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The Art of Slowly Softening Butter

2014 November 21

single mother, adopted childred

 

I don’t have a microwave, or more correctly, the huge one someone gave me six years ago no longer works. When it first stopped I didn’t believe it and kept pushing the start button. But then I remembered that one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. So there it sits, taking up space under the picture Helen and Rose made me last Valentine’s Day. It’s a stretched canvas with their hand prints in bright colors and a list of 10 things they love about me. I must say I like number seven the best:  “We love that you adoted us”. The misspelling somehow turns the Pinterest crafty idea into something real from my daughters. And speaking of real gets me back to the microwave. Call me old (I don’t really mean that) but microwaves just don’t seem right to me. There’s something alien about them and they don’t keep things hot as long, and if you haven’t noticed this, then you’re in some kind of major modern denial.

It’s almost Thanksgiving and along with “my children and animals are alive” I’ve decided to be thankful that my microwave isn’t working. My mother never owned one. It was the same with a clothes dryer.  Even when they became affordable she hung things outside or when bitterly cold down in the basement, claiming that going up and down the stairs kept her young. Hanging out the clothes was often my job when I was young and it was a chore I ranked way above the Saturday morning dusting. I liked putting things in groups—underwear, linen, shorts, blouses, and so on (my idea, not her rule). I liked planning ahead so I would run out of line and pins exactly when I had everything hung.  And I liked to count how many tea towels and pillow cases I could overlap…..huh…I don’t remember if obsessive compulsive was a term back then. Of course, there were no microwaves or computers or cell phones—but we did have cars and I wish Rose would stop asking me that. Later, when it seemed that almost every American household did have a microwave, my mother still didn’t want one. There was a day when I understood where she was coming from:

 

Butter Softening

 

Sometimes I forget

to put the butter out.

 

Too hard to spread

on toast for breakfast,

it can go for a quick melt

in my microwave.

 

My mother doesn’t have

a microwave.

“Never had one,

never want one.”

 

And sometimes she forgets

to put the butter out.

 

She takes a

blue and white saucer

and puts three thin pats on it,

cut from the hard stick,

then gently places

the saucer on top

of her just-poured cup of tea.

 

The steam slowly

softens the butter,

though not as slowly

as one might think.

 

And then my mother sits down,

carefully butters her bread,

adds her favorite jam

(homemade black raspberry),

and with tea

sweetened to perfection

( a tablespoon of honey),

quietly eats it.

 

She proudly showed me her technique

for butter softening one morning,

and together we had toast and tea.

 

Since then my microwave

sits idle

more

and

more.

 

My microwave hasn’t been so idle lately, prior to the breakdown (it, not me). There was always frozen meat that I forgot to put out the night before and horrible, horrible stuff that Helen insisted on eating for breakfast and then my tea to warm up.

Thanksgiving is in six days and when Helen gets home for her break she will no doubt complain about the non-working microwave and quote the price she paid for the one now in her dorm room. I, however, am doing just fine. If I forget to thaw out the meat then we go vegetarian. Rose, my good eater, can handle that I don’t buy the junkie stuff, and I reheat my tea by using a little metal saucepan on the stove. I did have to learn to put on the timer so I won’t need to turn around 10 miles from home to make sure the house isn’t on fire. And as for the butter on the Thanksgiving dinner rolls, I will likely take it out for softening around the time I run to change the hand towel in the downstairs bathroom. But if not, I’ll get a bowl of hot water and put some pats on top. It will seem quite quaint to my children (not the term they typically use to describe my behavior) but I can imagine a time when they might talk about it with fondness, just as not having a microwave reminds me of a morning of toast and tea with my mother. And I just decided to add that memory to what I’m thankful for.

Thanksgiving, adopted children

 

One Response Post a comment
  1. November 24, 2014

    Hi Ann,
    I just posted this comment on the wrong blog post!! Oh well. Will rewrite. Does this make me quaint??? I loved this post AND the photo. And as i wrote before, i feel as though i have just had a lovely conversation with you over hot tea, which was, of course, heated on the stove top in a small pan. I do believe your mother’s idea of “doing the stairs” and hanging the clothes out to dry, did, in fact, keep her young. As i think of her now, i see that twinkle in her eye and i hear her laughing as she relays a story about something she did that was funny or quaint. 🙂 I hope i maintain a small portion of the energy and love of life that she had in her late nineties. Happy Thanksgiving my friend. Terry

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