It was the morning after the night before.
The morning after 9:17.
I woke up with puffy eyes; I had cried myself to sleep, even cried in my sleep. That's the deepest kind.
I whispered a gentle "good morning" to myself.
I checked my wounds, scaling a 1-10 on the damage done the night before.
Be gentle with yourself today.
Take it slow. Go easy.
Yesterday was rough.
"Good morning, Mommy."
They're stifling snorty giggles.
I open my eyes.
They stand at my beside, each boy wearing one of my bras.
Bras are the new fascination. Ever since they found a naked and shapely Ariel doll at the swimming pool, they're pursuing an independent study on the topic of the bra.
One of them offered to hook mine for me the other day.
No thanks, kiddo. I've got this.
I shooed them out of my room with a slurred reprimand for taking clean clothes out of the laundry basket, and I asked the tall one to turn on Netflix, the short one to get yogurt for everyone.
Back to assessing the damage.
Go easy. Take it slow. You're puffy and tender, all over.
I heard a pillow fight happening downstairs.
This agenda of slow is a no-go. Yet, depression wrapped herself around me, standing between me and the bedroom door.
I brought myself down the stairs.
Coffee. Muffin. Netflix. Yogurt.
I stared blankly for an uncertain amount of time. The noises of our home happened around me, and a little bit to me.
And then I decided. "Today, I will bake."
I opened my cookbook.
I winced at his handwriting on the card inside the cover: Robb's homemade salsa.
I glanced through the laminated pages;
they have gathered dust for 18 months.
I have served only what came from a box or the bakery or the deli section or someone else's kindness.
Every recipe is a memory.
Perhaps marriage is really just a series of meals.
I put the cookbook away. I'll need to make myself a new one: a cookbook that doesn't hold so much more than recipes.
I looked deeper in the drawer.
I stumbled onto his cookbooks. Titles like, Men Making Dinner and The Real BBQ.
I slammed the drawer closed. My mouth tasted sour. I'm not sure I can do this.
"Today I will bake." That's what I said a few minutes ago. It's still today.
I opened the drawer, slowly and silently, as if his cookbooks were rats asleep. I found a new one - several years old, but barely touched.
I'll do this thing. I'll find recipes. I'll start new. Because it's today. And today, I will bake.
My friends, I did it.
I made a menu. I created a list. I took a shower.
(The boys were playing astronaut in the van while I was doing the psychoanalysis described above, and they loaded our car with blankets, pillows, and three dozen super heroes for their trip around the moon. When it was time to go, this pretending left little room for our land travel, but I didn't care. I chose to embrace the charm. I took the astronauts with me - after we counted to three and moved the imaginary boulder from behind the van. Sure. Three can play at this game.)
The trip to the grocery store involved two spankings and perhaps some shrieking. I can't be sure. Astronaut Mom lost her cool shortly upon arrival. I was thankful I had neither dried my hair nor put on any makeup. My parenting was in cognito.
Anyway, where was I? Oh, right: My friends, I did it.
At the end of the day, I served the first-ever Dinner For My Family.
Okay, not the first ever. But the first on this side of the Great Divide. My children have no memory of Mommy in the kitchen. They were amazed that my skills surpass powdered mixes.
We had beef stroganoff. (Not Robb's recipe, since I couldn't bear to go near his cookbooks or mine, let alone inside his head. That recipe is one-third documented and two-thirds intuition. So I started anew. And frankly, my recipe is easier - and perhaps as good. Don't tell him I said so. He would stage a bakeoff in no time at all and ask you to choose sides.)
Honey Wheat Bread.
Chocolate Cream Pie.
And, they cleaned their plates.
They were impressed and satisfied.
My friends, I did it.