It is another rather dreary winter day. Damn that Punxsutawney rodent I am thinking as I drag The Poodle out into the cold of the early morning. I’m not in the mood for six more weeks of this winter nonsense. I’m trying to be brisk about things despite the cold and my increasingly cranky knees. As we walk down into a large wooded area with paths to several man-made lakes I am trying to keep The Poodle from stopping at literally every single tree. Hmm. I am puzzled by what seems to me unusual activity: the ground, covered by heaps of dead autumn leaves, has come alive. Everywhere I look there are little birds skittering about from underneath the ground cover. The Poodle seems oddly uninterested as birds fly from ground to tree. Have I been this distracted in thought that I haven’t been aware of all these birds? I walk this path nearly every morning and have never noticed so many them foraging on the ground and under piles of leaves. Well regardless, it seems we have interrupted the breakfast plans of these little feathered vertebrates.
I stop for a moment to watch eight to ten cardinals flit from tree to tree. Their red “coats” adds a cheerful pop of color to an otherwise dull brown landscape.
As I continue the morning walk I am lost in thought to a couple of nights ago.
I am in my comfy chair in the basement watching the Superbowl.
I know. Totally uncharacteristic of this gal and yet, I watched the entire game. Even I am floored with myself here!
Not only did I watch the game but I was quite vocal, hooting and hollering in support of the underdog, as If I’d been following football for years! I even got my groove on during the half-time show.
(Clearly this is not me sitting here. That gal was abducted by aliens.)
And yet folks, far stranger things happened that night. So unusual in fact that several of us are still scratching our heads in stunned amazement two days later.
So….It’s no secret that we’re not thrilled with the stagnancy of the man-child in the basement. His issues are numerous and, though there is resounding agreement among all of us who love him dearly as to what he must do to jump-start his life (GET COUNSELING), he refuses all advice to address his issues which would undeniably (IMHO) help to set himself on a more productive, independent path. It’s that classic general truth: You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.”
For four and a half months now, my adult son has effectively been a hermit in our basement. Some days we don’t see him at all which is thoroughly uncomfortable, because, well…he is in our basement and we aren’t always sure how he ticks, if you get my meaning. Obviously we are at our wits end on how to get through to him some fundamental life facts: 1) You must work to earn money to, well…SURVIVE… and 2) At thirty-five you cannot expect your parents to bail you out anymore. And lets add a third one shall we: All relationships require an effort. Substantial effort! There is give and take. Sometimes that balance leans more heavily to one side than the other but the general goal (again, IMHO) is to work at giving a little more of oneself, rather than expecting the world (and then some) in return. Just saying.
But I digress.
The day before the big game my man-child made an out-of-the-blue request. He sent me a text message (yes…from the basement): “I want to learn how to make a cheese steak sandwich. I need a rib-eye steak and a french loaf. When are you going to the store? I’ll come along because I want to make sure you get the right stuff.”
This comes from the same guy that won’t eat anything that requires any effort to prepare. You know…foods that require pots and pans or things that need rinsed, boiled, chopped or sautéed. Yes…the very one that survives on frozen foods with a list a mile long of words I am convinced even scientists cannot pronounce…as well as Chef Boyardee and canned chili.
Oh DO stop me before I gag!
OK…I’ll admit that I did grit my teeth and bite my tongue at his request. Given my increasing angst over my man-child’s wacky way of thinking and living (and the fact he has been mooching off of us for four months), I could very easily have erupted into a purple minion at this request. It’s happened on more than one occasion since his return on my doorstep.
But folks, these days I find myself seizing the most unlikely, seemingly negligible tidbits of hope I can. I could have replied that cheese steak sandwiches are not my thing (indeed, they are NOT) but hey, given our situation…here was a potential bonding moment that I wasn’t about to pass up. Understandably, Rocket-man wasn’t as keen. He’s mighty fed up with my man-child. Truth be told he’s not entirely alone in that sentiment. Still, I am THE mama and he is the step-dad; I would be remiss to not capitalize on a kitchen moment.
I called my sis to let her know about the request. She, like me, is grasping at straws to help. “He could make cheese steak sandwiches for everyone for our Superbowl night tomorrow.” “I know…right?!” I replied. With that, we made a date to all meet up at Wegmans to shop together.
It takes a village.
So, with the understanding that my man-child would be helping to prepare Philly cheese steak sandwiches not only for himself but for my sis and her family as well as Mom and “Ogre” step-dad, off to Wegmans we went in search of rib-eye steaks and just the right bread.
Though Wegmans was crazy-packed with people shopping for Superbowl goodies we managed to get my man-child through the experience without a blow-up.
Later, there were six of us in the kitchen. I had music blaring in the background and there were not one, but four cooks at the stove! My man-child managed to keep his OCD tendencies mostly under wraps in the chaos of the meal prep as I tried to teach him how to cut the steak into thin strips as well as basic kitchen hygiene to avoid cross-contamination. He complained at one point about how much work it was all taking (YOU HAVE NO IDEA shouted my brain). “But look at what you are creating, with your own hands,” I replied, as I sliced onions and garlic to add to the pan. “Son, you are so accustomed to the instant gratification of everything…even microwaved junk food; it boggles my mind how you got this way.”
His only response: “Hey, no onions mom….I don’t eat onions; they look like worms to me.”
Just roll with it was the mantra in my head.
“Well, it’s really not an authentic Philly cheese steak sandwich without onions son, but hey….this is your sandwich. ”
And so went our kitchen moment. He made his sandwich and then… he helped us fry up our sliced steak.
Holy Cow. THAT WAS TOTALLY OUT OF CHARACTER FOR THE MAN-CHILD.
Not only that, after he ate his sandwich, he sat with us and watched the entire game! In fact, he was in the same room with us for nearly six hours! He hasn’t done that in almost twenty years. My man-child actually engaged with everyone. He even smiled, more than once. And during half-time, he disappeared into the kitchen returning some fifteen minutes later to present us with a plate of Pillsbury-wrapped little smokies (his food, from the freezer) that he prepared to share…with everyone. I’m sure dumb-founded was plastered on my face.
It’s all a dream and I am going to wake up any minute…right?
And though it has been two steps forward and ten steps back over and over through the years with my man-child, we embraced the moment, basking in warm, fuzzy feelings of love, family and hope.
Bliss over baby steps, if only for a day.
(p.s. And how about the Eagles winning the Superbowl?! Yee-haw!)