left, at 4:30, like toddlers."

This is still making me smile.

Grace @ Forsythia Root said...

I love love love the light in your photos.

Also, this line: "me to put away the evidence of the day, making room for the next."

Can't remember now how I discovered your blog, but it was only recently, and it's such a delight.

country girl said...

Thank you for sharing this look into your daily life. It is poetry.
I also love simple rituals, things that happen every day, and I fight a change in them. Like next week, when my son and I will travel to visit relatives for a week. Already the thought of a home other than ours, a bed other than ours, and meals cooked in someone else's kitchen, makes me wish I could just stay home. I know there will be pleasant moments, but I love home and our daily routine most.
That last picture of black-eyed-susans is beautiful!!

molly said...

i loved every word of this, lecia, every sentiment, every detail. "...grateful to have made the effort..." that will stick with me a good long while.

beautiful. a portrait with words.

Purple Flowers said...

Your blog is comforting to me. I look for it everyday. Take Care.

cindy said...

A blog lurker speaks: this called to mind the days of my own childhood, and those early meals before the myriad activities, and the solid special goodness of them. Thank you.