Leave Room For Cream -- by Laura Houston
It was one of those weeks. The television went out. I ruined everything I cooked. The boys got sick. I got sick. The weather was biting cold. A 12-hour headache persisted as I went through caffeine withdrawal. By Friday my existential tank had dropped to empty, and I had those sweeping feelings of sorrow roll across my chest in the middle of the night as I lay sleeping in the boy’s room, listening to them cry out in their sleep because they couldn’t breathe. It was one of those weeks that begged for change.
I wish I could say I did not miss my television. I wish I could say not having one allowed more time for me and my husband to bond, and I finally found the extra time to finish that damn novel I started more than two years ago. But that would be a lie. I miss television. I miss its mind numbing capabilities. Television is an escape, a distraction, and a reason not to converse after dinner when all I have to speak about are the menial things I did that day that in no way matter to anyone with the exception of my toddlers.
I was able to experiment more in the kitchen that week with the boys taking extra long naps. Experiment being the key word. I tried to revitalize favorite recipes in a lower fat, lower sugar, whole grain-ish sort of way. My doctor told me my cholesterol levels and my blood sugar levels were too high – my iron levels too low. And that I should give up coffee. So I am doing all of those things, and whereas I feel better and have lost some weight, the joy I find in eating is now as dark as my television screen.
And coffee. I am lost without it. I miss its aroma filling the house every morning. I miss that first sip. I miss sitting in my pajamas, reading the news, and feeling a surge of energy roll through me. I miss the false sense of focus. I long for the sweetness of the cream and the way it softens the beverage on the tongue. Don't even think of suggesting decaff. It denies me the rush I love and is void of the perfume that lingers in the hall until lunchtime.
Winter is a time of introspection. It’s a time for things unnecessary inside of us to die, go to the ground, and support new life in the spring. In Oregon’s forests I could go for walks in the rain and never see another soul. The creek that ran through our property became full and rolled across the rocks and logs with notable enthusiasm. The stinging nettles died back, so I could hike up the back ridge of our property and watch the mist get trapped in the Douglas fir trees. The season offered clear perspective and new advantages.
It’s different beyond comprehension in New York. Of course it is. How could I have expected anything to be the same? I came here without realizing how much food, forests and friends feed my soul. I thought I carried all of my medicine inside me, and I was independent of external things for happiness (with the exception now of my children, of course).
It seems I must find new medicine or I am going to lose myself in this city. The TV was certainly an excellent diversion from dealing with all of this change – so were the food and the coffee. And as much as I love my boys, I am not the kind of mother who invests everything into them. No. No. I am an older mom. I had plenty of time to learn how to be selfish and take care of myself. I believe in seeking balance. They need to see me do activities that make me happy and feed my soul in order to learn to do it for themselves.
So here is my plan for the New Year in New York: instead of having a sitter so I can get stuff done for the household, I am going to the opera on Tuesday afternoons. On Wednesdays I am having a mother’s helper come in so I can actually work on that damn novel. On Thursdays I am going to cook a special dish that is both good and healthy and on Fridays I will enjoy one of the many beautiful parks New York City has to offer with my sons no matter how cold it is outside. Once a week….at least once a week…I will do one of my many yoga DVDs in front of our new, monolithic, plasma TV that’s due to arrive any day now.
And on Mondays, on those dark, cold, gray, Manhattan Mondays, I am going to go to the coffee bar up the street and order a large, French roast coffee, curl my hands around the cup, and sip away, enjoying every rush of caffeine and sugar and the sweetness of cream. Not skim milk. Not half-and-half. Cream.