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Pickle Me This

September 7, 2020

Goodbye, Mildew. It’s Been Nice…

Everything sort of fell apart last week as the job of replacing our bathrooms tiles was undertaken, and then they realized the walls themselves would need to be rebuilt, and then after that the ceiling started collapsing, and it was six days before we were able to shower.

And now we have a gorgeous new bath area, with white tiles and grout that isn’t mouldy. Our previous tiles were so gross, and when you tried to scrub the grout, it fell off, which isn’t a good thing. At one point, the most substandard contractor of all time had rebuilt the tiles around the faucet in a blue tile that was completely different than the rest of the tub AND actually not the kind of tile you’d use in a bathtub anyway. It was legit the most hideous bathroom of all time, and so naturally, I took lots of photos of it and posted them on Instagram.

Reading in the tub is one of my chief delights. Because I am very spontaneous and wild, I take a bath almost every Sunday evening when the weather isn’t hot. It’s my favourite way to close out a weekend, to get ready for a week, to be submerged in a small body of water (ideal!) and having nothing to do except read.

It’s amazing to me how many beautiful book covers perfectly matched my hideous bathroom. It was like my bathroom as the palette, unlikely, the match uncanny. Check out Manhattan Beach, by Jennifer Egan, on which I was a bit meh, but still—that same blue, that same pinky orange. What are the actual odds?

I won’t have to spend as much time strategically placing my book to cover up the most shameful spots of mildew and mould now, but must confess to being slightly disappointed that the new background to my #BooksintheBath posts are going to be so bland.

Don’t worry, my bathtub is still blue, so you’ll know that it’s me.

But clean white tiles?

Very civilized, but it’s just not my brand.

August 24, 2020

20 K

There are people who get off on pushing limits, on the intensity of winning, overcoming. I am not one of those people, which is part of the reason my children could not ride bicycles for years. The other part of the reason why my children could not ride bicycles for years was that they were really bad at it, and we were even worse at trying to teach them. We tried everything, but once one knew how to do it, the other one was struggling, and finally what it took in the end was a pandemic, for the world to be brought to a halt and my husband to be so frustrated by our situation that he taught our youngest to ride in an afternoon and had everyone’s bikes tuned up and ready to go in a space of a week.

And so we ride bikes now, out for ice cream, to the Korean grocery store, to Dufferin Grove Park. So when my cousin called me out of the blue yesterday and suggested we meet at Humber Bay Shores, way out in the west end, I decided we would ride bikes to get there. According to Google Maps, it was fifteen minutes quicker than transit.

But, dear reader, Google Maps LIED. As we made our way down Shaw Street to King, it occurred to me that a return trip in the other direction was going to be hard work (the problem when your entire city is built on a subtle slope). And then when we got to King and realized that not only were there no bike lanes, but that idiots roared along in their stupid cars like the street was a racetrack, we joined our children on the sidewalk. And as Liberty Village turned into Parkdale, the sun grew hotter, and it was around Dufferin Avenue that somebody started to cry.

But by then it was too late to turn back, and there was still so far to go. Why is there no shade in Parkdale? Why had we decided to make this journey on the hottest day of the year? Would our children ever forgive us as they furiously pedalled on their tiny single speed bikes that they’ve both outgrown already? How were we ever going to get home again, I wondered, as we persisted, the lake getting closer. We pointed it out at our first glimpse of it, but the children were too tired to care.

There is a ramp on the other side of the Roncesvalles Pedestrian Bridge, and Iris sailed down it on her bike and ran right into a wall. I chased after her, flinging my own bike to the ground impeding traffic, and feeling like I was going to throw up once I had reached her, because I was already tired, and it was so very hot. (Cheers to the kind man at the Palais Royale who offered to refill our water bottles…)

On the other side of the bridge, we at least got to ride on the waterfront trail, and the Lakeshore was closed to traffic, so there was relief in that. But even from Sunnyside to Humber Bay Shores was so far, and as we approached the slope of the Humber Foot Bridge, we all felt ready to fall to pieces. Maybe we were just going to live at Humber Bay Shores forever, I decided, collapsed in a heap on the concrete.

Fortunately, we had come to Humber Bay Shores to see my cousin and her family, a cousin who has been one of my dearest friends forever, and once we’d recovered our breath and stopped sweating, we spent a delightful two hours with them, and no one ever would have suggested that the journey wasn’t worth it.

But how to get home?

I decided we would cycle home along the Martin Goodman Trail on the lakefront, taking our time (it took 3 hours), stopping often to stick our feet in wading pools, to collapse under shady trees, and eventually even to order takeout from a sushi place which we ate in the Toronto Music Garden. I bought my children orange crush, a staple of my childhood but a curious artifact in theirs, and they were so excited. They definitely earned it. And then after sushi, we cycled just a little bit further, to the streetcar stop that would take us and our bikes right up Spadina Avenue, depositing us at the end of our street.

Which was kind of cheating, but even still, we cycled 20 kilometres, and it was terrible and awful and fun and amazing, and we were so proud of ourselves, and we never, ever want to do it again.

April 6, 2020

We’ve Still Got Weekends

I wrote about “observing the weekend” on Instagram the other day, about the ways that doing so has helped to frame our lives in what is now the fourth week of quarantine during the time of Covid-19. Though it’s probably a good thing to do even at the best of times, and something that I didn’t do enough as I scrambled to finish my work during the brief hours my children’s school day provided and then had to fit in an extra shift or two on Sunday afternoons. And while my time to work is no more plentiful than it ever was (and now steeped in distraction, and anxieties, and I keep insisting on making elaborate lunches), the weekend has become a sacred thing.

On Friday afternoon, I turned my laptop off and didn’t turn it back on until Monday morning. All the weekday rules thrown out the window—dressed and breakfasted by 9am? Pshaw. If you’re not still in your pyjamas on Sunday, 1:30 pm, then you’re doing it wrong. All the breakfasts should be photogenic and totally delicious, and you’re only allowed to read the news if you’re reading an actual NEWSpaper, though you have to read the comics first. The last two Saturdays, we’ve ordered takeout, because a person should only have to orchestrate one photogenic meal a day. There has been a whole lot of sloth, and togetherness, and video games, and reading, which is a pleasure and a break, and makes you even want to pull yourself together once Monday morning rolls around.

Even better than observing the weekend though? Adding a little bit of weekend to the week. A few weeks back, Harriet was having a pretty tough time with our new arrangement of hiding in our house for the foreseeable future in fear of a deadly contagion (kids these days!) and decided that special breakfasts on Wednesday would add a little bit of the magic and delight that has retreated from our lives. We’ve also curled up for a family movie on Monday nights the last two weeks, which would never have happened in any other universe, and seems like a lovely kind of indulgence in this upside-down world.

April 1, 2020

There will be school again, but in the meantime…

I love the things that my children learn at school, like how to read and write their names, do long division, and the geography of the Great Lake St. Lawrence Lowlands. Back before my children went to school, I had tried to teach them things, but none of it ever took. We received a letter before my eldest started kindergarten that suggested her knowing how to write her name before September might be an academic advantage, but she was having none of it. She’d already learned to write an H, and was quite adamant that this was sufficient, and her attitude toward this had me a little bit concerned as her academic career began, but it turned out that what she’d needed was a teacher, someone trained to educate (who knew!) and she eventually learned to write her name in its entirety, and then the whole alphabet, and the last time I checked, she was writing Warriors fan fiction, so it all turned out okay in the end.

Which is not to say that I’ve taught my children nothing. I’ve taught them to separate eggs, how to blow their noses, to sing the words to “Livin’ On A Prayer” and just what circumstances necessitate us to rue the patriarchy. I’ve done my best to teach them to be kind and decent people, to clean up their own messes, to care for others, and to stand up on the side of justice. I’ve taught them the name of birds and flowers and trees (often learning myself in the process) and to love hammocks, sunshine, and digging deep holes on the beach.

It’s the non-academic stuff they’ve learned at school, though, that’s been more important than all of this, even the holes and hammocks, and definitely the long division. I send my kids to school, and deliberately to public school, so they learn that they’re part of a wider community made up of all kinds of people. Going to school teaches them to be punctual, accountable, responsible, respectful. They have teachers they love, and teachers they love…a little less, and they learn that grown-ups, just like their peers, are all kinds of people. They learn how to get along with groups, they learn how to get along with people they don’t get along with, they learn that sometimes you’ve got to do things you don’t want to do, and that sometimes people are disruptive, and others are needy, and others are just totally obnoxious and will never get their comeuppance ever. They learn to return their library books, and not to forget their lunch boxes, and to do required reading, and to help out when assistance is asked of them. They learn that some kids have a little, and others have a lot, and that there is always going to be someone smarter than you are, and also people for whom things like school are a little harder. They learn to be patient. They learn to wait their turn. They learn to stand up for themselves, and for others, and when to let things go, and that there are rules, but not everybody is going to follow them, and sometimes you don’t have to either. The trick is when to know the difference.

And now school is out, for the foreseeable future, and everybody is going to have their own way of filling the gap. Some parents will relish the chance to introduce at-home learning, one’s “playing school” fantasies come to life, but with actual pupils instead of teddy bears. Others will be overwhelmed by the idea of keeping their children occupied, especially while balancing full-time work and other tasks, particularly in spaces that were not designed as daycare centres/offices. Some parents will rise to the challenge. Others will cry on the floor. And here’s my two cents: it doesn’t matter. Do whatever it takes to get you (all) through.

I am not a teacher. If I were a teacher, I’d be immediately de-certified, as attested to by the time I tried to teach my kids to ride a bike by screaming expletives at them. I learned my limits back when I tried and failed to teach my daughter how to write her name, and while my recollection is foggy, I was probably swearing then too. I am not patient. I am not nice. I am not remotely trained in how learning works and skills and knowledge are delivered. Teaching is hard. This is why I am not a teacher. If we tried to replicate the school environment right now, it would go very badly. And not just because of my character flaws even, or that I have work deadlines coming up, but also because everything in our current situation is so far from school that it’s sad, and maybe Zoom lessons have their purpose (my children are doing piano lessons via Skype that are going well so far!) but I can think of a million better ways for my children to spend their time.

Going to school is an opportunity for so much learning beyond the academic, as I’ve already noted. But so too is this moment in which school and everything has been suspended. To learn about science, and public health, and geography, and sociology, and leadership (an also its absence). To think about the different ways that this virus is affecting everybody so differently, from us who are cozy in our apartment to children who are precariously housed and who might not be safe at home. To think about community, and connection, and what it means to have to isolate ourselves from the people around us. What kind of society do we want to build when all this is over? (We had a conversation the other day about how so many things that would make the virus less dangerous—wider sidewalks, say!—would make things better for everyone.) Right now is an opportunity to cook meals together, and eat them properly at the table, and bake banana bread, and draw on the sidewalk with chalk. To read that book that’s been lingering on the shelf for years. To use all the art and science kits you’ve received for birthdays through the ages, but never had the time for. For puzzles, and YouTube karaoke, and reading comics, and having your mother tell you that “Only boring people get bored.” For observing the weather, and watching crocuses sprout in front of neighbours houses, and watching snails on the garden wall. For writing Warriors fan fiction, even, or reading poetry, or starting a blog. For building blanket forts, and Lego towers, and I’d even say learning to knit, but then I’d have to teach them, and you know how that is going to go.

For spending afternoons in the bathtub in your bathing suit (this was my husband’s idea—he called it a “bathternoon”), and planting seeds in egg carton soil, and reading random entries in the encyclopedia, and making collages out of old magazines, and drawing comics on the back of scrap paper, and learning about tarsiers (which apparently are nasty), and playing UNO, and Pokemon, and drawing city blocks on kraft paper, and watching clouds, and drawing trees, and making disappointing bath bombs from a kit. For watching movies, and TV, and riding scooters in circles on concrete pads which are far too limited for such things.

For learning about courage, and resilience, and sacrifice, and gratitude. For counting blessings, and thinking about how maybe we can distribute these more widely.

We will get through this. There will be school again. But in the meantime, there will be something different, and let’s not discount the educational value in what we’re all going through. As my perpetual fave Ann Douglas wrote the other day, “If our kids emerge from this crisis (a) feeling loved and supported by their parents; and (b) mastering some all-important coping skills, the truly important learning—the life learning—will be massive.”

February 4, 2020

Discovering Emily

“Everybody loves Anne, but I like Emily. She’s dark.” —Russian Doll

It was a year ago now that I was swept along in the enthusiasm for the Netflix series Russian Doll, starring Natasha Lyonne, a strange and enigmatic show in which the novel Emily of New Moon featured as a major plot point. Which was just as weird and curious as everything about the show, and it put Emily on my radar for the first time in years. Emily, a second-tier Anne of Green Gables, I’d always supposed, the case not helped by the cover of the Seal paperback that featured prominently in my childhood, which is basically just Anne with different coloured braids.

This specific copy is stolen from the library of the school where I attended Grade 7 and 8. I am not sure exactly if I was the thief, but somehow this ended up in a box in my mom’s basement and I brought it home not long ago, because of Russian Doll.

In childhood, Emily was wasted on me. I know that I read the whole series because I’m now just one chapter away from rereading Emily of New Moon (have been reading it aloud to my family for the past couple of months) and remember parts of the story from when Emily is a bit older, which is mainly her totally gross relationship with the much-older Dean Priest. I know I read the whole series, because I was an L.M. Montgomery completist, but it mostly just left me with questions. Like what was up with Dean Priest? (Upon reread, I still don’t know the answer to this.) Where exactly was Stovepipe Town? And “the flash.” I didn’t understand “the flash.” Emily of New Moon was Anne of Green Gables, but weirder. Emily is dark—Russian Doll was right. And as a young reader, I didn’t have the understanding to appreciate that, or to appreciate the novel properly at all.

But it’s so good. The takeaway from our family read is this. The number of times I’ve come to the end of a paragraph and stopped reading, and everybody starts yelling at me, “No, no. Come on! Keep going! What happens next?” The story itself a bit overwrought and melodramatic, but not to the detriment of the reader’s enjoyment. And not without a sense of humour either—when Emily eats the poisoned apple! The ghost in the walls at Nancy Priest’s house! A cast of characters so firmly realized that when the narrative notes that Perry Miler would be the leader of Canada one day, my children asked me if this had actually transpired. And I don’t want to knock Anne, but Emily’s friends are so much more interesting that Diana. Foul-mouthed Ilse Burnley (and the mystery of her runaway mother), and Perry (who in one scene hangs naked from the kitchen ceiling), and Teddy Kent with his suffocating mother who drowns his cats because she can’t bear that he loves anything but her.

Emily is a fantastic character, up there with Harriet M. Welch as a person whose boldness and will I’d like to channel. Where Anne Shirley was desperate for love and to be liked, Emily has spent most of her childhood in the care of a doting father who gave her a remarkable inheritance, an indelible sense of herself. She knows her worth and her value, and when others don’t, she sees it more as a reflection on them than on her. Even when she arrives at New Moon, where she is an outsider (her mother years ago had run away from her family there to marry her father), she is able to draw on the traditions of her mother’s family and their heritage to further shape her own identity. She knows who she is, and where she came from, which gives her an impressively strong foundation to build her self upon.

Her steadfastness is so admirable, and curious in a child. There is an uncannyness to her character that makes even the most sensible grown-ups uncomfortable, and this tension makes for fascinating reading. And so does the action—Montgomery channels the same gothic darkness here that made her The Blue Castle so delicious, but the novel is also filled with light and the pleasures of everyday. I love the chatty and mundane letters Emily has written to her late father, which reminded me of my favourite parts of another Montgomery novel I loved, The Road to Yesterday (in fact The Golden Road! The LM Montgomery Society kindly corrected me on Twitter) in which a group of cousins put together a newspaper. And I think Aunt Elizabeth might be my favourite Montgomery character since Marilla Cuthbert.

January 27, 2020

Free. But Haunted.

Farewell to our garage-sale acquired breadbox, which has been part of our family for the last decade. And never actually had bread in it very often, but was mostly used as a storage cupboard for odds and ends, and crackers, and coffee filters. And whose most salient feature was its tendency to have its door fall open just after something had been placed on the counter in front of it—last week, I lost a Pyrex bowl of egg-whites. (The bowl, mercifully, survived.) Several wine glasses being used by visiting friends also met their demise in such a fashion, and caused considerable embarrassment for all involved. I took to taping the breadbox shut when we had people over, which worked, but it still managed to catch us unaware. A poltergeist? (Or an ineffective bolt? But that’s boring…) And then yesterday, or next-door neighbour brought us over her breadbox, which is of a similar vintage (albeit without those delightful flowers). They’ve given up gluten and just had their kitchen remodelled, so the breadbox was redundant, so they passed it on, and now ours is the redundant one. We’ve put it out on the curb, but with a warning post-it. There are have been no takers. YET.

January 23, 2020

Ten Years

I had some strange feelings about reflecting on the 2010s, mostly because I didn’t. There was a meme going around Instagram stories on New Year’s Eve in which we were supposed to list a highlight from each year, and I even tried to post it, but couldn’t figure out how to get the text to fit, which maybe means that the 2010s were the decade in which I stopped being technologically savvy.

But also, the years all blend together, and so much stayed the same. The decade before was much more filled with upheaval and revolution (they were my 20s after all) but in the 2010s were where the pieces started to fit. I stopped having babies, I began to have something like a career, I finally started publishing books, I made some wonderful new friendships, and maintained old ones. It’s been good, but the decade itself, its distinction, just seems particularly arbitrary. Like—even more than a decade should.

Or do I only think that because when the decade started, I was sitting in the very same place that I’m sitting right now?

Okay. not the exact same place. (We finally bought a new couch, remember?) But the same address, our apartment, which we moved into twelve years ago this April, the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere. I moved in as half of a young married couple, and now I’ve got two kids and I’m forty, and have been married almost 15 years. The little kids who lived next door moved out and went to university, and then moved back in again, although it didn’t do me much good when they did, because now they’re too old to babysit. But, as the middle section of To the Lighthouse, so astutely put it: Time Passes.

Imagining our own story as told from the perspective of the house as Woolf does in her novel (except with less war and death). The people coming and going, coats and jackets hung up on hooks and taken down again, early morning alarm clocks and dinners, and house guests, and holidays, and the quiet weeks where we’ve all gone away, and coming home again, an explosion of luggage, and the babies arriving, and late nights with the lights on while the world sleeps, and the babies grow, and all the books that come in and those that go back out again (returned to the library, or left on the garden walls for any takers), and the birthday parties, play dates, first day of schools, pencilled lines in the door-frame measuring from small to tall, and boots and shoes and sandals in a pile at the door, and the triumphs and disappointments, throughout anxiety and contentment, and these walls have contained it all. Even as spare rooms turned into nurseries and cribs turned into bunk-beds, and empty space turned into clutter—Lego, puzzles, and play-doh—and that ring on the carpet from where I put down a teapot and it melted. How places seem to hold us, even more than time does, and how a single place can hold so much, and so can a life.

October 31, 2019

How to Organize a Literary Event in 48 Hours

More than a month ago, I emailed my friend Nathalie and asked her if she’d attend the Toronto Public Library event with Christy Ann Conlin, Megan Gail Coles and Elisabeth de Mariaffi, and she replied with an enthusiastic YES, as you would, with a lineup like that. But then the event was cancelled after the Toronto Library was called on to cancel its provision of space to a speaker whose hate-speech about trans people is just one of the many awful things about her, and they refused. And so many authors and artists have cancelled their Toronto Library event in solidarity with the trans community, which is important and the right thing to do—but it also means that Christy Ann Conlin was coming to Toronto all the way from Nova Scotia for her very first reading in the city, and she had no event booked. So what to do?

I hadn’t properly understood the situation until Monday, or else I would have stepped up sooner, but once I’d figured it out, it wasn’t long before I had my inspiration. Right in the middle of dinner, in fact. “What would you think” I asked my husband, “about us having twenty people over for a literary event in our living room?” And my husband was so excited about me having a wild inspiration for which he would not be obligated to build a website that he agreed without hesitation. And so I sent an email to Christy Ann in Nova Scotia, and once she said she was in, there was just one more email to set the wheels in motion.

I had to email Nathalie and ask if she would be up for some custom mixology—and she agreed. Thank heavens, because everybody knows you can’t have a party without an official cocktail… (Nathalie invented three different cocktails, all with Nova Scotia spirits: “Minas Basin,” “It All Went Pear-Shaped,” and “Juniper and Apple Shrub.”)

And next, we needed people to fill my living room in 48 hours notice, but they came, a wonderful collection of generous, book loving people who were happy to welcome Christy Ann to Toronto. They filled my home with the most wonderful bookish spirit (and all got to take home custom Watermark soap from Hen of the Woods—what a treat!).

It was wonderful! Friends and neighbours came, a literary community of amazing readers and writers, including Christy Ann fans who I got to meet for the first time, plus a very exciting guest—Amy Spurway, of Crow fame, who was in town for the author’s festival. We ate food, sipped delicious drinks, made great conversation, listened to Christy Ann read from Watermark, and I got to ask her questions about her career and her book, and she was just so kind, and gracious and terrific. Throughly entertaining and delightful, and we were all so lucky to be part of it together, but me most of all, because I got to experience it without leaving the house.

September 17, 2019

Waffles, Waffles, Waffles

A baking pan heaped with waffles. Photograph.

One of the things I am most proud of and amazed at having accomplished in my life is a Baby Book for my second-born child. I was never going to be a perfect mother, and being a second child definitely would inevitably suck in all kinds of ways (secondhand snowsuits, no one appreciating the miraculousness of things like you knowing how to roll over, and basically not being bathed for two years) but at least she was going to have a Baby Book, a record of those precious blurry days. Though it was less of a burden for me to assemble than it might have been for other mothers of two—her elder sister was all the way to four by then, and I also spent the first three months of her life on co-parenting duty instead of struggling alone because my husband had taken parental leave, which meant time for naps, and books, and writing down all the things that we’d never remember.

When Iris was two, I added a whole page of notes to the Baby Book, though she was not a baby anymore. But it seemed like there were more things worth remembering then, once she was able to speak, and her remarkable personality had formed. “Things Iris Says,” was how I’d titled this page, along with the date, and I turned to this page just the other day when Iris had brought her Baby Book down from the shelf (and how glad I am that she has a Baby Book, that I bothered to put the effort in. Both my children are so fascinated with their baby selves, and will look at all records of their early periods in a way that’s inexhaustible).

“Things Iris Says,” I read aloud, excited to see what forgotten treasures might emerge from this time capsule, but then. Oh. Almost everything that Iris said when she was two had basically found its way into our family vernacular, and it’s how we all talk all the time now. (Perhaps when I say “we all,” I just mean me.) “Atcheam,” for ice-cream, and “fuff-eye” instead of “butterfly.” And “ra-see-see-wah” for rice krispie square. But then Iris is a little bit like this, in our family as well as in her own peer group. Totally weird, completely absurd, and at first, we’re like, “What are you doing?” And then it doesn’t take long before we’re doing it too.

But really, I want to talk about Teen Titans and waffles. Not that I have actually ever watched Teen Titans Go, but it’s Iris’s favourite show, and somehow without me ever having actually watched it, it’s seeped into my DNA, and I think it’s also the inspiration behind what became our family’s new year’s resolution for 2019, which was Get a Waffle Maker. Part of our pattern of Keep the Stakes Low to Avoid Disappointment. If you package up all your dreaming in the hopes of picking up a secondhand waffle maker from Value Village for $6, things are probably going to work out fine.

Get a Waffle Maker became our family dream because there is a song from Teen Titans Go about waffles—like most things about Teen Titans Go, it’s catchy and also extremely annoying. I am also very impressionable, particularly when it comes to glutinous goods, and so eventually, I had waffles on the brain, perpetually. We got our waffle maker sometime in January, which means our annual goal was achieved, and as a family we could just sit back and relax and be delighted by having accomplished what we set out to do. And make waffles every Sunday.

The waffle maker has been a game changer. I used to make pancakes every Sunday, and they were good, but lots of work, and also results would vary. But now the waffle maker does all the work for me, in way less time, and all I need to do is pour the batter in and then read the newspaper and drink my tea while waiting for the light to turn green—so simple. I am partial to Smitten Kitchen’s Buttermilk Waffle recipe. I am also partial to adding poppyseeds and millet to everything. Waffles, waffles, waffles, indeed. I love them, their taste, and neat geometry, and how leftovers could be turned into cream cheese jam sandwiches for tomorrow’s lunches, and all the places where our children’s preoccupations take us.

Even if just to the appliance section at the secondhand store. Hooray for being goal-oriented.

August 19, 2019

I Found an Egg Beater

Of all the machines in a kitchen, the egg beater has always been my favourite, and while the electric version has its advantages (the beaters detach for optimum licking), it’s the manual (or “rotary”, like a phone dial, both rotating around an axis) that has long been an object of my fascination, even though I’d be wary of getting my tongue stuck in a thing like that. Probably I wasn’t, however, when I was a child.

But my children have never seen an egg beater, which a) explains some of the trouble they’ve had in swimming lessons and b) was confirmed to me when Iris and I were reading a book in which an egg beater featured, and Iris only shrugged. I’d had an electric egg beater once upon a time, but I got rid of it when I got my first stand mixer over ten years ago, and back then the children were not yet in existence.

And then we were at Value Village on Saturday, exploring kitchenware, which is one of my favourite things to do. And it had occurred to me that I like exploring kitchenware at Value Village just as much when I don’t discover any treasure as I do when the search yields a new Pyrex bowl or midcentury crockery (I am mad for midcentury crockery) because when I don’t find anything, it means I don’t have go about locating a place to put it in my very crowded kitchen.

But I found an egg beater, in fact there were two—in additional to so many cocktail utensil sets. There are too many cocktail utensil sets in the world, and also George Forman grills, but we’re not yet overrun with rotary egg beaters, so I chose the one that wasn’t rusty, even if there were pieces missing from the plastic handles on the other. (Why corrupt such a wonderful object with plastic anyway?)

Iris was overjoyed to recognize the object, and then everybody started fighting over who gets to turn the handle and make the wheel turn, and we hadn’t even paid for it at this point. But it is so satisfying, the whir of the blades, the smoothness of the motion, the perpetualness of it. How I use my own energy to turn the handle, which makes the big wheel spin, whose grooves connect with the two little gears atop the beaters, and what genius thought of such a perfect machine? (Willis Johnson, according to the BBC, in 1884.)

“It’s an amazing thing,” I told my kids. “It doesn’t use any energy, and you can even make a cake when the power’s gone out.”

And then Iris came up to me hours later, as though she’d been thinking about this throwaway comment. “How do you see when you’re baking in the dark?” she asked me. “When the lights are out.”

But how do we even turn the oven on at that point? (We have a gas oven. Perhaps it might work?) I imagine us making a soufflé by candlelight.

In 48 hours, we’ve used the egg beater twice, to whip egg-whites for the Sunday waffles, and Iris got to do that because Harriet was playing Nintendo. And then yesterday evening I was making muffins for the week’s lunches, and Harriet wanted a turn, and then the two of them started fighting because Harriet was going too fast and all the eggs were getting beaten, and it really is such a clever little gadget, no matter that it’s disrupted family harmony.

Better than a fidget spinner—I could run that thing all day.

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Photo Kerry Clare with her Laptop

My Books

The Doors
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