I make time to make dinner for my family even though I’ll be at work when they eat it. It’s the opposite of making them do things for themselves. It’s the ultimate in taking care of someone else even as anyone can argue that my family should take care of themselves.
But this making dinner is also about taking care of me. In the kneading of the dough, I’m doing my very best at making space for what matters to me. It hearkens back to learning how to make monkey bread when I worked in a camp kitchen during the summer of my 16th year. How the camp director taught me how to make it. How he ran with me around the lake and asked me what it would be like when my friends came to work at camp with me. How my place would need to make room for them. How as I make dough for the pizza for my family, I’m back there making bread and running around the lake. How I’m learning how to be me back there and I’m still me right here, making dough.
So that when I make time for myself now, I knead the dough and I walk my neighborhood. I’d run it if I could, if my sciatic nerve wouldn’t tell me time and again that walking is what it needs. I knead the dough and walk the hood and examine my life as I write. I’m taking care of me while taking care of them.
People say, how nice of you to make dinner for them when you won’t be home.
I think I should be more like my aunt, calling a strike until the house is cleaned by someone else’s hands. But I can’t. I can’t keep the peace and take care of me and call a strike. I’d miss the dough. How making the pizza makes me stop working on my work articles.
Because I know they don’t need all the space I give them. I’ve interviewed enough people. I’ve taken enough notes. I need to find the right texture for the future crust. I need to smell the letter that came in the mail and realize it smells partly like perfume but mostly like the air in my house. The air that is suffused with dough. Dough that connected me to summer camp, age 16. Dough that connects me to my grandma, making kuegan pies. To my brother Mike making pizza for his own boys. To my mother as I ladle on the sauce, a recipe derived from her spaghetti sauce.
How I take care of others is tied up in how I take care of myself. The steps I must take to make the dinner automatically take me away from my brain work. They place me into a pattern repeated again and again and again. Someday I know my daughters will ask for my dough recipe. They’ll make this pizza themselves, the one they grew weary of when they were kids. The pizza we ate most weeks because everyone would eat some of it.
I make pizza dough. I make meaning out of making pizza dough. It turns a tedious task into a delight. But really, losing myself in stretching the dough, there’s few things that are as pleasing. The elastic alive cells always place me here, alive in the center of where I really want to be.