I’m making salad dressing and washing rice. My sons (all three) are coming for dinner.
As I make the vinaigrette, I remember my chef’s training: “Always mix the salt with the acid first so that the salt dissolves’. This makes so much sense; I bless my chef teacher from hotel school that taught me that (albeit in pastry class). Salt dissolves in vinegar or lemon juice; it will only sit suspended in the oil. As for the rice, wash it a few times to wash off the extra starch. When the water turns clear, it’s ready to mix it up for the steaming that will follow. You will be rewarded with light and flaky rice.
“I must remember to tell the boys this tonight”, i.e. these secret factoids of my domain, the kitchen.
I have all the best advice in the world — if only I could pour it out in soft ladles onto or into them, leaving space of course, for what they know or will learn or happily better than me at or just do it different. But the salt and vinaigrette, the rice washing? That’s the least I can share. Why not do it better without the fumbling; why not have perfect rice?
Washing the rice, feeling the grains stall against my hand as I rinse out the water makes me pause. I am at once overwhelmed and philosophical — helpless in the grip of knowing I’ll never get it all done or share it all or be able to protect them from life’s random kindnesses and cruelties let alone culinary lapses.
What I have to impart with them to my (now) adult sons, is vast. I think of all I could pass on like a legacy/tool kit so they will be safe. So they won’t fall too badly or land in places that are so dark they won’t be able to come home. It’s far beyond, ‘don’t talk to strangers’ or ‘take vitamin D’ or ‘eat the fruit, instead of drinking the high calories juice’ or ‘be kind to old people’. What there is to know is an horizon one never gets to.
All that amazing advice of a life well-lived — is so limitless that I think, and not for the first time, if only I could make a bar-code of it all and scan it onto them. Quick and easy — or maybe a tiny electrode the size of a freckle that is actually software for managing this life, these times — no matter what comes up. There’s Google but Google will never be….a mother. Google can offer information but often times, without the balance of human judgement or if so, it is the judgement of the world’s strangers who don’t know me or mine. Which is another way to go I guess but it’s not the same.
I’m not an ancient parent but neither am I in my green days of mothering. Some days, I can see the finish line. So I worry. When I can’t be there — in whatever fashion, how will I protect them? I will never get it all transmitted and I can construct an impenetrable shield around them.
I forget they are far younger, energetic, bright, healthy and already wise in visceral ways that will only get honed as they go on.
Morever, maternal love or perhaps it’s sheer hubris that makes me forget that we all need to fail, fall, bump and grind our way in own footpath. To blanket them in the insulation of all one’s advice is suffocating and a disservice in allowing anyone to become stronger.
I often forget that they are also separate beings; we will never be fused into one even with the weight of DNA and the infinite solder of love itself. Three weeks into each conception, their hearts beat on their own, each in their own singular way.
So, tonight I will tell them about washing the rice (which they will tune out in lieu of talking sports or jazz) and the salt/vinaigrette thing (which they might hear but won’t remember). The thing is, salt suspended in oil isn’t the worst thing that will happen in life.
I’ll omit to tell them about waiting for true love, about the integrity thing (how you behave when no one is watching and what you do even without reward or recognition) and how family, for me, likely for them, is almost everything. I won’t tell them that as you get older, you notice the world’s beauty in a way that makes you catch your breath. It’s like you never saw a sunset or rainbow before — that’s how glorious it gets. They think ‘old’ is scary stuff and they would think I am daft to get sentimental about a full moon on an autumn evening.
I’ll never get it all said or done; it’s a given that if I had all the time in the world, I’d still forget something, because you never can cover it all and ironically, I am still learning myself. Plus the hierarchy of what is important to know wavers the more life ground you travel.
I must find a way to know the truth of that and know it will be alright. And that I will be alright and so will they.