Birthday Girls and Pioneer Women: Another Version
It was late afternoon last Monday and Rose and I were sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. No major health issues, just a few concerns of a girl going to turn eleven in four days. The room was filled with parents and children of various ages that were mostly in amazingly good moods. A muted large screen TV hung from the ceiling corner where a perky red headed woman stirred dough in a bowl. I got excited when I realized it was the Food Network, a slightly odd choice for the pediatrician’s office. I love this channel, though the last time I watched it regularly was when I worked out years ago on an elliptical machine at a gym, watching Paula Deen add more butter and cream to her southern dishes. Although certainly ironic, I enjoyed seeing all the rich food while trying to burn up a couple hundred calories. And I can’t help but be reminded of one of my favorite female comedian lines—“Why don’t I just take this stick of butter and add it directly to my thigh.”
But back to the perky red head. She sure was happy about something. Maybe it was her fancy, spotless kitchen where she seemed to be completely alone (aside from the camera person) to peacefully cook. Or maybe it was her pride in the row of obviously homemade jam that lined the top shelf of her gleaming stainless steel refrigerator. Or maybe it was the fun of buzzing along in the dust free white pickup in the countryside a few moments later. Wait a minute….I knew who this was…it was that woman in Texas who married Marlboro Man and moved to his ranch. Who wrote the best seller Pioneer Woman and now has a blog that makes a mint of money, has published cooking books, and has her own cooking show. Huh…..no wonder she looked so happy. All that success and a Mr. Mcdreamy besides. I’ve never met a Marlboro Man, let alone married one. (Well, actually I met a sort of one—a farrier who liked to wear full leather chaps.) And if that wasn’t enough, she was now smiling down on me from the screen, back home, her sweet teenage daughter with her oh-so-polite teenage friends off to go fishing before lunch. And then, to add insult to injury, she gathered lush herbs from her garden (no signs of the drought in her yard). She seemed to be making all this food for a birthday celebration. I looked it up later on the network’s website:
Ree is hosting a dinner party for Alex and her best friends with personalized New York Style Chopped Salad with an Herby Ranch Dressing, home baked Rosemary Focaccia and the cutest Flower Pot Desserts. Happy birthday, Alex!
All these things only took minutes to make on TV, while Ree stayed perky and pleasant. The girls came back from the fishing trip (not a spot of mud on them and why didn’t at least one of them want to push another in the lakeside sludge—they do have hormone swings at 15) and gushed over the salad in a way I’ve never seen kids that age get excited about anything low in carbs and grease. And it all seemed so different than my life. I was starting to feel like a loser, wondering where I had gone wrong, when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
“Mom, you could have a cooking show,” Rose spoke up.
“Oh, like anyone would want to see my cooking show!” I answered.
“Well, someone would,” came her quick reply.
It didn’t take long before we were giving each other details of what that show would be like:
The rather harried (and let’s not even mention age here) looking mom puts up both hands to block the camera from a shot of the refrigerator, where jars of jam that needed to be thrown out months ago clutter up the shelves on the door. She then lets escape from her mouth a few choice words (bleeped out later) while trying to unwedge the muffin tin from a cupboard very inconveniently closed off behind a trash can, broom and dustpan—whoops, another blocked shot here as the trash lid pops open. She inspects the pan for dog hairs and, finding none, she manages a slight smile, then grimaces as the phone rings. Deciding to ignore it, the audio on the camera captures a message from the older daughter saying her boyfriend’s dog is lonely and she needs to walk him so therefore, obviously, she won’t be able to mow the yard—again—sorry! At this point the show breaks for a commercial (likely something about antacids or antidepressants), then returns to the daughter and mother trying to add dried up food coloring to icing that seems too thin one moment and too thick the next. (All right, I added some of these details later but the gist is the same.)
I started to see Rose’s point. Someone would want to watch this show. In fact, I probably would, as I’d feel better by the end of it, instead of wondering if I should just give up on my attempt at motherhood and the “pioneer” life on my little acreage of land.
The giggles in my ear had gotten louder and more frequent as this description of my cooking show continued. As the angular maturing body beside me relaxed, I knew that the doctor’s visit would be fine. And then I knew something else. I wasn’t doing so much wrong after all. Rose would have a birthday party. We would have pizza and cupcakes (made from a mix) and the guests would go roller skating. I would not look very perky but I would be kind to all the kids, and oh so grateful to those parents who decided to stick around. There would be moments when it was far less than perfect, but it would be O.K. most of the time. And there would also be a few moments, those rare but lovely moments, when things just came together to make it all seem worthwhile.
Happy Birthday, Rose. I hope you enjoy your party. May you always have someone to laugh with about all those things that make up life—all the many versions of them. And I hope that some of those times I’m around to laugh with you.