I am at my mother’s condo, staying with her for the foreseeable as she recovers from her second hip replacement. And, since these are early days and Mama is kind of loopy on pain meds, I am responsible for pretty much everything, from helping her in and out of bed and fetching her hearing aid to adding ice to her occasional bourbon.
“Good morning!” I chirp. “What sounds good for breakfast?”
Slowly, Mama disengages herself from her walker and lowers into Her Chair. Then, with a grunt of satisfaction, she picks up the remote, does a bit of channel surfing and, just like she always does, stops at QVC.
“Oh, I don’t know,” she sighs as some chick oohs and ahhs over what has to be the ghastliest collection of clothing ever inflicted upon the female form. “Some coffee, I guess.”
“You need more than coffee, Mom,” I say. “You’re having PT this afternoon. You need your strength.”
“I need my strength to keep from upchucking over these ugly clothes is what I need,” Mama retorts.
I smile to myself. It has been a long road, but Mama is coming back.
“How about the Today show then?” I ask her. “I can pretty much guarantee you’re not going to find leopard prints, stripes, zigzags and sequins competing for space on one human body there.”
Mama doesn’t hear me. Or she pretends not to—one of the advantages of bringing up the rear in a hearing contest with 99.9% of the rest of the population. “Nothing sounds good,” she says querulously.
Is she talking about the clothes or breakfast? “What’s that, Mom?”
She swallows her Tramadol. “A piece of toast maybe.”
“I bought those bagels you like. How about one of them, slathered feet deep in cream cheese?” I make smacking yum yum noises.
She throws me a disgusted look, as if to say, I’m not senile, you idiot. She also looks hungry, however – something she hasn’t looked since her surgery. Am I a crafty daughter or what? If there is one thing Mama loves more than shaking her head over me—the larger her audience, the better—it is bagels.
So I whip up a toasted bagel and cream cheese…and, as I leave Mama munching in front of the television and head back to spiff up the kitchen, it occurs to me that she could use more protein.
I open the frig door and scan the terrain…And that’s when I see it, basking in a bowl like baby Jesus in His crib, in a halo of refrigerator light. A pristine, white, perfectly oval, hardboiled egg.
The egg is cold, though. Which means that, no matter how prettily I slice, salt, pepper and arrange it, Mama is not about to pick up a fork. In the Gospel According to Mama, certain foods are ordained by the Almighty to be served HOT. These include coffee, oatmeal, and meat-meat (as opposed to lunch meat). But eggs—unless tuna or potato salads are involved—are at the top of the list as well.
So I set the egg in the microwave, punch a few buttons to fast forward the warming up process, and start emptying the dishwasher.
I am head deep in a cabinet, struggling to bring order to a mishmash of colanders, baking dishes, bowls, skillets, pots, lids and an electric can opener when I hear the explosion. Followed by another and then another, like popcorn popping except there is no nice popcorn smell.
It smells like the roads in my old neighborhood when the septic tanks back up.
“Oh my God, the egg!” Frantically I leap up and pound the cancel button.
“What?” calls Mama.
“Nothing!” I sing out.
Miraculously Mama lets the matter go. I open the microwave door…
The carnage is even worse than it sounded. That beautiful egg—the poor, sweet innocent creation of God and a hen—has exploded into pieces. Egg guts are everywhere. On the walls, on the floor, on the ceiling.
I reach into the chamber of death and, with tweezers-fingers, bring forth a limb of egg white. It is cardboard stiff, rubbery as something by Goodyear.
How could this happen?
How could I manage to MURDER A HARDBOILED EGG in just 20 seconds?
Answer: I couldn’t.
However, in 20 minutes I could. Somehow I had hit two zeros too many.
“Mistakes are the portals of discovery,” James Joyce reassures us.
So, please, discover this from my mistake. Hardboiled eggs and microwaves do not mix. Not if you’re not paying attention. Indeed, paying attention is key. And, not just because it keeps our kitchens smelling sweet.
Paying attention—particularly when we look INWARD, no matter what is going on OUT THERE—is the best brillo pad ever. Of course, it may take more toil, tears and time than we’d like, but paying attention will spiff up our poor, worn, tarnished, grubby-under-the-fingernails souls till they twinkle. It is also the only foolproof way to discover our “true” selves…as opposed to our petty, whining, miserable, angry, defensive, addicted “false” selves. Mystics call this “living in the moment,” “awareness,” or “wakefulness.”
Since I am nothing if not a clean freak, I decided—post egg-ageddon—to wake up. I had a couple hours of errands for Mama ahead of me and, frankly, I was feeling kind of done, like a 3-day old baguette. All I wanted was to find a warm beach, park myself beneath a palm tree, and watch the waves—not exactly an achievable goal in March in Missouri, or any time in Missouri for that matter. A string was hanging loose from my scarf. I yanked at it to snap it off and about a mile of yarn unraveled.
“Typical!” I muttered as I double checked my to do list.
Briefly I considered chucking it all and hitting a mall. But then I remembered that my mission today was to PAY ATTENTION. And somehow PAYING ATTENTION in the aisles of Nordstrom or Neiman’s didn’t seem all that hot an idea. Me being me, a shopaholic to rival my mother or any Kardashian (had I their budget), I kind of doubted things would work out as they were intended to. Not unless you could count the transcendent rush of snagging the cutest pair of shoes as wakefulness.
Far better to make my virgin foray into PAYING ATTENTION in the car. Now, THAT would be a win/win for all involved. My soul would benefit…and so would the rest of the (driving) world, to say nothing of my insurance premiums. No more replaying conversations, no more pummeling away at a line of poetry that wouldn’t come, no more sneaking a peek at a text about tonight’s meeting: THIS TIME and forevermore, I would be at one with the car. The car’s headlights would become my eyes.
It is amazing to be a car.
When you are a car, you see far more than the road.
For instance, have you ever really LOOKED at the winter trees as you drive past them? Have you seen how they are sculptures as breathtaking as any David, especially against a late afternoon sky? Or the snow as it falls—have you watched how it dances ahead of you, as if it were leading the way, like the White Rabbit down a magic hole, to a wonderland of impossible things made suddenly possible WITHIN YOU?
Have you discovered that a drive is a pilgrimage? And that each traffic light—bedecked in a tiara of shimmering reds, greens and yellows—is a shrine?
Have you heard Mozart or the Stones or Rihanna as a flock of geese arc across a stanza of sky? Have you found yourself suddenly flying with them, even as you watch the road?
Note to self: I must remember to continue this LOOKING thing when I return home to LA. No, BEFORE I return, while making the trek through Security. Oh, to take wing before my flight does and see the gorgeousness in the blank face of a TSA agent.
To see my connectedness to everything, to everyone, even that guy over there who is chewing with his mouth full.
Of course while it butchers eggs, high doses of electromagnetic waves CAN be a good thing.
Witness the time I was just about to jump in the shower for a night out with friends when I made the mistake of checking my email.
SOS!, a client wrote. Can you help me? I forgot that I need to give a speech tomorrow. Please please please pretty please? See attached.
What I wanted was to un-attach my client’s head from her body.
Instead I checked the clock on my computer. I had exactly one hour, max, to devote to this thing.
Okay, I typed back. Will do. But don’t make a habit of this.
Lesson learned: writers block is a bully. It limps away, head bowed, eyes and nose streaming, knees knocking, when FINALLY you call its wimpy-ass bluff because you just don’t have the time to fuck around with it.
Yet while turning up the heat can spur us on to Olympian feats we had no clue our flabby muscles were capable of accomplishing, it is important to note that WC Fields was no dumb old fat fart either.
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” WC exhorts us. “Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.”
In other words, take care not to embrace your inner lobster. Do not be so stubborn (or stupid) that you insist on treading water in the scalding section at the deep end of the pool of life until, suddenly, oops, it’s too late. Bring on the melted butter and bib.
Climb the heck out over the rim, okay? Then run as fast as your sodden, water-pickled limbs will allow. And, for goodness sake, don’t look back. That’s the good thing about opportunities: new ones sprout like wildflowers along a country road. You just have to pay attention.
Which brings us back to where we began.
There is no fool like an old fool. Remember how Mama’s egg exploded this morning? Well, ditto tonight, albeit this time it was the pasta. The pot boiled over and the fusilli passed al dente a supereon ago. Yes, once again, I got distracted.
I also got some great photos of the sunset out the window. But, oh, you should see the mess on the stove. It’s not a massacre this time—the pasta’s not in bits on the ceiling—but the pasta-water may well be. It’s splashed everywhere, and there’s stuff goopy and clingy as Virginia Creeper on the burner.
But who cares? If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.
Copyright © 2014 “The Morning the Egg Exploded” by Jenine Baines
To find more of Jenine’s poems, writings, and musings, please visit MichaelWhoKnew.com.