It will stop, I promise

Archived | September 14, 2009 | By

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Now that the kids are in school I’ve been able to calm down a bit and take stock of things. It’s not just school starting, though, that has me in that mode: my age went up a year this month and that tends to get one thinkin’. There’s a quote I read recently, written by a man named Paul Zimmer. “Pay attention to what you take for granted,” he wrote. It’s common sense, really. But it must take a special kind of energy or awareness or something, because it seems we forget pretty regularly and end up taking things for granted. It’s inevitable. I haven’t got the energy to pay attention constantly. I mean, come on.
So then the other day Mr. Sundberg builds a campfire so the kids could burn their old homework from last year and one of the kids fuels it with an armful or two of sticks and leaves and what seem to be weeds but is actually poison ivy. And then stands there awhile as smoke billows up out of the fire, smoke laden with whatever bears the nasty poison of that particular ivy plant, and that poison makes its way across my child’s skin, over her eyelids, down her cheeks and neck and arms and legs. The next day, she’s red and swollen and itching and in pain. Oozing pain. As I dab on the calamine lotion, I think about her beautiful, soft skin, and her bright blue eyes. I remember her smile and the curve of her jaw as she throws her head back in laughter, and how her curly hair bounces on her shoulder. She is trying not to cry. “When will it stop?” Going to be a while, Honey, I tell her. You did a number on yourself. But it will stop, I promise.
Now, I didn’t need that whole poison ivy encounter to take place in order for me to appreciate my daughter’s smile. Surely not. Perhaps what I needed, though, was that short time with her and a bottle of lotion. Longer than a pause and shorter than a while. Enough time for attention to collect its due. Enough time to notice what was missing.
Scalloped Potatoes, the Good Ol’ Way
Here’s one from my childhood, a real comfort food. My mother sometimes threw a layer of leftover cooked ham in the middle, and often served ham on the side.
3 T butter
2 T flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 cups milk
6 medium potatoes, pared and thinly sliced (about six cups)
2 T chopped onion
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 2 qt casserole. Make a basic white sauce using the butter, flour, salt, pepper & milk. Melt the butter and add the flour, salt and pepper. Add milk and stir over medium heat until thick. Set aside. Wash, peel, and thinly slice (width-wise) potatoes. Place half the potatoes in casserole. Cover with about half the onion and half the white sauce. Repeat layers. Cover and bake 60-70 minutes. Test with fork to make sure potatoes are almost tender. Uncover and bake another 30 minutes.
Feeds 4 hungry people, so you may want to double it.