Our house smells salty and sweet. My daughter has spent the early afternoon baking a mix of vegan banana muffins (for herself) and chocolate chip banana muffins (for the rest of us) while frying what she calls 15-hour potatoes. The potato recipe is more involved than any dinner I’ve ever committed to making. It included her thinly slicing potatoes au-gratin style, coating them with olive oil and salt, layering them in a bread loaf pan, baking them for three hours, refrigerating them for 15 hours, cutting them into inch-sized squares and, finally, frying them.
The hours she has devoted to cooking these potatoes is more time than I’ve spent cooking the entire year, during a pandemic. They are delicious. So are the muffins and I ate a vegan one. There is a Nancy Meyers film on the TV, which enhances the whole “the kitchen is the heart of the family” vibe my daughter has created in our house. Salty and sweet. Vegan and milk chocolate morsels. Baking and frying.
We spent Christmas Day doing what my husband has wanted to do on Christmas Day since we first had children but never made a reality. We did not leave the house. Just the four of us spending the whole day together. The kids opened their gifts. My husband and I drank a pot of coffee and then immediately brewed another one. We napped. I read books and made a plate heaped with cheeses, meats, crackers and pear slices while we watched a movie whose title I don’t know, but was old enough that Vince Vaughn’s female costar was the same age as him.
After feeling like I could use a little movement, I tried to go for a walk. It was possibly the worst decision I’ve made all month. Less than a half-mile into under 20-degree weather, it felt like I was walking through a swimming pool filled with ice cubes. Naked. I lasted less than 15-minutes, not even making it to the actual interview-portion of the podcast I downloaded with Amy Sedaris and Conan O’Brien.
I circled the closest of the four cul de sacs in our neighborhood and came straight back home, immediately changing out of my fleece-lined running tights and hoodie and back into the worn-thin sweatshirt and sweatpants I’d been wearing all day. (Most all of my outfits this year are just different versions of workout wear.) I was tucked back into a corner of our sectional with a chocolate chip cookie before you could hum a verse of “Baby, it’s cold outside.”
We have been incredibly fortunate in a year that has been filled with extreme misfortunes. Our sweet has outweighed our salty. I am a mother of two children who can be left alone for hours at a time without worrying if they are in danger. During a year when there has not been a lot of being left alone, I am trying to be still in moments I know I will one day remember as sweet. My daughter in the kitchen, frying chunks of layered potatoes on top of the stove while checking her vegan banana muffins in the oven. My son asleep on the floor next to our napping dog, still wearing the ‘Cage the Elephant’ flat-bill cap his cousin gifted him and the old-school roller skates Santa delivered. My husband laughing at my immediate return from a walk in sub-zero wind chill weather.
I quit my job this year. It was a bold move to make smack in the middle of pandemic. My last day was June 12. I quit mostly because I was incredibly unhappy. In a role that once upon time had been my dream career, I spent more than a year dreading Monday mornings. I developed a Pavlovian response to Slack direct message notifications, my chest tightening every time I heard the sound that mimicked two drum sticks hitting together.
I also quit because I wanted to invest more time and effort in myself. My own writing. But, instead of diving headfirst into my own writing projects after I quit, I focused on winning and keeping freelance clients.
My work has exploded in the very best of ways since I’ve quit. Meanwhile my own writing projects have remained stagnant. Salty and sweet. In the same way I want to take in all the salty and sweet moments of our life, I want to throw my arms around both my freelance work and my work, my writing. Me, right now, sitting on my couch finally writing something that’s not for a client, wearing my son’s flat-bill cap, is me finally fulfilling a promise I made to myself before I quit in June to do more of this writing.
Like those 15-hour potatoes, it has taken me awhile to get here, but I’m finally back — even if it’s just a post on a blog I haven’t published on since March. The weather is a bit warmer today than yesterday. Not actually warm, but definitely not walking-through-ice-water naked cold. I think I’ll make another attempt at taking a walk while listening to Conan O’Brien interview Amy Sedaris. Here’s hoping I get farther than the first cul de sac …and that I’ll be back to blog here again before another nine months have passed.