You Across the Table

Cornbread and butterbeans and you across the table
From “Cornbread and Butterbeans” by the Carolina Chocolate Drops

Beth’s home, after nearly three weeks in Wheeling. Her brother has taken over caring for their mom. I think this was the longest we’ve been separated since I went to Spain for the fall semester of my junior year of college in 1987. We all missed her, but we got along okay. The kids pitched in with some extra chores, helping me grocery shop and shovel snow and we all spent a lot of time in Lyfts and buses going to and from extracurricular activities, stores, and medical appointments. On our anniversary, Beth sent a purple African violet to the house because we had potted violets at our commitment ceremony in 1992 instead of cut flowers. It was a sweet gesture.

Nothing as notable as the one-act performance or our anniversary happened in the second half of the time Beth was gone. The main thing she missed was seven inches of snow, after a nearly snowless winter last year. But it snowed in Wheeling, too, so she didn’t really miss it.

She took a lot of long, snowy walks in Wheeling Park, sometimes alone and sometimes with her high school friend Michelle or our college friend Stephanie, who lives in Morgantown and came to visit her.

In Takoma, the snow started with a dusting on MLK day before the big events Monday night into Tuesday morning (4.25 inches on our backyard table) and Thursday night into Friday (3 more inches). School was cancelled Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. This means in the space of four days we blew through all our allotted snow days for the year plus one, which will have to be made up. I hope the district decides how to do so soon, because I’d like to know what the school calendar looks like next semester. I am so very tired of this whole, broken system for dealing with winter weather…but next year it won’t be my problem. 

On Tuesday I divided the shoveling into three pieces. I assigned North the smallest stretch, I took the middle one, and Noah did the longest one. (We have a corner lot and a big back yard, so we have a lot of sidewalk to shovel.) After they finished shoveling, North made a snowman. It’s nice they don’t feel too old for that. On Friday, Noah shoveled the whole walk because there were indoor chores that I wanted North to do.

Thursday, the only day North had school, there was an afterschool read-through of Beauty and the Beast. They’re in the ensemble and they have a couple solo singing lines as a washerwoman. Since it’s a small part, they’re going to pitch in with costumes, too.

During this week and a half, North continued to bake, making a pan of brownies as a thank you for a friend who drove their phone back to our house after North left it in her car, and an apple crumb cake. We also continued to watch scary and/or violent movies and television shows, stuff Beth wouldn’t like—we all watched Us and The Terminator, the kids are watching a Korean zombie show, Noah and I finished the fourth and final season of The Strain (which we’ve been watching for years), the kids and I started American Horror Story, and Noah and I started Angel since we finished Buffy last month and I miss that universe. We also watched some tamer fare. We went to see Mean Girls at a theater in Silver Spring over MLK weekend (and to prepare we watched the original version at home).

Saturday I menu planned for the first week Beth would be back and made the cake for our belated anniversary celebration. It’s the cake we had at both our commitment ceremony and our legal wedding, a spice cake with a lemon glaze. Sunday the kids and I did the grocery shopping. I’d been going to the farmers’ market and co-op alone but taking them with me to the supermarket to have extra arms to carry groceries home on the bus (Noah) and for help locating items (North, who after Beth is the most familiar with the grocery store layout because they used to tag along on shopping trips with her until their early teens).

For dinner that night Noah and I made burrito bowls. It was quite the complicated endeavor, involving cooking dry black beans (which I hardly ever do any more), locating the rarely used rice cooker in the basement and figuring out how to use it, making a roasted poblano salsa for tofu sofritas, using a copycat recipe based on Chipotle’s sofritas Noah found online, and preparing many little bowls of different toppings. Beth got home a little after six, while we were still busy in the kitchen. When I heard the car, I hurried outside, slipping on the crocs I keep on the back stoop. The crocs weren’t quite up to the snow in the driveway, and we stood by the car hugging for a long time while snow melted into my socks.

We ate dinner and watched an episode of Mixedish. At the table Beth kept exclaiming how good it was to see us all. Then we had cake, and Beth said it tasted “like love.” I gave her a chocolate tasting kit that Suzanne featured in a Christmas gift post. She seemed delighted with it. In addition to a promise of new headphones (I lost a pair and broke another while she was gone), she gave me a card with rainbow stripes coming out of a heart in which she’d written:

Happy anniversary.

I will forever remember this one as the one where we were away from each other and I was full of longing for you and the life we have built together.

Love you will all my heart.

“What does it say?” North wanted to know after I’d read it, so I handed it to them, and then North gave it to Noah.

“I didn’t know it was going to be so public,” Beth protested, and now it’s even more public because I put it on the Internet. (Don’t worry. I did ask her if it was okay.)

Beth had stayed over at Michelle’s house the night before and they’d stayed up late talking, so she was exhausted and went to bed early. I got into bed to keep her company for a little while, then got up to finish the dishes and to write some of this.

Monday morning before she left for her walk, Beth suggested going away for a weekend to reconnect. I said it sounded like a good idea. We’re still thinking about where and when. That night I made almond flour cornbread and a butterbean stew with kalettes for dinner. I did this because Saturday while I was trying to menu plan and struggling to come up with ideas, I’d heard the Carolina Chocolate Drops song “Cornbread and Butterbeans” and I thought, “That sounds good.”

The first line of the song is “Cornbread and butterbeans and you across the table,” so I sang it to her and said, “Now I have all those things.”

She’s been home a couple days now, but I am still very glad to have her across the table.