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Diary

Perfect

It’s finally cool enough outside that we can leave the windows open and run the fans instead of the air conditioning. I haven’t seen much in the way of brilliant fall foliage, but hopefully that will change soon.

Life has pretty much settled down here at the Meadows homestead. I’m not freaking out about wanting my own place anymore. I do miss my kitchen and my room and my things, but lately, rather than wanting to go out and get a place right away and fill it up with replacement stuff, I’ve been feeling worried about owning anything new. Worried that something would happen and I would lose all of it, too. It’s made me feel like I don’t want to buy anything expensive or special, or accept any nice things from others. It’s a disconcerting feeling, I expect brought on both by our tragedy and by all the tragedies in the news these days. Part of me feels that heirlooms and valuable items would be safer with someone else. Part of me wonders if anyplace is truly safe.

I did buy myself a set of dry measuring cups today, though. When I saw them in the store initially, I thought they were the same as the ones I used to have, only translucent…but as I wrote the first sentence in this paragraph, I realized where I remembered them from. They’re the same as the ones my mom owns.

I’ll probably buy myself another set, eventually. Back in the apartment, I had three sets: my mom’s old original yellow ones (minus the 2/3 cup measure, which I believe is still in her tub of flour); a blue set I bought at Wal-Mart while I was living in Huntsville; and the nice set I was hoping to replace, beige with little colored dots with the measure stamped on them. I’m not sure where I bought those last ones. I have a habit of shopping at every single grocery store–which one depends on my mood and where I happen to be in town–so I’m not sure I’ll be able to find them again. It would be nice, though.

If you’re wondering what I need dry measuring cups for when I’m living in someone else’s house, someone who cooks and has a kitchen full of cookware, the reason is this: Cheryl doesn’t have any. She uses liquid measuring cups for everything. I think this is cute, because I always use dry measuring cups for everything. It’s like we’re inverse.

Yesterday I got up at around 10, which was early in my book, and I started doing chores. I cleaned the bathroom and vacuumed and dusted. It doesn’t sound like a whole lot now that I’m listing it, but when I was done I felt tired and somewhat lightheaded and nauseated. (I’m wondering if my new thyroid medicine has these side effects.) I decided to make pancakes for everyone, so I tidied up the kitchen and mixed up some batter.

Reid appeared then; he’d been at work since 6. I’d assumed they were both still in bed (that was, of course, where Sean was), so I’d been careful and quiet while I messed around the house, but it turned out neither of them had even been there. Reid didn’t want any pancakes.

I was cooking them for myself when Cheryl got home, burning them horribly in her cast iron skillet. Smoke filled the house. “What happened?” Cheryl asked. She has this tone of voice that combines incredulity and humor, so you know she’s not mad, but you still don’t want to hear it because it means you’ve messed up.

“Just trying to cook,” I said, self-deprecatingly.

“You need oil in that pan,” Cheryl said. I put the second burned pancake on my plate, put some oil in the pan, and started to clean it. I had decided I was pretty much done.

Cheryl pulled out a steel pan and started oiling it for me. Then she stopped. “Steve made ham and black-eyed peas,” she informed me. “Do you want? Or do you want pancakes?”

I was feeling a little overwhelmed at this point. I’d filled the house with smoke and made some crappy-ass pancakes…I didn’t feel like cooking anymore, but I also didn’t feel like socializing. “I don’t care,” I said helplessly. “I just want to eat now.” And I started picking at one of my pancakes, wondering if it was still doughy inside.

“You don’t want to eat those,” she said, wrinkling her nose at my blackened cakes. “Do you? You’re not going to eat those, are you?”

“I guess I don’t really want to,” I half-said, half-mumbled.

“I didn’t think so,” Cheryl said, putting the oiled pan on the burner. She then proceeded to cook the pancakes herself.

“Usually the first one is the one that sticks,” she said. “And if it starts to smoke like that, it means it’s too hot. Take the pan off the eye until it cools some. This pan has a steel bottom, so it stores the heat. You can turn the eye down to low once it’s heated up, and it’ll stay hot.”

“Oh, I see,” I said, feeling stupid. “I’m used to nonstick pans…”

Reid came in briefly while Cheryl was cooking and asked what she was doing. “Making me some edible pancakes,” I said, and he laughed and laughed.

Cooking the pancakes took awhile. I just stood there while the pancakes turned golden and fluffy, feeling useless and trying to keep from crying. My eyes did tear up, and I was very quiet. Finally Cheryl said, “I love you, Heather.”

“I love you too,” I said, and sidled up to her so we could hug. I wasn’t quite able to keep the tears out of my voice. “Thank you.”

“It’s okay,” she said. “You’re just not domesticated.”

I’m just…not domesticated.

I’m pretty sure Cheryl didn’t mean to make me feel like a failure, but you know me, I have to be perfect at everything. “My mom is like the best cook ever,” I said. “I guess it’s just…I guess she did all the cooking and I–”

“You were busy reading,” Cheryl interjected. She was smiling at me.

“And other stuff,” I said, because I felt like reading was a valid excuse, and I didn’t think I really had a valid excuse.

“You’re an intellectual,” Cheryl said. “I didn’t care about reading, and spent all my time cooking and doing household things. But you spent your time reading. You and Sean just need really good jobs–”

“–so we can hire a cook and a maid,” I concluded, somewhat dully.

“Exactly,” Cheryl agreed. “Or you could have your mother-in-law live with you. I’d take care of everything if I didn’t have to work. And you could buy me a Mercedes.”

I managed a laugh. “Sure.”

“Room and board and a Mercedes.”

“That sounds fair.”

I left the conversation feeling strong enough not to cry, but also feeling as though I’d failed my mother. I mean, she is one of the greatest cooks in the world. But I barely made an effort to learn from her. Granted, I seem to have trouble learning without notes to look back on (she had to teach me to make rolls three times, and I really never remembered how to do it until she emailed me the instructions), but I still feel like I should have worked harder to learn how to make basic things. Things like eggs, and pancakes. I feel like I didn’t learn anything about cooking while I lived at home…and I feel like I cast the blame on Mom, which is unfair and untrue. She took every opportunity to teach me; I just didn’t learn.

Cheryl and Reid went next door to eat ham and black-eyed peas with Steve, and I sat alone at the kitchen table and ate the perfect pancakes Cheryl had made for me. They were delicious.

Later, when Sean got up, I used the remaining batter to make pancakes for him. And this time, much to my relief, they turned out…

…perfect.