“You’ll have to give us the recipe for these fantastic bars,” said our professor as he bit into his third one at our class potluck and I just looked at him and smiled but my mind went wild because no way could I replicate anything about that recipe but if he knew what had gone into making those bars he would have flipped because last night I was throwing supper together and stirring up the bars at the same time and I asked my daughter to please finish the bars and put them in the pan but when I got the pan out of the cupboard I saw the kids had put it away wet so it was all rusty and I covered it with aluminum foil but somebody had dropped the roll somehow and the dent tore scallops all along one edge so I patched it but while I was slapping the hamburgers on the griddle I turned around and my daughter had spread the bars in the pan without adding the chocolate chips so I held up my hand in the parental stop-and-wait-a-second like an air traffic controller and reminded her “Whoa — Don’t forget the chips!” but by that time the kids had gobbled down half the chocolate chips and we didn’t have any more in the back pantry but we had peanut butter chips so I asked her to combine them and sprinkle them on top of the bars and throw the whole mess into the oven so I could feed the baby but while the burgers were broiling and the bars were baking and the baby was burping the smoke alarm went off because our oven was on the fritz and soared to “Broil” when it was supposed to stop at 350 and when I yanked the pan out of the oven the bars huffed flat and I growled to my husband “I have just about had it with this oven!” and he was fanning the smoke alarm with the broom to shut it up and snapped back “Are you incapable of going uptown and picking out a new oven?” at which my temper flared as hot as the oven but then I thought twice and realized I certainly did not want him picking out an oven the way he just went uptown one day hum-dee-dum and picked out the first washing machine he stumbled into so I bit my tongue hard and hoped the bars were done on the inside because they were overdone on the outside and I knew I would have to cut out the center ones for class and leave the burnt ones along the edge for family which always annoyed them to no end and reminded them of my famous saying “I should have taken less Homer and more Home Ec!” which was food for thought about my less-than-perfect culinary skills that were developed through stressful trial and error but nonetheless had reached a happy plateau I thought and so I went to bed peeved about the charred bars and the chocolate chips and the oven and the washing machine and the chocolate smears all over the kitchen and then the next morning when I took the bars to class and people raved I took a deep breath and let my chaotic life grind to a blissful—
For a brief moment, as classmates helped themselves to food and took their seats, I stared at the few remaining bars on the tray. My reaction to my professor’s burst of praise for those bars had nothing to do with any recipe and everything to do with a seismic shift in my perspective.
I chatted and laughed with my fellow writers, but my thoughts were a million miles away. In my mind’s eye, the tumultuous scene of making the bars the previous night morphed into a magical tableau. Motherhood, like the huge run-on paragraph gathering momentum above, is indeed a constant mad dash to some finish line with no time to stop and take a breath. Chaotic? Yes. But joyful.
After another brief moment, I myself mentally stepped into last night’s magical tableau, my own real-life Camelot, and calmly savored the priceless privilege of cherishing my children. My older daughters twirled around the kitchen, happily trying to help. My little ones giggled as they danced off with the purloined chocolate chips. The baby cooed and laughed, patting my face and soaking up attention.
Only the oven was guilty of misbehaving.