Helper

How does it come to this? It’s a half hour before we have to be at Sam and Daniele’s house, and I haven’t made the salad, and I don’t have the cheese.

Emma and I made it home in plenty of time: we would do her reading assignment and her narration; she would put away her clean clothes and straighten her room, and I’d do the same in mine; I would make the salad; and then we’d be off: one stop (to pick up the cheese) and then we’d be meeting Bill and the boys at Sam and Daniele’s at 6:15. No problem.

But what is it about the day– any day, this day– that makes me want to stand still (oh, for just a minute) when I walk in the door at the close of the day? Why pursue stillness? Why silence, when there is So Much Work to be done?

In the end, we had only fifteen minutes for homework, and these would go to the narration. She sits on the floor beside me and answers the questions, delighted to watch her words– dictated by her mouth, typed by my fingers– fill up the white screen. And then– ah! Ten minutes to make the salad.

I’m at the counter. The lettuce is draining in the collander (I had this much foresight when I came in the door). I’m calculating the steps in my head while I start zesting the lime.

“Mom, can I help?” She is at my elbow. “I can help you, Mom.”

There is no time for this. I know what her “help” looks like: spills, tastings, reaching around and over, extra steps and explanations and would you look at the time!

She draws up a stool and stands on it; her head reaches my shoulder.

“Can I do that, Mom?” I am balancing the grater on the top of the measuring cup. I am fighting off the exasperation. “Can I do that?”

Suddenly I lose my grip; the measuring cup shoots sideways and the grater hits the counter. Lime zest splatters the rug in front of the kitchen sink.

“I’m sorry that happened to you, Mom,” and “Can I squeeze the other half of the lime?”

Really, can’t I do it faster myself? But I surrender the lime’s second half to her squeezing and proceed to chop the apples. Easier to give in to this one, sometimes, than to assert (and assert) my opinion.

The lime is drained of its juice; I’m measuring vinegar; she wants to add the olive oil. “Whisk,” I say. She whisks.

Now the bowl holds the apples and the dressing is completely emulsified. We should leave the house in five minutes.

“What can I do now, Mom? Now what can I do?”

I send her rummaging in the fridge and, without more than four words from me, she procures cucumber and avocado; she has to ask only once about the feta.

“You can peel the cucumber.”

She’s delighted and stands at the sink peeling, complaining happily to me about how cold her hands are, because the cucumber is Just So Cold. Meanwhile, the avocado is sliced. It’s cold, too, I tell her. And we’re pleased to be standing side by side with such cold hands. And now she’s chopped the cucumber. We’re moving along Just Fine.

She draws her stool closer and tilts the cutting board toward the bowl. The salad is all creamy greens and yellows. I shred the lettuce and slice the feta, and Emma pours her dressing over the top.

Beautiful.

I get the plastic wrap out, but she wants to put it on, and she’s very chatty because she’s so happy because she helped to make the salad. “Isn’t it neat how this sticks on?” she says of the plastic wrap. “It’s a good thing that it sticks on,” she says.

And I agree with her. It is a good thing that it sticks on. Because now the salad is sealed in tight, and the soup is warm in the pot, and we’ve got them both, and we’re heading out the door.

We’ll be there Right On Time.

And Bill reminds me, just now, by phone, that he is picking up the cheese.

Sarah Foster’s Apple and Avocado Salad with Fresh Mint and Lime:

grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 T white wine vinegar
1/2 C extra-virgin olive oil
1 T chopped fresh mint leaves
1 tart apple (such as Granny Smith or Pippin), peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, seeded, and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 C watercress, washed and trimmed of tough stems
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 oz feta, thinly sliced

1. stir the lime zest and juice and vinegar together in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until all is incorporated. Stir in the mint.

2. In a separate, medium bowl, combine the apple, avocado, cucumber and watercress. Drizzle with the vinaigrette, season with salt and pepper, and toss gently. Arrange the salad on a platter or individual plates, top with the feta slices, and serve immediately.

(note: I had no mint leaves this evening, neither did I have watercress. But I find that leaf lettuce works beautifully, and that the dressing tastes great without the mint. I don’t think Sarah Foster would mind….)

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4 thoughts on “Helper

  1. Oh, I wish you hadn’t missed out on your stillness to rush to my craziness! When I was in fact enjoying utter stillness (read here: drool-ness, even) on my new chaise even as you were prevented from enjoying the stillness you so craved.Thanks for sacrificing your stillness for us, my friend, again.(It’s an oh-so-nice chaise, though, isn’t it? Like your couch will be soon).

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  2. No, it was Much Better this way. Better to hang out with you guys, better to try your chaise, better to discover the Very Great Helpfulness that is Emma.We had a great time.

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