He didn’t hear me pull in the driveway, even though the base from my blaring electronic music was so loud that I could feel the beat in my bones (my decompression music after day of anatomy lecture). He had other things on his mind. He was wearing his usual faded bluejeans and that white teeshirt worn to an antique shade of yellow. The bill of his blue baseball cap pointed down as he stared at his feet. He held a bunch of long seemed roses behind his back. He reached for the doorbell, hesitated, adjusted his baseball cap, then lifted his head.
My daughters eyes, and corners of her mouth softened into a smile as she opened the door. Her eyes, as well as her smile brightened when he handed her the floral surprise. She gave him a quick kiss, maneuvering under his hat, then flung her arms around his neck. The roses brushed his back. A Norman Rockwell painting come to life.
I turned off my music, grabbed my books and lunch box and headed inside. Elizabeth was fussing with the roses. “Do I cut the stems?” She asked. “I don’t know.” Zak said as he searched in the dining room cupboard for a vase. “Here, let me help you.” I said to my daughter. “You cut them at an angle, like this.” I remembered the first time a boy brought me roses. My mom showed me how to cut them. I could hear my mothers voice in my own.
“So, I have to go teach a yoga class, I’m not going to have time to make dinner.” I said apologetically and opened the fridge. “But there’s…” I paused as I searched the shelves, there were sprouts, an eggplant, some beets, and miso…Items for my lunches. “…well, theres not much.” I said.
“Its okay mom, we’ll pick something up.” Elizabeth said. “Yeah, we can get you something.” Zak said rolling his head back looking at me upside-down from the sofa. Elizabeth rolled her head back, smiled and nodded to confirm his offer.
“Nah, thanks though.” I was wary, in case they had fast food in mind.
My sudden switch from a leisurely 10 hour work week to a to a 55 hour work/school week has been less than a smooth transition. I feel like I’m always in a rush, and constantly preparing for tomorrow. Not ideal qualities for a yoga teacher, I know. On my drive home from the studio I planned how I’d pack a healthy lunch, brain food to keep up with the mental energy needed for college. I walked in the door. The kids were on the couch, holding hands now, and watching TV. I put down my yoga mat, turned to the kitchen to cary out my next task before I collapsed into bed.
“Hey, whats going on?” I kinda yelled and opened my hands up to what should be my clean counter space. There was a stainless steel bowl full of ground beef, Chopped garlic, chopped onions on my cutting board. My alphabetized jars of herbs and spices were rearranged, opened and spilled on the counter. “We’re going to make you dinner.” Elizabeth said sweetly. I feel ashamed to admit that I yelled “No! I have to pack my lunch. You can make yourselves dinner later. I’m so tired you guys.” I was so fatigued I felt tears stinging my eyes, I’d regressed to the stage of an exhausted toddler.
“Mom!” My daughter said in a stern motherly voice (that I needed to hear). “You NEED to eat!” She commanded, sucked in her cheeks, held them with her forefinger and thumb to mimic my much too hollow cheeks and prominent bones.
“I want to make dinner for you Kerri” Zak said, still holding Elizabeth’s hand and looking at me upside-down, under his blue hat, with sad eyes.
I melted, and patted them both on the head. I’d be crazy not to accept the offer especially since my daughter’s boyfriend isn’t just a sweet guy who brings her roses but a phenomenal chef who creates culinary magic at the Braddock Inn.
I soaked in a hot bath and dozed off. The warm smell of tomato sauce, oregano, and buttery roasted garlic woke me. My whetted appetite overpowered the need to sleep.
Zak had prepared spaghetti and meatballs, simple, but with his creative flare they were gourmet. We sipped wine and savored the melt-in-your-mouth food. Zak reviled some of his recipe secrets like adding cumin to the ground beef, along with usual Italian spices, and baking the meatballs, skipping the tedious searing step that I always take. “Nope,” He said when I asked if he’d browned the meatballs first. “Thats too much trouble. Naked balls in the oven, on greased foil, 375 for 18 minutes.”
I looked past the roses, and over the kid’s lounging on the sofa to my (usually tidy) kitchen. Marinara sauce dripped from the ladle, a colander sat tilted atop of the spaghetti pan, leftover chopped herbs and spices smeared the cutting board like a used artist’s palate. Another Norman Rockwell scene I’d take over a clean kitchen and organized life any day.