Yesterday was my Husband’s birthday. Sometimes the pressure of making one day special for someone else can be too much, especially for children. After years of tears and unmet expectations and general misery I had to call a moratorium on Mother’s Day. My yearly request to have my gift be a day free of strife proved too much to ask. I know my children love me, I don’t need a Hallmark holiday where my girls turn themselves inside out trying to outdo each other in the showering of affection. Birthdays are generally a little easier, but yesterday, well, not so much.
I started the day on the wrong foot. I forgot it was my Husband’s birthday. I lay in bed and grumbled about not wanting to get up after the alarm went off. My Husband got out of bed first and stumbled to the garage to feed the yowling cats. I followed not long after and flipped on the coffee maker and started to feed the dog before I remembered about the birthday. “Happy birthday! I forgot.” Not the best beginning. When I woke the girls I whispered “Don’t forget it’s your dad’s birthday. I did.”
The day got better. I met my Husband downtown for a long birthday lunch. He had requested crab pasta for dinner and a Meyer lemon tart, nothing too hard. I had made the tart dough the day before, there was a beautiful bottle of Sine Qua Non white (cult wine!) in the cellar, dinner would be easy to put together. Things were looking up. I did feel a tad guilty about having no present, but, like me, my Husband doesn’t want for much. And nothing special had occurred to me, so I didn’t buy something just for the sake of buying something. Besides, when asked what he wanted for his birthday, his response was “To pay for Daughter 1.0’s college.” Good gift.
So, by 5:15 the girls and I were home from school. Daughter 2.0 disappeared into her bedroom to work on homework. Daughter 1.0 didn’t have any homework to complete for the next day and didn’t feel like working on any of her long term school projects. This is a new attitude for Daughter 1.0. She usually works days, if not weeks, ahead of deadlines, mapping out her work schedule with a precision that would make a Marine blanch. Example – she completed and submitted all of her college applications (17 of them!) before sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner (a self imposed deadline). I think her new laissez-faire attitude is healthy.
I assumed (hoped) that because Daughter 1.0 wasn’t planning on doing any homework she would help me get dinner ready. I didn’t, of course, say this out loud. So much better to have her prove her love for me by reading my mind, right? Daughter 1.0 was tired so she didn’t stay in the kitchen to help or even keep me company. She went to her room to nap. “You won’t keep me company?” I asked. “I’m tired,” she said, closing her bedroom door. Me too. Sigh!
I pulled dinner together. The lemon curd took forever to thicken and I almost burned out the motor on my immersion blender adding the butter, but it tasted fine. And I cut my hand cracking the crab and the dishes piled up in the sink, but everything was ready when the birthday boy arrived home.
Dinner started out fine. I thought the crab pasta was a little bland (I didn’t add any hot pepper) but finished it with lemon olive oil which helped. Somehow the topic of Colin Kaepernick (our 49ers quarterback) came up, I think because my Husband has him on his fantasy football team. We bemoaned his lackluster season so far and Daughter 2.0 pointed out that it wasn’t really his fault, he has no offensive line to speak of. (This was an unusal comment for Daughter 2.0. It’s Daughter 1.0 who is the sports fan. Daughter 2.0 claims to hate football. And maybe this is what starts to set Daughter 1.0 off. Daughter 2.0 is trespassing on her territory.) “He certainly doesn’t have all kinds of time,” I said, which led, naturally, to the singing of the Fountains of Wayne song by Daughter 2.0, my Husband and me. This is when things began to go sideways.
“Stop singing,” Daughter 1.0 said. “You know I hate it when you sing.”
“Why does your hate of something trump our love of something?” I asked. There was some back and forth, some nasty comments. We all agreed to stop singing and stop talking about it for the sake of the birthday dinner. Daughter 2.0 sat with her arms folded, jaw set. I got up from the table and began to work on the mountain of dishes, a passive aggressive move according to Daughter 1.0. Maybe (probably) she was right. I would usually leave the dishes for later.
Perhaps you know how these things go, how one small comment can lead to another and then there are hurt feelings and anger. I can’t remember how everything escalated, but eventually Daughter 1.0 announced that she didn’t want any dessert (“I spent hours on that thing, but fine, don’t have any!” That’s me, definitely passive aggressive) and retreated to her room in tears. I stormed downstairs, slamming doors for good measure. I thought maybe I’d just get in the car and drive away, then remembered I had had wine with dinner and realized driving was probably not the best idea. I got the dog’s leash and called him to go to the park.
The dog’s night potty run to the park is generally my Husband’s job. I clean the kitchen. (I think he gets the better end of the bargain). I marched up to the park with the dog, who looked concerned. It is totally true; animals can read emotions. I’m usually a little bit scared walking the dog in the park after dark, but not last night. “Don’t fuck with me,” I muttered under my breath, to no one. The dog stopped short at the edge of the park, nose in the air. It was probably a coyote (we have urban wild life – coyotes, foxes, hawks, maybe even lions and bears, you never know). I felt certain I could take a coyote in my state of mind, but decided not to traumatize the dog. We stayed on the edge of the park.
When I arrived home, Daughter 1.0 was attempting to leave, car keys in hand, and my Husband was attempting to stop her. I barred the front gate. “You had wine, you can’t drive,” I kept repeating. We had given her a glass with dinner. “I have to get out of here!” she kept repeating. Finally she said, “I’ll just sit in the car, I won’t drive. I just have to get out of here!” The dog cowered in between us. Poor dog! “Ok,” I said, “I’m going to trust you not to drive.” I let her leave the house. My Husband and I kept watch out the front window. She merely sat in the car.
Later she left, but she didn’t drive. She called an Uber and went to the Boyfriend’s house, breaking the rule of never on a school night, which seemed oddly important last night, but today, not so much. I’m tired of fighting. Something shifts with children, I think, when they are getting ready to leave us. There is an inevitable distancing on both sides. Maybe Daughter 1.0 needs to hate me a little bit to be able to go away. When I told my Husband last night that I was upset about the breaking of the school night rule, he said it didn’t really bother him. He’s ready for her to move out, move on. It’s time, and he thinks she’s ready. I’m just not entirely sure I am.
Birthday Dinner – It’s Dungeness crab season in Northern California! Something we look forward to all year.
Spaghetti with Dungeness Crab
The meat from two cooked Dungeness crab (I buy them fresh cooked from the fish market and crack them at home)
Lots of minced shallots (about 1/2 – 3/4 of a cup)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
Zest of two lemons
Red chili flakes to taste
1 pound spaghetti
This sauce is made while the pasta is boiling.
Boil the spaghetti in highly salted water for one minute less than package instructions. While the pasta is cooking, melt two tablespoons of butter in a saute pan large enough to hold the pasta. Add the shallots, lemon zest and red chili flakes and cook over medium heat until the shallots are soft. Before draining the pasta, scoop out one cup of the pasta water. Add 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the pan with the shallots and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and remaining two tablespoons of butter to the pan and toss, adding more pasta water if it gets too dry. After about a minute the pasta should be al dente. Add the cooked crab meat and fold into the pasta, careful not to break up the lumps of meat too much. Turn off the heat. (You don’t want to cook the crab meat, just heat it a bit). Sprinkle with parsley and serve.
Cacio e Pepe
Daughter 2.0 doesn’t like crab, so I made this quick pasta for her.
3 tablespoons butter divided
Lots of freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Reggiano parmesan cheese
1/2 pound spaghetti
Again, this sauce is made while the pasta is boiling.
Boil the spaghetti in highly salted water for one minute less than package instructions. While the pasta is cooking, melt two tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a saute pan large enough to hold the pasta. Add the black pepper and cook, swirling the pan, for about a minute. Before draining the pasta, scoop out one cup of the pasta water. Add 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the pan with the butter and bring to a boil. Add the pasta to the pan along with the remaining tablespoon of butter and the parmesan cheese. Toss to combine, adding additional pasta water if the sauce gets too dry.