Last Thursday, I woke to ants swarming the dog bowl and marching triumphantly along my kitchen counters, down the wall and across the hall into the family room. One can of Raid (I know it’s toxic; don’t judge), endless expletives and a marathon cleaning session later, they were mostly dead and disposed of. They reappeared Friday when one of my kids left their lunchbox on the floor of the entryway. More swarming and spraying and cleaning. That afternoon when I watered our drought-abused flowers, I discovered them in droves on the deck. I strode purposefully back into the house and called Bill, the pest exterminator guy.
“It’s the heat,” said Bill. “Drives them indoors.” It had been in the 90s almost all week. The heat drove everyone indoors. After three hours with nary an ant sighting, I relaxed a little. Josh fixed us gin and tonics. We sat down for a fight-free dinner, a rarity for my three girls on a Friday night. Unfortunately the calm didn’t last long.
A few hours later, the dog came bounding in the house trailing that distinctive tangy odor behind her: skunk. While I’m yelling “Who let the dog out?!” and Ella and Ruby are chasing down the dog, she decided to jump on our bed and roll all over it. We stripped the bed and washed everything. Even the petite decorative pillow that my husband feels is entirely unnecessary and I feel truly “makes” the bed. The next morning Josh left early for a business trip and I schlepped the girls to Ella’s soccer game. We came home to a leak under the kitchen sink and yep, you guessed it, more ants.
I want to tell you that I threw up my hands in mock exasperation and laughed instead of cried. I want to tell you that I light-heartedly emptied my ant-ridden shelves, throwing away just about everything edible. I want to tell you that I found some sort of salvation in the spraying and cleaning and wiping up, that I experienced an epiphany, maybe not of epic proportions, but a sliver of something meaningful.
I did not.
This is where I am in my life: the day to day punctuated by a series of domestic crisis that pale in comparison to say those of the refugees stranded in eastern Europe, but weigh me down nevertheless. There is high school to think about for Ella, which dovetails into the possibility of a move. There’s the preschool parent volunteer form I haven’t filled out because I don’t really want to volunteer for anything anymore. There’s the meeting I need to set up with Ruby’s teacher to talk about challenging her more in math. There’s our mid-life health and all the ways Josh and I need to take care of ourselves and one another. Then, of course, there’s the grocery shopping, the carpooling, the murdering and mopping up of ants, the sanitizing of skunky sheets. These are the tasks at hand.
Seeking refuge, I turned my attention to a task decidedly not at hand: baking a plum tart. For whatever reason, in the middle of my first-world apocalypse, baking made sense. Stirring the flour with the salt and sugar, then the oil, a soft, supple dough emerged. With the palm of my hand, I pressed it into the glass dish that made due as a tart pan, pinching it around the rim, leaving a trail of fingerprints behind. I sliced the plums in half and arranged them in pleasing concentric circles, sprinkled them with a buttery crumble and slid it all into the oven.
Baking that tart reminded me of the world outside of my four walls. The recipe belongs to Emily, one of the wonderful writers I met in person this summer. The tart reminded me of friendships, both new and old, that are always just right there. It reminded me of writing and knowing I will have something to say again soon or maybe not so soon, and that’s okay too. It reminded me that I like to bake – not cook, but bake – even in the stifling heat. I like seeing the soft rise of a cake through the oven window, the smell of bubbling, buttery crust and sizzling fruit. I love biting into the sweet or savory of what I’ve made and watching my family do the same.
Perhaps this is how to be happy: in tiny slices. I am not in love with the mundaneness of my life at the moment, but this is where I am. Inhaling, exhaling, filling out the forms, making the necessary appointments, setting out the ant traps. There are so many super powers I’d like to have, but right now, the ones I need most are the grace to stay present in the everydayness, the fortitude to make my way through the dips and turns, ants be damned, and the wisdom to always know when it’s time for a plum tart.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post riffing off the sentence “If I could have any superpower, I would want to be able to…”