It’s 5pm. There are two extra kids at our house, a sinkful of dishes, and piles of discarded clothes festering in sparkly pink clumps. The kitchen table is layered with paper flotsam. The fridge is full of unaccommodating raw ingredients which need shaping and pulling and massaging into something resembling dinner. Rose and her friends are shrieking, ramped up like teenagers on spring break, drunk on their shared enthusiasm. Col has drawn a cloak of quietness around him, sitting at the table drawing airplanes.
Do you think he’s changing? I asked Dan recently.
How so? He wondered.
Like he needs us less, like he’s pulling away, separating a little. More backtalk, more defiance, more sister-directed snark. More of this:
The arc of my descending lips meets air as Col dodges my goodbye kiss when I drop him off at a friend’s house.
We’re at the table, homeschooling and Col throws up his hands, “Why do you think I need to practice writing! You don’t know what I need to practice!” He hunches over his airplane drawing, closing the door of his body on me.
I ask Col to come to the table, to brush his teeth, to hang up his jacket. My voice bounces off the cover of the book in which his head is buried.
And still, every morning Col tucks his sleepy body into my own folds and crevices. He murmurs, “You’re the best Mama for me,” and I remind myself to take what is offered with gratitude not grasping. He grabs my hand when we walk home from shared school and our limbs swing together, long and short, until a ice-sheeted puddle beckons and he’s off.
Rose and her friends are in new outfits, it’s like a nudist convention for how many clothes have been tossed aside in the past hour. I get the dishes done, creating a teetering tower of bowls, plates and cups in the dish drainer, which will incite Dan to explain in his beyond-calm voice, “If you start by putting the clean dishes away, then you have room for–” But apparently I never listen.
I miss the little boy who once needed large doses of my lap daily. And I want to be the mother he needs today. This is new territory, as is every other layer of childhood that has accumulated, adhering to the children’s bodies like their own limbs stretching and elongating. This parenting is like a progression of dance moves, where children start out literally in your body, and move increasingly further away; it’s beautiful and terrifying to witness. As usual, I’m being called to get with the warp speed program of impermanence. Don’t look back, the kids seem to say. I begin clearing off the table when Col announces, “I want to make dinner tonight. I want to create a new recipe.”
“OK. What do you want to make?”
“Something with eggs and cheese and carrots and raisins.”
“How many eggs? How many carrots?”
“Four eggs. Two carrots.”
“Get a piece of paper, write it out,” I suggest. We approximate amounts. We nix the raisins. He gets out the grater and starts grating exactly two carrots. “We need spices,” he tells me. He adds kale upon my suggestion, beats eggs, grates cheese, pours in milk. Rose’s friends get picked up and she tractors around the living room, lifting bundles of clothes into her arms. We pour the batter in a cast iron and I clear the table while dinner bakes. It comes out of the oven and everyone gathers to admire its puffiness, its kale- and carrot-confettied beauty, its ready-to-eatness. We flood Col with compliments and he beams while we devour it. My ten year old made dinner. I feel the sting of grateful tears building. I can do this. I can be the mother my children need in this moment, and the next. We eat every last crumb. Col names it Mungo.
Ingredients and directions:
Another version, salsa-less and with sausage:
* You can essentially add or subtract anything. We’ve made it many times, now. I like it with sausage and ample kale. The kids are fine with the kale because they say they can’t really taste it with all the other flavors.
* We’ve found that FIVE eggs is best, rather than 6 like it says in the recipe.
* Melt the butter.
* You could add/subtract any veggie. Red peppers would be wonderful.
* Heating up a cast iron with a TBSP of oil for 20 minutes helps the mungo slide off the pan when done.
* We use tapioca flour, which you could substitute with any type of flour. You could also omit it, but I like the denseness it adds.
* Sometimes we glaze the top with salsa right before taking it out of the oven, sometimes not.
* It may take closer to 35 minutes. Test at 30.
* Col’s recipe says 350F. Recently, in a hurry, I cranked oven to 375F, which made a lovely brown crust on bottom.