The dough crumbled under the rolling pin, pulling and tearing, sticky and disappointing. She picked up the pieces in her hand, hung her head, and threw the dough onto the counter, heaving a puff of flour into the air around her face.
“How can I possibly be this useless?” she thought aloud, to no one and to everyone.
The clock read 3:38 and their guests were due to arrive by five. Uncooperative pie crust meant they’d go without dessert and a meal without dessert was a meal not worth eating. Losing to uncooked dessert was proving to be a long, painful death. If she couldn’t handle a little pastry, what was she good for? That question in it’s entirety sounded as ridiculous to her as it would anyone else, had it been spoken out loud, but the truth behind it was crushing. Of all her talents, which were few and far between, she listed baking as one of them. As infrequent as it occurred, she loved to create loaves and cookies and squares for her family. A little spot of joy to have with a cup of tea or after dinner. But this dough was winning. She’d never worked with pastry dough before and it was defeating her and that defeat was pulling her down. This belligerent wad of flour and butter was getting the best of her, filling her with a disproportionate amount of rage.
She walked away from the kitchen and from the moment with her jaw set tight and her hands balled into fists. Sitting on the stairs, she took her head into her hands and rubbed her eyes. With a sigh, she invited the tears. She could see out the door to the garden. Flowers wilting from drought and neglect, bushes laced with cobwebs, a weeping mulbury sick from disease. Her thumb was anything but green, but it was the lack of motivation and intense apathy that was slowly killing the landscape. All the women she knew were gifted gardeners. Their lawns were impeccably weed-free, flowerbeds beautiful and perfect. They had a talent and a passion she will never know.
She looked down at her t-shirt and old jeans. Her uniform. She didn’t dress like the women on television and in magazines, how a woman was supposed to dress – she didn’t own a single skirt and her heels were loathed and dusty. She dressed for comfort. She dressed like a man. When she didn’t, when she allowed herself to be pretty, she felt open and vulnerable. Weak. Objectified. She didn’t allow herself to feel that way.
In so many ways, she continually failed as a mother, as a wife, and as a woman. She lived up to no one’s expectations and disappointed so many, most of all herself.
The clock screamed 3:42. Sitting on the stairs feeling sorry for herself wasn’t getting dessert made. She pushed herself upright, went to the washroom, and splashed water on her face. Looking in the mirror, she saw herself. Not just the blotchy, defeated face that stared back at her. She saw herself. She saw her failures, her faults, her flaws. She saw her children who behaved themselves for everyone but her. She saw the dust on the side tables and the laundry left unfolded. She saw the meals out of a box or cooked by her husband. She saw dresses and heels overlooked in favour of dress pants and ballet flats. She saw herself the way she always saw herself – inadequate.
But the longer she stared at herself, with water dripping from her nose and her jaw, the more that faded. It waned and fell from her pores in big, round drops. Under all that insecurity and languish, she began to see what others see. She saw flashes of a loving mother to two beautiful, happy, healthy, intelligent girls. Girls who loved her no matter what she was or wasn’t good at. She saw moments of someone who works full time outside of the home who is doing the best she can with her limited time and energy. She saw a twinkling of a woman who is beautiful no matter what she’s wearing or how she does her hair or how much makeup she does or doesn’t wear.
She saw a woman who could roll a little dough.
Maybe her idea of what she was supposed to be wasn’t what she could be. Maybe she was good enough the way she was. Maybe she should trust those who love her when they tell her she was more than adequate, that she was valued and valuable, and that she was, in fact, beautiful.
She dried her face and went back into the kitchen, embarrassed by her dramatics, but ready to finish the simple task she was committed to completing. She looked at that belligerent ball of dough and sighed. When confronted with the beast, she knew she couldn’t do it. Not alone. She stepped away for the last time and let her husband do the rolling. While he took over, she prepared the filling – butter and sugar and corn syrup, a touch of vanilla and a pinch of salt. That she could do.
She worked in silence, coming down from the adrenaline rush of rage and sorrow and temporary insanity. She did what she could and left the rest for someone else. She couldn’t do it all and she was beginning to be ok with that.
A fictional or non fictional account of one person’s journey in the pursuit of forgiveness, either giving or receiving, or what ever that means to you. The piece must ask a question that is answered by the end of the story.
I challenged alyssa ammirato:
Behind the red door, beneath the thatched roof…