My other half has been visiting his son for a few days so Boo and I are batching it. It’s odd not to have my conversational partner in the house. Being left to my own devices I do find I’m attending to all those things I’ve been putting off since summer set in.
People are funny when they hear you’re alone. Immediately they seem to feel the need to highlight all the horrible things recently in the news about happening to people home by themselves. Even my mother related a story about a home invasion involving two women. Both women were bound, gagged, robbed, and one was raped. Thanks, Mom. When I’m gone Rick turns off the lights at night and goes to bed as he would normally. When he’s gone I leave enough lights burning to guide the Space Shuttle in after a mission. If I’m really feeling squirrely I’ll leave the TV in the living room and the one in the bedroom on for company. Not afraid to be alone, I actually enjoy solitude from time to time, it’s being alone at night. Something changes for me when the sun goes down. After my mother’s story and several others, my nightstand, usually only holding a glass of water and my book was flushed out with a large kitchen knife and my cell phone with 911 on speed dial. What possesses people to do this? When I was pregnant people told me terrible stories about women birthing huge moles (not the animal the skin condition). Before I had surgery one friend related horror stories of surgeons removing a healthy organ instead of the diseased one because the x rays were turned backwards on the viewer. Another brought up all the potential infections one could contract, such as flesh-eating virus, even if only in the hospital for a routine procedure. Shhhhhhhhhh, please.
As a child I lived on the second floor of my grandparents large home. Mine was one of two rooms hugging the back of the house facing the yard. From my window there was a view of the gazebo where I often held teas for my dolls and the enormous vegetable garden my grandmother tended when the capricious Halifax weather allowed her the luxury. Directly across the hall was my mother’s room. Down the front stairs to the right behind my grandfather’s den led to the master bedroom where my grandparents slept. Directly to the right when exiting my room was a large mahogany door which opened on to a fully enclosed back stairway. Following it to the end to the right was the kitchen, to the left the basement. The stairwell door was left closed at night with the key dangling from the keyhole. During the day I often used this stairway. It afforded immediate access to my grandmother’s spare pantry just outside the kitchen door. The pantry housed a wonderland of confections. Colorfully decorated tins each lined with waxed paper were chocked full of gooey lemon bars or perhaps the specialty of the house Gam’s wafer thin lighter than air ginger snaps. Often I perched on the high stool with the red vinyl cover and like a frog on a lily pond hopped from one tin to the next sampling the delicious goodies to be had inside. At night, however, I wouldn’t have descended the dark stairway had the house been on fire and that the only way to safety.
Each night was a ritual growing up. After dinner I was tossed in the tub to scrub off the accumulated dirt of the day. Dressed in clean pajamas, I climbed into bed. Either my grandmother or my mother sat beside reading Honeybunch or The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Story done, I was tucked in and left for the sandman to deal with. Many nights strong winds whipped in from the sea. Trees brushed against the window creating long fingers of moving shadows across my walls. In my child’s imagination they were gnarled hands reaching out to pull me into the pitch black night. Often I lay in bed covers up to my nose waiting for whatever was knocking to figure out a way in. Darkness is after all the fodder for great horror films and wild imaginings. Unspeakable beings lurk in dark dusty corners. Rarely do you see a good monster movie set in the bright sunlight, except perhaps for Jaws. Even as a teenager when asked to take out the trash after dark I can remember walking briskly to the trash bins. An unexpected sound triggering my imagination would have had me sprinting back as if a pack of hungry wolves were nipping at my ankles.
As mentioned previously I lived in Ashdown, Arkansas for a while back in the early 1990’s. Ashdown, a small sleepy town in the Tri-Corners area of the state, was a bit of a culture shock for this California girl. We drove into town, my ex-husband and I, late afternoon on a hot and sweltery Saturday. The heat laid across you like a heavy blanket. Breathing itself required effort. Spending the first week in a small motel towards the outskirts of town, our time was consumed finding housing for ourselves and the cat and dog for the nine months we were to spend in the area. My husband, a pipe foreman by trade, was to begin work at the local paper mill the following week. It was hard to imagine him working outside in that heat. From a small town in Texas he was no stranger to the climate so from what I could see it never bothered him much. He was always saying the reason I was so uncomfortable in the heat was I hadn’t learned to sweat. Oddly this was something I was eager to embrace as I spent most days making an effort not to pass out.
After much searching a house was located in town. Basically a rectangle home. Three bedrooms, a living room, dining room, two bathrooms and generous kitchen were distributed along the length of it. One air conditioning unit hummed in the window of the living room, barely adequate for cooling the area it was given. What cold air it spewed out of it never extended far beyond the living room door. A swamp cooler dominated the kitchen ceiling, a familiar sight in the south. Conventional A/C units struggle to cool heavy humid air where swamp coolers are made for the job. When turned on the unit sounded like a 747 revving for takeoff but it was better than the alternative.
About a month into the move my husband decided to go fishing. Other than a few people from work we knew no one in the area so he set off alone around 6:00 in the evening, saying he’d be back around midnight. By myself in the house with only the drone of the swamp cooler and the steady whir of the fans, every creak and unidentified noise made the hair on my arms stand at attention. Watching the clock when three o’clock arrived and no sign of my husband, full panic set in.
Knowing no one to call, I got in the car. I headed out into the country in the direction he said he was going. With no help from street lights the back roads were inky black. Lush overgrowth, so beautiful during the day, took on a menacing appearance when highlighted by my headlights. At the end of a dirt road I found myself with nowhere to go. Stepping out of the car insects sensing fresh meat buzzed around my head. As far as I could see nothing but muddy water lay beyond the drop off in the road, or perhaps a curious alligator or a snake or two.
Across the river another set of headlights appeared. Several men spilled out of their trucks. Their voices rose and fell captured in the slight breeze. The ember from a freshly lit cigarette briefly lit up their faces. At the same time they noticed me and yelled.
I believe that to be one of the most alone and vulnerable feelings I ever experienced. Terrified, I got back in the car. Wedged tightly I maneuvered back and forth kicking up dirt until finally managing to turn the car around. Flying down that dirt road with my foot fully on the gas I somehow found my way home. My husband, sitting on the front porch, was about to call the police. Tired from no fish and a busy week he’d fallen asleep by the river losing track of time. Looking down at my soaked tee shirt I was delighted to report I’d learned how to sweat.
Many times I visited that fishing hole in the daylight always a beautiful and welcoming place to be. I never again went there at night even when invited to tag along on a fishing trip.
This is just so yummy. I had both on hand and decided to mix them up. My other half is on his way home and I have the lights lit for him (all of them).
Garlicy Cauliflower Brussel Sprout Mash
1 large head cauliflower florets, cooked
1 lb. brussel sprouts, cooked
3 Tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup half and half
2 Tbsp. chives, chopped
1/2-1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Steam brussel sprouts and cauliflower over 2″ of water until well cooked (fork tender plus). Drain well. Place both in the food processor and pulse until coarsely processed. Puree for 2 mins. until well blended. Add remaining ingredients (1 1/2 Tbsp. butter only and 1/2 tsp. only) and puree 1 min. longer. Add additional salt if desired.
Pat with remaining 1/2 Tbsp. butter and sprinkle with chives.