Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Love Through Home Economics

On a sharp cold day, I crouched before the oven window watching
shrinky dinks curl into hard shells.
What we did with them, I have no idea
but the same cookie sheets then held the chocolate chip cookies you created, creamed into light brown dough then folded with the sweet, dark drops.
Don’t eat the raw cookie dough they said (whoever they are)–is this where I gained fear of salmonella?-- but you let us anyway.
Your act of rebellion?
(Or did my begging work (for once))

Winter of course meant warm radiators that raised homemade pizza dough into a pouf.
First you threw flour onto the counter then
mixed and kneaded the sticky dough, turning it over and pressing it down
over and down and over and down
until you plopped it (finally!) into a metal bowl, clean dish towel draped on top.
It sat on the radiator for hours.
You told us not to pick up the towel–it might fall!--but I always did.

Think about your frying pan popping with oil and dredged chicken,
turned crackly and delicious. Chicken dripped on paper towels as
you whipped potatoes for the side with big pats of butter
and plated green beans that we shoved under the table for the dog to eat.
Then the medical establishment (is that who “they” are?) turned against the delicious chicken
and it vanished.

I heard sewing shears clunk on the wooden board floated on top of your bed.
You collected paper pattern bags from Simplicity and Butterick.
McCall’s too but not Vogue. (Why never Vogue?)
I loved the smell of the new fabric and the sound of the shears and perched
on the side of the bed to see what would appear after your pinning and tucking.
You tried to teach me but I was an unwilling student, too impatient and anxious.
I feared you might one day swallow the needles and pins you stuck in your mouth.

Together we hunted for junior prom dresses in a neighbor state,
climbed creaky stairs to a store attic full of gowns for teenagers to pretend to be adults.
I picked a pink, strapless fairytale with a lacy V cutout in the front.
You sewed a panel over it, veiled my budding adulthood.
You tried to save my virtue as diligently as I tried to give it away.

You sewed the next dress with tiers of shimmering pink fabric that carried me to senior prom
and then, when I walked up the road to college, you refined it for a formal
shortening it like the diminishing days of my childhood.
I walked back down the road from college towing
new friends to devour roast chicken and scalloped potatoes (we fancy now)
and green beans that I snuck to a different dog.

Together we raised our glasses of wine and beer and felt the warmth of the radiators that once held poufs of pizza dough.

Cinnamon Cologne

I remember boats and campers and tents and skunks
fish hooks with worms and reels of hope but with a weight
We slept in canvas tents and sleeping bags that smelled like saving money

When I hugged you
I smelled cinnamon cologne and garlic powder neckties
from what milled that day

In your car you hid 
cigarette smoke and peppermint circles

We played bucking bronco with squeals and back scrapes from the low end of the bed frame 
but we never wanted to stop

We had campfires and clans called Fisher Nordhoff Batavick and I listened
to your talk about Billy Joel
Willie Nelson/ZZ Top/Barbra Streisand 
bluegrass mixed with r&b and a heavy helping of rock and roll
(Old black water keep on rolling
Mississippi moon won’t you
keep on shining on me?)

You showed me how
to squish a chicken leg at the end of string, 
a blue crab pinched it hard then steamed in cheap beer

Remember when spaghetti with pasta and meatballs splatted on the floor and
the dog slurped the noodles while The A Team took care of business?
We still laugh about that.

You made chicken crispy skin and Mom sliced watermelon on hot summer nights at the picnic table that surprised us with splinters, sometimes

Riding a wobbly orange bike down a gravel river street you
ran along holding the back of the seat 
then I was riding the clutch on a country road, with your winces and ear tugs and then a substitute teacher was assigned (Mom)

We shared discussions and tears then fears
You put me to bed with a tuck and a hug and the smell of a beer
Warm hugs on cold nights, those are your best.