The One True Toaster

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 9.43.47 AMThe toaster is serious business in our house. I’ve had the same toaster since before Jeffrey was born, meaning it’s survived moves from San Francisco to Washington state, to Washington DC. It didn’t come into it’s hard-service years until Bean transitioned from milk to toast- and we’ve been sitting on the toast phase now for about {12y(365d)(3mpd(2e))} 22,280 English muffins/slices of toast. That’s just for Bean. Occasionally other members of the family enjoy toast, too- so it’s fair to imagine this brave little Toaster serving up this family, in all it’s incarnations thus far, upwards of 30,000 toasts.

And it’s dying.

Slowly… every so slowly, it’s been dwindling in it’s abilities, going from robustly crisping and browning our breads to the point where now, even turn all the way “6” it can only achieve an anemic tan and slightly floppy toast. The Toaster is dying. Long live the Toaster.

To give you some idea of how Important the Toaster is, when we travel, Bean wants to take it with us. He honestly worries about what he will do for toast when he leaves for college. When we stay with friends or family for visits, he stresses about their toasting abilities, and again wants to bring the One True Toaster along for vacation. While guests in Williamsburg, my friend had made sure she had peanut butter (no bumps) and jelly (no bumps) and we brought our own English Muffins. She prepared Bean’s toast for him in her (perfectly fine and working well) toaster, and he quietly sat looking at his food, one lonely bite taken. “What’s wrong?” I whisper in his ear. He looks upset, but he’s trying to be polite, “Their toaster is wrong. It doesn’t do it right.”

Years ago, Jeffrey jokingly said I should probably buy a backup of our Trusty Toaster. We laughed. It’s no laughing matter now- because the Toaster is dying, and they don’t make our model anymore.

I sat down to look up toasters, and Bean immediately and seriously joined me reading product-reviews on Amazon. He had his Kindle out and was setting up a “compare” screen. He was concerned with levers, buttons, toast settings, and weighed in with opinions of what was necessary and what didn’t matter. He doesn’t need a countdown screen, but he needs a Level 3 toast to be a nice even golden brown. (Did you know there are websites that will show you samples from different models on different settings? There are.) He wants to have a level to push it down because he likes the satisfaction of the click when it sets and starts to heat. He needs FOUR slots, not two. He likes chrome with black, not straight chrome or white- those combinations are “wrong”. He doesn’t mind using his wooden toaster-tongs to retrieve his muffins, so he doesn’t need an eject button. It was a bit of a lark at first, but it became clear this boy was dead serious and this was no laughing matter.

After reading several articles on toasters and umpteen reviews, we decided on the Cuisinart CPT-240TNFR Elements 4 Slice Toaster. It will be here Friday, and if it’s satisfactory, we will be ordering a back-up for him to take to college in 6 years. He even offered—bless his heart—to contribute from his own money to have a backup toaster this time- I suspect he’s miffed I didn’t buy a backup of the One True Toaster when I had the chance, and he won’t make that dumb mistake again.

The toaster is dead. Long live The Toaster!

History

HamiltonBway0341r-Daveed-Diggs
So we’ve fallen down the Hamilton rabbit hole. The Ron Chernow biography  was on my nightstand long before I heard the music of the now-juggernaut Broadway musical, but I didn’t actually start reading until after I heard the original cast recording.

History has always been a pet interest. I’m no historian. I admire historians; I admire good history, careful provenance, diligence to sources. I love biographical narratives and the modern documentary, which can bring distant historical events and people out of the haze of the past and make them deeply real and personal.

I’ve tried to get my family excited about history, but other than my similarly-geeky brother (who is in possession of an history degree), my lobbying for a Ken Burns’ film on the National Parks for movie night has been met with eye-rolls. Until Hamilton.

When I first played it, I was home alone, trying to check off chores and get things done- and I found myself leaning against the kitchen counter, staring off in the mid-distance while clutching a dish towel. Chores forgotten, I listened to the whole thing. And then I hit repeat. The kids picked it up, and we listened in the car. We’d pause between songs, discuss what was happening, and then listen again.

Suddenly, history wasn’t boring anymore, it wasn’t something mom liked and they tolerated. Suddenly, they were talking about the American Revolution, had opinions on King George, and consider the Marquis de Lafayette a hero. And there is no way I am giving up this shot to engender and feed this love of history-come-alive.

We’re watching the excellent series “John Adams” from HBO. Living in Virginia, we are soaking in history, and have a ton of places and chances to grab. We drove to Mount Vernon and toured the grounds, while we giggled “Here comes the General!” under our breath. We’re going to see the statue of Lafayette in Lafayette Square near the White House. Monticello is on our list for this spring. We’ve begun to talk about America’s history with slavery and how that complicates and changes the narrative of the founding fathers and our own beliefs about ourselves. We’ve started to talk about colonialism and our own roots, as a family and as a culture. I can barely contain my enthusiasm, but I don’t want the eye-rolls to return.

Even if you’re not a history-geek, Hamilton is a stellar addition to American culture. The composition, story telling, music, lyrics and gusto with which it’s all presented is near genius. The motifs, the refrains, the tiny little gems of commentary and nuance, the breaking wide-open of what it means to tell history, the shattering of normative roles and casting, and the use of language to cross barriers and tell our stories… it’s a work of art.

Just don’t try getting tickets.

Get a Blue Thing

IMG_6539Today would have been David’s birthday. He and my mother share a birthday; forgetting either is not going to ever be an option. My mom is celebrating in Disneyland, which is her happy place. I don’t know where David is, but I know he is okay.

Jon and I were discussing what we should do. We’re still very cognizant of the kids, and the grief and loss they (and to some extent, even I) are still processing. Most days are fine, we talk openly and casually about our memories, both good and hard. There isn’t a weird space around conversation regarding David, and I am grateful to Jon and his tremendous heart and solid sense of self for supporting me in making room in our home for all the feelings. The kids talk easily about their love and their other more complicated feelings. There is certainly a vast amount of grace involved.

Each year on Jon’s grandfather’s birthday, he gets himself a chocolate milkshake. It was a treat they enjoyed together before his passing, and it’s a small way for Jon to remember him and give a little nod each year to his memories. We didn’t want to do anything heavy or sorrowful for the kids, but it also felt important to acknowledge the date. I decided to fix a meal David loved, Papa’s Papas- a dish from Hobees restaurant in California, with a berry yogurt power smoothie. Pretty sure he’d approve— and it seems somehow appropriate. Then for our evening walk, we’re going to 7-Evleven to get a popsicle. It’s slightly subversive, and a nod to the miles we walked together when we were poor and young, and would scrape up some change from under the seats of the car to get something cold at the convenience store. I’m pretty sure he’d laugh.

That’s actually what comes to mind most, as the months march on and the loss smooths over a little bit— his laughter. There were scores of painful things he and I went through, both together and individually, yet his laughter and his kindness is what is distilling from all those memories. I hear him. I hear his laughter when I am puzzling over something- he would laugh and remind me that I knew the right path. When I am sad or angry, I hear his kindness, reminding me to love and be kind to myself, and to forgive. Always to forgive.

So whatever faults we may have, whatever mistakes we make in life— and they can be doozies— joy and forgives are what endures, are what remains.

Happy Birthday, David. Namaste.