My son and I like to cook together. He’s great in the kitchen and he’s really learning his way around the pantry. It’s even gotten to where I can bring groceries home, drop them off in the kitchen, give minimal instruction, go on to the next thing, and know that a tasty dinner will be ready—even if there may be a trail of breadcrumbs to clean up afterward.
This looks joyous!
We aren’t of the cookbook and Food Network clan. Measurements are for baking. He’s no more a kitchen witch than I am—which is about as tongue in cheek as I can make that assertion. He cooks like I do. Some of this, some of that, just knowing what “goes” and what “it needs.”
Yesterday we made eggnog.
The thing about cooking together is that, like my experience with my mother, these are the moments when we can learn the most about each other. While our hands are sifting, separating, slicing, our souls can open and allow our voices to articulate those things that otherwise remain tied-up inside.
Here are the five things my son wheedled out of me while we took turns stirring over low heat for 60 minutes. I thought I’d share them with you too.
1) I don’t go into a fight I don’t know I will win. That’s not the same as cheating or playing with a loaded deck. I just don’t fight for the sake of fighting. If I take something on it’s because I believe in the principle at hand and I know I will prevail. Some folks say this is a witchy thing. Sure, there are witchy elements (like, you know—we have principles) but usually, this is because I do the prep work, understand the rules of engagement, and know what my assets are and how to use them. I really prefer not to fight. But I will. I have Old Testament style anger. I am very slow to anger; I prefer love and forgiveness in response to offences and rebellions. But when deferment is over? It’s on.
2) And grudges? I don’t carry them. Anymore. I mean, I used to—two in particular. Forgiving the one was really just a matter of deciding to forgive, laying it down, and walking away. Forgiving the other has been harder because the offences are ongoing. I’m not holding a grudge, per se; I’m getting re-pissed-off with each infraction.
Nooooooowwwww. . . don’t you go getting any crazy ideas that I’m a pushover or a member of the seventy-times-seven club. My philosophy has always been that it’s not my place to tell you what to do. If you can pay for the china that gets broken, let your bulls run free in the shop. But. But. At some point you have to frigging pay for the china. If you break the china—particularly if it’s *my* china—and you refuse to pay? I will levy hard against you.
I mean, I’ll forgive you. Just not the bill for damages. You need to fix what you broke. It’s part of the heathen concept of weregild.
Alas, there are those who will never admit to wrongdoing. Those who will, all while watching their bull—with their name emblazoned on the side in brick-red letters—run through Wedgewood, Noritake, and Mikasa, insist that the dishes were broken when they got there. Good sense and these people don’t have a working relationship. T’ain’t nothin’ you can do about it.
Well. There is one thing.
3) I sometimes still regret not taking the law school path. More and more these days. I wanted (still want) to be a criminal lawyer. A defense attorney, to be exact. I often wonder what would have been if I had opted to pursue law school instead of a Ph.D. in a liberal art.
Wanna know why I changed my mind? I say that it’s because I found out I was pregnant with eldest but that’s not entirely so.
This Time cover haunts my memories.
Roger Keith Coleman.
He had been accused of rape and murder and was on Death Row in Virginia. There was a last minute piece of evidence that could exonerate Colman, but because the request for the court to review it wasn’t filed properly, it was deemed inadmissible. Procedural grounds for default. I didn’t think I wanted to be part of a process where a piece of paper sent to the wrong place at the wrong time could stand between a human being and his life. I knew that every job had a level of bureaucracy, but red tape is one thing—the electric chair is another.
But I was young and kinda naïve—definitely idealistic and trusting in the goodness of human nature. I see things differently now and have a real respect for procedure and the rule of law and have kinda lost bits of that shiny, youthful idealism. Which explains #1. I mean, I still think people are basically good. But I also know there are exceptions to every rule.
Later we developed better DNA tests. As Coleman had become—literally—the poster child for capital punishment reform, some ministers and some newspapers all rallied to have Coleman’s DNA retested.
The real kick in the head of this story?
Stop me if you know the punchline.
He did it: the year I finished my Ph.D. coursework, DNA retesting showed a 1 in 19-million match to Coleman.
I was so fecking devastated. And I was just an onlooker.
Can you imagine what it must have been like for all those people who thought Coleman was an innocent victim of a persecutorial system to find out that their paradigm of a wounded scapegoat was actually guilty all along? Think about it. What must it be like to sit in court and hear all the horrid things that your paragon of innocence, your beau ideal, your model of victimhood actually did? It must be crushing to have put your faith in a person who ended up to be a liar and a criminal. It was pretty rough on me as far removed from the case as I was; but I can’t imagine what it was like for people who were personally duped by Coleman to have to hear all that evidence. I mean, the things he did.
Nowdays, I hanker for civil law rather than criminal law—and prosecution rather than defense. One of the joys of civil law is that the burden of proof is different. There are other perks, but that’s my personal favorite. And if we return to point #1, we could argue that—in a courtroom—I’d do pretty well. Therefore, if we proceed to #3? Best keep your bull out of my china shop. Nonetheless, I’d be a very jaded lawyer. That might be a good thing. Idealism didn’t suit me in the Coleman case. Or the Simpson case. Or today. But that’s all on an alternative timeline, of course. I went to grad school instead of law school.
The witchy take-away is that this very real set of life experiences has formed my religious ethics and my devotions to my gods and ancestry. And my perception of our judicial system, for better or worse.
4) I have acute hearing. It freaks my kids’ friends out a little when I answer them from another part of the house. My kids just say: “She does that.” The students that snicker in the back of my classes are also a little freaked out when I join in on the joke.
I also have an acute way of knowing. Just knowing. Most of us do in some way, shape, or form. But along with this sense of knowing, I have a knack for discovering. You know how there are things we “know,” but cannot “prove”? When I have that gut feeling come over me, it’s generally followed by a packet of information slapped (sometimes accidentally) on my desk, slipped into my e/mailbox (sometimes accidentally forwarded), or blurted in my face. I’m a bit of a (sometimes accidental) “informational rainmaker.” Charmed, we might say. Right-place, right-time. If I need to find a thing out? It gets found out. And verifiability is key for me—defer to #1.
Some folks say this is a witchy thing. But it happens whether I try or not.
5) Perhaps related to #2—maybe despite the second half of #3, I don’t know, it was an odd conversation. I hate paperwork. Especially if it’s avoidable. This is why I tell my students not to cheat. I tell them that if I catch them plagiarizing, I will have a real problem on my hands: “I will have to do paperwork. And if you make me spend part of my life doing paperwork, I will ask for the highest penalty. Whether they do or not is up to them. Better not to risk it.”
That’s a thing for me. If you make me jump through bureaucratic hoops, I will overwhelm you right up to the permissible limits of whatever system applies. Aaaaand (per #1) I typically know what those limits are and how to get them to work to my benefit. Whatever it is, would you want to risk the results of making me do unnecessary paperwork, filing, gathering stacks of printouts? Really? Considering #4? Knowing #1? Recognizing #2?
Some folks say this is a witchy thing. Honesty, while I have recently admitted to being “very witchy in very practical ways,” I think it’s a personality thing. Fastidiousness, not magic.
Kinda like stirring eggnog for an hour.
Now. Place in a covered container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Wæs þu hæl!
We actually had a talk about the cooking versus baking prejudice:
“Is that a bad thing?”
“Only if you hate science.”
 I won’t share what I wheedled out of him. That would just not be cool.
 Momma always said I could argue with a signpost and win.
 Just before I turned 40 I took the LSAT—just to see. I made a one-seventy-somethin’. It’s one of those things I regret knowing.
 And then a judge. The ultimate goal was to sit on the Supreme Court. No shit. Since I was about 15, that was the dream.
 The irony of this story is that I was writing contracts and compliance policy for a mortgage company when my boss discovered my “way with words” and shooed me off to college for a degree in English.