Friday, December 26, 2014


You don't read too much about this, but it's a real thing: the difficulty of spending a holiday without your child because it's your "off" year. Talk about painful. Last year Bill and I bailed on Thanksgiving--thank you, Canada--because I couldn't bear to celebrate with friends whose children were around (as much as I love the friends and the children), or to answer the inevitable and, frankly, incredibly stupid question, "Where's Vivian?" (Hint: She's not studying abroad.) My "on" years are only slightly better. Yes, I am with my child, but as I enjoy, say, watching her hunt for Easter eggs, I think of Alex, alone in his apartment, and I feel very sad. It doesn't matter that at that very moment Alex may be watching football or taking a nap--you know, living the Sunday dream. Emotional turmoil does not respond to reason.

As Christmas approached this year, I was very much aware that Vivian would spend Christmas Eve, and so also Christmas morning, with her dad, which is to say, without me. The last time I had to make it through a Christmas morning without Vivian--in 2012--I determined to keep myself occupied and thinking positively because the alternative was to dissolve into a pool of self-loathing and self-pity, not to mention to put a serious damper on Bill's Christmas morning. I read the New York Times. I "liked" friends' Facebook photos of present openings and tired faces. When my brother sent me a video of his son reacting to the big reveal (Santa!!!!), I delighted, damn it, in my nephew's excitement and refused to have A Big Cry over having missed that moment with my own kid. I was not practicing an attitude of gratitude, thank you very much, but rejecting the idea that to miss Christmas morning is to lose something irretrievable.

That's avant, people. It takes will to refuse what biology and culture have conditioned you to embrace, to shape a thing to fit your condition rather than to despair that your condition doesn't fit the thing. And I have never been avant.

Even so, I was at it again this Christmas morning. Vivian was at her dad's--had been since the night before--and I had five hours to fill before picking her up, and not just fill but really enjoy. I did some of the usual (coffee, New York Times, Facebook, cross stitch) and ate a really delicious eggs Benedict, courtesy of Bill. That man makes a mean hollandaise, nice and lemony. And then I really got going.

You may not know this, but we have mice. They are pretend mice, formed with our hands, and they are named Mouse, Sister Mouse, Uncle Lester, and Clive. Clive is a British cousin. Mouse lives in my hand; Sister lives with Vivi; and Bill does the voices of both Uncle Lester and Clive, which is not easy given the change in accents those guys require. Lester and Mouse sound like they grew up in 1930s Brooklyn, and Sister Mouse, well, Vivian does her voice, so let's just say it's high-pitched and grating. The mice trace their origin to Beverly Cleary's The Mouse and the Motorcycle, which Bill read to Vivi about 3 years ago. He chose the New York accent for the voice of the character Uncle Lester and unwittingly started something we have no idea how to stop.

Sister Mouse is a real goody-goody. She always does the right thing. Clive attends Oxford, so we call upon him mainly to resolve disputes and to fill in bits of history. Mouse and Uncle Lester provide the real entertainment. They are too much--adversarial and misbehaving and always on the make. Uncle Lester spends a lot of time at the Emerald Queen, the local tribal casino where his girlfriend Sherrie, a giraffe, works as a dancer (She has a very graceful neck) and he does business with his "associates" (You know why they call him Vinnie the Onion? He'll make you cry. Heh heh). Mouse regards Vivian as her best friend and is incensed by the amount of time Vivi spends at school. She spends the morning drive hatching plans to "spring" Vivian that day (I'm gonna dig a tunnel from your house to the school, jump in your teacher's face to cause a distraction, and then you run, Vivian. You RUN!). Vivian always says, "No, Mouse. I like school. I don't want to be sprung," and so Mouse is left to find other ways to fill her days. Generally, she bathes herself and does chores, but she also enjoys scaring my students, and she's been working on a musical off and on for years.

During this year's Christmas season Mouse became an entrepreneur. She concocted a recipe for a candy called Ch2--that's "Ch squared," chocolate-covered cheese. Intent upon putting a piece of Ch2 in the stocking of every child in Tacoma, she opened, in our walls, a factory operated by a thousand mice. The factory ran day and night in the weeks leading up to Christmas, in spite of some real opposition from Bill and Vivian, who found aspects of the idea to be repulsive. But the mice melt the chocolate nice and slow, in their cheeks! cried Mouse. They knead the cheese lovingly with their little paws! Still no takers. There were concerns about health codes, mouse hair, and the suitability of pairing chocolate with cheese. Mouse continued, undeterred.

The mice's antics are usually limited to our imaginations--we spent a good year hearing about but never actualizing Uncle Lester's vision of a Magic Mouse Bus (Powered by a thousand mice and filled with a hundred children! What could go wrong?). I could not let Ch2 meet the same fate. So on Christmas morning, after the Times and the Benedict and a hot shower, I got cooking.

I used my Williams-Sonoma poaching pan (TM) to melt a handful of chocolate chips and a bit of shortening.

I cut the cheddar cheese into cubes.

And then I dipped cubes of cheese into chocolate. In all of history has this ever been done? They say there are no new ideas, but I don't know. Miraculously, the cheese did not melt. Greater miracle: the chocolate-covered cheese looked delicious.

Food porn, am I right?

Behold! Ch2!

Are you wondering how it tasted? Trying not to wonder, perhaps? See the child:

Focused, or possibly dissociative 

Sickened, but by the taste or merely the idea?


That's right. Mouse was right. Ch2 is a winner or, if not a winner, at least not a loser. Ch2 may not make Mouse a millionaire, but it is EDIBLE.

And it made my Christmas morning. Ch cubed.

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