During the holidays, Mom made plain cookies with her assortment of red plastic and tin cookie cutters. I liked them because they weren’t too sweet. My favorite cookie shape was the pear - the stem part got browned and crisp.
On December 13th, our Norwegian teacher (who also loved gnomes) selected a girl in our second grade class to be Santa Lucia. She dressed Kerry in a white gown and arranged a candlelit wreath on her head. We gathered around and sang "Santa Lucia" as Kerry walked down the school hallway carrying Christmas cookies for the other classrooms. I liked the visual.
In grade school, I tried to figure out how women got pregnant.
I told Petra my theory one afternoon, when we had ventured upstairs to our parent’s room. We weren’t allowed there, but went occasionally anyway. I liked to bring a book because it was sunny and warm in winter, and light bounced off the yellow walls.
“I think that when the man puts the ring on the woman’s finger, there are chemicals in the ring that go into her body, and signify that she’s married, and then she becomes pregnant. But . . . some couples are married and they don’t have children . . . ”
“Emmie,” Petra said impatiently, “Dad put his penis into Mom’s vagina, and that’s how babies are made.”
"May I?" Mom asked impishly. She plucked the stick of butter off the table and smashed/spread it directly onto her toast like she was crushing ants and shoveling a sidewalk at the same time.
"No!" I said.
"But . . . this way . . . I don't waste . . . " she protested.
Open butter sticks in the fridge were alwaysstudded with wheat toast crumbs, but this was the first time I'd seen her in action. It took me a while to realize that she meant to save water by not washing a knife.
Every Saturday morning, Mom drove Petra and I to ballet. Petra’s class started first, so I sat in a small waiting room downstairs on a hard bench covered in a rectangle of cheap beige carpet.
One day, a brown-haired boy with a slightly rat-like face passed by in his ballet clothes. He glanced into the room and went on his way. After a minute, he returned and stared me down from the doorway. Then he walked into the room, picked up the trash can and emptied its contents over my head. He seemed satisfied with his decision, so he repeated it every week.
This didn't bother me, since it was early in the morning and there was never anything in the trash can besides a Brach's Sparkles candy wrapper and maybe a crushed Juicy Fruit foil.
I went to high school with this kid (we both ran track). He also danced ballet for many years with Petra. I doubt he remembers these special heartwarming moments, but you never know.
My parents kept small amounts of snack food in the house, but it never felt like enough. Since I always craved it, I ate all art projects with edible parts. In kindergarten, we made owls on burlap with pretzel heads, Cheerio eyes, peanut beaks, walnut shell bodies and pretzel stick feet. I gnawed everything off except for the walnut shells.
For Lincoln’s birthday, we glued pretzel stick log cabins to construction paper and drew chimneys, smoke, and Abes. I'll let you guess what happened to the cabin.
We had a plastic container in the yellow bathroom that contained a chunk of rock salt from “The Great Salt Lake.” Whenever I felt a snack craving, I’d take the plastic container out from the cupboard (where it was stored along with hairtastic hairbrushes, unused blow dryer parts, dried and cracked soap bars, bobby pins, blue plastic hair curlers and random objects that should have been somewhere else in the house) and lick the rock several times. It was horribly salty, but mildly satisfying.
I collect Japanese “mooks” (magazine-books) that feature home decor, design, architecture, craft, lifestyle, etc. They're my favorite possessions. We were burglarized last year, so they're pretty much my only possessions now. Just so you know, I plan to steal these from your house.
I scanned a few pages from Casa Brutus magazine (please pardon the sub-excellent scan job).
Dad’s parents had seven children and two cats - a scruffy orange tabby brother and a beautiful calico sister.
Dad’s father and his friends sat around drinking one day, discussing how great the female was - always catching mice - and how lazy the male cat was. During the conversation, the male cat slipped outside.
He returned several times, each time with a fresh dead mouse. He lined them up in a row in front of the group.
My aunt shared her secret for making perfect Japanese food. It's her method for perfect food in general, but since she's in denial that she's not Japanese, she only makes Japanese food.
"I make every recipe 100 times in a row," she told me.
As a result, her dishes (including onigiri) are impeccable and mouthwatering.
My aunt also makes you shower the second you enter her house, immediately launders your clothes (made filthy from the outside world), and directs you to change into a different pair of slippers for each part of the house. She once refused to let my friends (who were dropping me off after dinner) into her house to use the bathroom, for fear of their germs.