My mind is mostly where I converse when I’m in Jackie and Steve’s home. Maybe I’m schizophrenic, like my mom, but I think not. I have my wits about me. I try to blend into the family scene. Be pretty, be patient, be seated. Do the dishes, help Jackie when I can; bow to Steve as master of the homestead. Brandon’s a cheap imitation, not what I thought.
“You look pretty, Amy. It’s nice to see you in a dress,” Jackie said.
“Thanks, I got it on sale,” I reply.
I beam at my newly worn thriftiness. The women at the bank consider me stuck up, but I maintain distance because they are assistants and I am management. Ha, I hear their inane coffee klatch conversations on break, all nail polish colors and Kohl’s. I stash information like rich men stash money.
“It’s a nice go-to-church dress,” Jackie ventures.
I recognize another religious ploy and shift the topic to supper’s preparation: “What can I do to help?”
“There’s not much to do, Amy. Kroger had small turkeys on sale, pushing Thanksgiving on us, so that’s what’s in the oven. I guess you could mash the potatoes. We’re going to make them with Mrs. Molden’s recipe.” Jackie tucks a curl behind an ear and flashes an invitation.
“Oh, the ones with cream cheese. Bran loves ‘em!”
With that I move into the farmwoman’s place, in the kitchen. I see Brandon and Steve drop onto the couch in the family room, a pillow’s distance apart. Crowd noise soon alternates with commentator drone to signal more TV sports.
Jackie’s kitchen always befuddles me. It’s a spacious square with an island in the middle reminding me of town, where two-story buildings surround a stocky courthouse. Jackie’s bounty of drawers, shelves, and appliances are a respectable homemaker’s template: utensils stashed until called into duty, bedded in flowered shelf paper changed annually during spring-cleaning.
The kitchen has a walk-in closet, though it’s called a food pantry and is as big as the one I have for clothing. All of the abundantly stuffed storage spaces are cloaked in cherry wood – planed from trees on the farm property, I’m told.
My kitchen has lots of great stuff, too, and I’m sorry to be losing its prestigious bling. The stove alone could finance a small car – if we could wrest it to sell before the foreclosure.
Sustenance, food is central to farm life. It shows love. I lived on cold pizza most of my life, never been to a grocery until I moved here. Though fields and fields of corn cover the land, fresh vegetables scare me. I avoid the Kroger rainforest bins; the automatic mist that blesses the produce, to keep it alive longer for the ravenous, always startles me. Michigan has more fat people than I’d ever seen. In California body fat seemed forbidden, so my mom and I fit in.