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Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A Piece of Cake, A Piece of Mind

My grandmother throws her hands in the air. Her skin is sunburnt, her finger joints knobbly from arthritis. "No," she yells at my mother, "I can't think of anything." Her dentures slip a little off her gums. She bites down. "I can't think of anything," she goes on, "that you or your brother ever did right all your lives."

We're sitting at the dining table eating Dobos torte and drinking coffee. I baked the Dobos torte, my mother's favorite dessert. I'm trying to be a good daughter. I'm not a good daughter in what really matters: I write instead of holding a steady, paying job and raising 2.6 children. So I do little things to compensate, like baking elaborate cakes. "She could be a pastry chef," my mother says, grinning at me. An exaggeration, but she has to compensate too for her disappointment in me. I'm not leading the life that she and my father have dreamed that I would have. This breaks my heart. And it also makes me angry. I don't want to carry this burden. I wish my parents said something to me that would make the burden fall off my shoulders. I blame them for not saying it. I blame them for feeling disappointed.

It doesn't occur to me, until my grandmother picks up her fork again to finish her slice of Dobos torte, her face flushed, her eyeglasses sliding down the sweaty bridge of her nose, that my mother is also a daughter. That she lives with the same burden, the same guilt, that I do.

I can't look at my mother and I can't eat any more. I say, to distract myself, "Grandma, why don't you give me your recipe for doughnuts?" She looks up briskly. She waits until I take my pen and notebook out of my purse. A kilo of flour, she begins, but you have to take out a couple of fistfuls. I scribble quantities and rising times in crooked lines on the blank notebook page. My hand shakes; I make mistakes; I scratch them out messily.

My mother cuts herself another slice of cake.

4 Comments:

Blogger madness rivera said...

Why don't you read this stuff in class? Very poignant and important.

Your posts are not just mindless scribble. They come out very polished and they are better than most everything that has been read aloud so far. You need to share more, and not be scared of your own talent. The encouragement you'll receive -from Lisa and other veterans -- will help squash some guilt you feel about being creative.

December 09, 2005  
Blogger Green Whale said...

What you said means so much to me. I can't tell you how much. "Guilt about being creative" -- I don't know that anyone has quite hit the bull's eye as you just did. Would you read for me in class? Maybe the Flannery piece?

December 09, 2005  
Blogger madness rivera said...

Absolutely. But I also think your accent is lovely and perfect for reading this story.

This class is at a junior college with no one you know. It is perfect practice, C. It will be a step in liberating your creativity. I think you should try, but if you absolutely can't, I will read it for you.

December 12, 2005  
Blogger Rebel Girl said...

What madness said.

I'd read for you too.

You have good instincts about scene, character. Really. Trust yourself.

December 16, 2005  

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