The Slice of Life’s Knife

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.)

28 thoughts on “The Slice of Life’s Knife

  1. Oh, crap! You got me. My post today was about my daughters being away for a week at camp and the separation anxiety I have. I don't even want to contemplate your scenario!

    Here's hoping your drive is a glorious testament to your relationship with your daughter – full of laughter and love and adventure. Keep us posted on how things go so I know what to look forward to (or deny with all of my might!).

    • Kario – many thanks. It should be a wonderful drive, if anything the desert terrain is serene. I promise you will be fine when your time comes, you'll only stutter as I am.

  2. Oh GAWD, Brenda, did you have to make me cry so early in the morning? My oldest is only 15, we still have a few years left for him to be at home. But it is going fast and I am already sad thinking about it. I guess it's another one of life's transitions that we get through. We are happy and proud of them as they grow up, and we know we have to let go, but having them NOT in our daily life? Too hard to think about. Hugs to you as you go through this.

    • MAR – Sorry! I did shed a gallon of tears while I was writing… What the heck is wrong with me? YES!! This is a wonderful transition. Sorry to be so.. emotional!

  3. Few things as scary as our babies being out there in the big bad world, getting scrapes and scabs on the knees of their hearts (sounds weird, but it's in some old gospel song, not original to me) and learning about life the hard way. Without us to kiss it and make it better, or being able to keep them safe.

    But, would we want to keep 'em home, wrapped in bubble wrap? (Living in our basements at age 35.) Hell no!

    • Bev – I know you're right.. truly I do. I want her to go and do all those crazy things I did, to find her own way, but that doesn't mean it's going to be easy. I've never been one of those mom's that lived my life through my kids ( I am not a role model), rather I pushed and drug my kids through life showing, telling, lecturing, and donning the role of dictator as needed. Now, the anti-mom is quivering and buying extra boxes of tissues. What gives?

  4. "The baby" is leaving for college in a few days and I am going through the same set of emotions. I have three who will now be launched on their own paths. It's pretty wild to think that the day has arrived. Just to let you know…I'm there with you…memorizing voices and making all her favorite meals.

    • Annie, honestly it's tougher than I thought it would be. Why I thought I would sail through this experience without a scratch is beyond my delusional self. It must be harder for you since this is the last one. It's a good thing for them to sprout wings and fly, but it always harder on those left behind than the ones doing the leaving.

  5. Val

    Ok well, I related to this post so much that I almost started crying. I have 3 grown people that left me and one more left. It's bittersweet. Thanks for sharing.

  6. You need no witty question today Brenda. I was there in the kitchen with you and felt all choked up right alongside you. But when you mentioned packing up the rented truck and driving twelve hundred miles to New Mexico, my heart wept with you.

    When my babygirl starts packing her stuff, I’ll know where to turn. And then you can cry alongside me. Because you’ll know.

  7. Be there, sweet Mama Brenda. Don't rush yourself. Let it wash all over you, feeling it as deeply and as much as you can. Its the stuff rich lives are made of, a beauty mark on your road of life. I wish you were here so we could talk about the deeper things going on inside you…your own wings sprouting back when you were her age, your own mother and your separation from her…

    You arent alone, my friend. I'm holding your hand and hugging your heart. Promise.

    • Brynne – no choice at this point but to give into the moment and go with the flow. I suspect I have a few more tears to let loose, but after… after… there will be acceptance and only happiness and joy for her as she makes the leap into hyper space.

  8. Janelle

    And once again you are right on with life. Who knew that of all the hard things we have gone through with our girls, that this would hurt so much and it is a good thing that is happening.

    You are better at words than I am.

  9. What to say? Know that she is probably nervous too. Whether or not she admits it, she still wants and needs you. Enjoy these last days; it's just another beginning.

    I often refer to my kids' time away at camp as my ENST – empty nest syndrome training… I know it won't help though, when my time comes. Thinking of you….

    • Astra – I do recall your posts on 'practice empty nest summer camp dry runs'. I never sent my kids to summer camp, should have, but too late now. I am mostly fine but there are the random moments when the thought her being far away knocks me on my butt. Nothing to be done but live through the moment.

  10. — How beautifully the cooking, slicing, & onion flowed into this post, Brenda.

    Peeling back the years.

    And what you have left is Famliy. God. Love.

    Let her fly! And even when she returns to you with a nose ring and tattoos; you will ALWAYS be her Hero. x xx

  11. June O'Hara

    Brenda, Not having kids, I can't say that I know how you feel. I can say that you describe it beautifully, making it possible for me to imagine. Which, when it comes to kids, doesn't happen that often. I'm sorry you're having to go through this. You're in my thoughts.

    • Thanks Kindly, June. It's part of the job, this letting go, so no worries. The write and the emotions are fleeting. I sat down to write a poem, but instead I wrote this… happens

  12. OMG Brenda, you've left me crying! This is so heartfelt and I dread that day in the future. Thank you for always reminding me to cherish the days/times I have with Sophie now as she is young and grows.

    • Leah – when I look at your Sophie I can't help but think of my girl when she was that young.. Enjoy her now as you do.. I swear I remember bringing Caitlin home from the hospital like it was only yesterday. Time simply sails on by..

  13. Thank you for writing this. I am all too aware of the moments counting down. The trick is how to enjoy them and rejoice in each new step in our child's lives without falling to pieces in front of them!

    • Mamawolfe – I love you handle. You are most welcome and absolutely spot on.. Be tough on the outside. My kids normally see through me, most of the time.

  14. I wonder if it's more emotional for a daughter leaving home than a girl. I didn't get that way over my son leaving. Of course, he's back. now.

    But look at it this way. There are so many other things you could get teared up about over your child, and not happy tears either, you know.

    You've given her the wings to fly. So, let her. :-)

    • Tosh – I can't say if it's a girl or boy thing. My son is much younger and home for a while longer. I am close to him as well, but ours is a different relationship. I am close to my girl, which explains my loss of breathe and teary moments. We'll both be fine. You'll have to pardon me bleeding all over my blog.

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