I pull the butcher knife from the drawer. The cutting board is worn and only a showpiece now, the plastic washable hygienic mat–the modern replacement–is no stranger to the Henckel. Tonight I am making Shaq burgers*.
I discovered this recipe last year during our summer holiday in Puerto Rico . It was humid as it was hot and we sometimes chilled after hours in the ocean in the overly air-conditioned room to regenerate before going back out for more. It was one of those lazy afternoons that we watched Shaq go up against Rachel Ray in a hamburger throw-down. Since, I have added his recipe to my nightly repertoire of dinner meals. It’s a family favorite now. She asked. I cannot tell her no, I never could. Even when I had to, it was harder for me to say it than it was for her to hear it.
“So what is left to buy? Sunday is really the last day we have to shop, after that we’ll have to pick up whatever else we need when we get to Santa Fe.” I peel the skin off the Bermuda red onion while she unfolds the piece of paper she has stored in her purse.
“Mommy, we have to get……”
She goes through her list. I don’t really hear the details rather I am making a mental mix tape of all her voices. I have made a point of mentally recording all her voices. The too happy she can’t breathe voice, the practical, come on Mommy pay attention to me voice, the teary voice that comes out unexpectedly, the grizzly bear voice that mauls on touch, even the I am bitch stay out of my way voice, the laugh, the love, the oh, can I have or go hear voice. I know them all. She’s my girl and has sat across the counter every night for as long as I can remember watching me slice, dice, sauté, and create my own little gourmet dinners. It’s an hour of my day that I always took for granted until we started counting them down. I have six left.
I can hardly breathe these days. In a matter of days, she is leaving home for college. Will this be the last time I cook burgers and we talk as we are talking now? Will she come home at Christmas, tattooed, pierced, and too busy to tell me about her day, what is on her mind, or will she fly away and travel the world before she remembers home is where the heart is? The truth is I just don’t know.
“Marie told me about a water purifier that she bought at Target. She says I might want to get one. It’s not on my list, but I think that’s a good idea. What do you think?” She asks.
I turn away pretending to flip the burgers because I don’t want her to see the tears tipping over. Before I can answer, I swallow my panic and breathe back the loss that hits me in waves. “Good idea.” Is all I can manage. I remind myself for the gazillionth time that there was mention of this growing up and leaving home stuff in the fine print of the mom contract. I’d argue with time about the speed in which it has sailed by but it’s too late now because in less than a week we are packing up the rented truck and driving twelve hundred miles to New Mexico.
Composed, I turn back to the bar and resume slicing the Bermuda.
I have no witty question to ask today as I am more reflective than inquisitive. Thank you kindly for reading.
(I don’t measure or follow recipes and have since made his recipe my own. Here's the link to Shaq’s burgers.)