I take the same route to drop my son off at preschool every morning. Some days I consider going a different way just to make the synapses in my brain do something different (and no, I have no idea if that is what synapses actually do). But I usually go the same way, making the same familiar turns, crossing the main roads at easier intersections with less traffic. Something that you only do after you have lived in a town for many, many years. I sneak through the alley ways and the back streets. The car drives itself.
Along my way, I see the beautiful elderly woman walking her little yippy dog. In my estimation, she doesn’t belong here. She wears large Jackie O style glasses and is dressed impeccably for her morning walk. This morning she had on a bright blue oxford shirt with a hot pink, tailored jacket. Her dog is often dressed as nicely as she is. She walks everywhere, but it seems like she should occupy the streets of the Upper East Side instead of this small town. One day I saw her near my daughter’s school without her dog and with her hand bandaged. I imagined what had happened and worried about her for a day or two, after which I thankfully saw her walking with her dog again. She is always otherwise alone.
When my daughter was in daycare and I was still working, every morning we would drive past the high school on our way to her school. Every day we saw a man walking with a newspaper that he bought at the grocery store down the street. The weather never mattered. If it were raining, he’d carry it in a bag. If it were sunny, he’d hold it under his arm. My two year old daughter affectionately called him “newspaper man” every time we’d pass. Then our route changed. I quit my job and he was no longer on our morning agenda. We saw him the other day walking far from his normal route. At 10, she still remembered him.
Yesterday, while I was walking in my neighborhood, I passed a very elderly woman slowly strolling arm-in-arm with a much younger caregiver. I have never actually passed her while walking on the street — only by car. My earliest memories of her (from years ago) are walking while holding hands with her very elderly husband. I always noticed because I wondered whether my husband and I would still want to hold hands at that age. Was it because they were still in love or was it simply to steady each other? One day I saw her walking and he was absent. For the first few days I imagined he might be ill. She needed fresh air. I’ve never seen him again. Yesterday, I wanted to look her in the eyes and tell her that I was sorry for her loss.
I turned 40 last week. I just noticed that my uncle is turning 70 in a few days. He was 30 when I was born. I was 25 when my nephew was born. My brain furiously calculates numbers that it should ignore. Subtractions, additions, comparisons. I’ll be this when that.
Mid-life crisis seems too cliché. Too self indulgent.
But I’m post-babies who need moment-to-moment care. I have no career to speak of, having abandoned it so I could perform that moment-to-moment care. I’m walking the same streets and I don’t know whether to rejoice in the routine or scream out loud in panic.
Garbanzo “Meatballs” with Spaghetti Squash
Makes 15 meatballs
10 ounces of green garbanzos (available at our Wegman’s in the organic frozen foods. Could also use edamame.)
3-4 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons italian seasoning
1 teaspoon dried fennel seeds
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup crushed rice cereal (Brown Rice Krispies or Rice Chex style cereal)
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or parsley
1/4 cup olive oil, plus one tablespoon
4 tablespoons marinara sauce
1 medium spaghetti squash
Additional Marinara Sauce
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Split spaghetti squash lengthwise and remove seeds. Rub cut surface with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place it cut side down in a baking pan and bake for about 45 minutes until it is tender and a knife pierces it easily.
3. Meanwhile, combine the garbanzos, garlic, italian seasoning, fennel, salt and pepper, and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse about five times. You want to leave a lot of texture to it.
4. Remove garbanzo mixture to a bowl and stir in crushed rice cereal, 4 T marinara sauce, and 1 T of additional olive oil (if necessary to hold the mixture together). Season with additional salt and pepper or spices to taste. Stir in fresh basil or parsley.
5. Form garbanzo mixture into meatball shapes and bake for about 12-15 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven (that gives them a little “crust”). (You can also make these ahead of time and chill in the refrigerator.)
6. When spaghetti squash is finished, use a fork to scrape the strands into a bowl. Toss with a bit of olive, salt and pepper, and additional fresh herbs if you like. Serve the squash with a few garbanzo meatballs and marinara sauce.