I am not a chef; yet, when my stove broke onThursday evening, I considered all the meals I would miss out on cooking. This was after the dishwasher clunked two weeks prior (a new one is on its way!). There was something about a damn stove that tested every single inch of my personhood in about 30 seconds.
I think when it boiled down to it, it was that I knew I was out of my league. If the garbage is full, I know I can put it out. If the lights go off, I know there’s a bulb I can change. If the kids are hurt, I know I have insurance and there is a City MD or their pediatrician to go to. I am well-versed in all of this. But something about the stove made me want to throw my hands up in ill-mannered despair. “NOT THE DAMN STOVE!”
No-one in my family has ever been good at appliances, so it’s not like I lost some important skill from my own rearing. Now, living solo with my kids solo feels like I’m burning at both ends, making up for the other wick that comes with a two-parent home. Still, my initial reaction was disappointment and like I’d been stripped of my sense of womanhood, keeper-of-the-house.
The whole debacle has me thinking about the ways in which women come to feel “capable.” What an awful word.
Probably more than the stove, it’s on my mind because of the state of the country. I’m feeling emboldened and completely weak. I’m incredibly strong with a group of hands on the back; and also, I need to curl in a ball. I’m feeling a “this can’t be real” kind of weakness, understanding, this is very real and scary. Where do women, especially women of color, align? Their daughters (and sons), too? I mean, last week was a trip. (Actually, a trip doesn’t define it!)
And so, the damn stove was the cherry on top of an ice cream sundae I don’t want or need. When I realized it was done for real, I called my landlord, then a local repairman. Then I sat, and I surrendered to it. I surrendered instead of letting it rock or define me, rather than allow myself to continue to measure myself against a broken, inanimate object.
For me, at least this year, I’ve specifically learned lessons like this at home, where I’m also learning how to be Queen (and King!) of my own apartment. It is an odd kind of lesson, something I thought I knew. But then last week and the stove, and this whole year, really, has been about understanding: Sometimes things break. Sometimes, a woman breaks. She cracks. She’s scared. She can’t be repaired.
The landlord rolled in a stove on Sunday. It’s shiny and new and not a behemoth. And the days before its arrival, River, Oak, and I lived it up, dining out, which was a privilege. Meals were fancier! An adventure almost. On the last night before the stove arrived, it was late for dinner, and we crawled our way into the jammed garden of our favorite place. I ordered a glass of rosé, they got two rounds of bread and olive oil, and I turned Peppa Pig on my phone. I watched them as they watched the show, clanking their glasses on occasion, laughing and sharing this inside-smirk that only belongs to them. I sipped the wine and felt what it meant to just be in a room, too. Which is fancy for: I just didn’t parent or adult. I just was.
I don’t always have the answers, and everyday I am learning my own way around what this means. Things break, limits are tested, and I am constantly learning the whos and whats and hows in these uncomfortable spaces. Aren’t we all?
But there’s always magic–like fancy night outs and smiles bursting for a flashing camera and shiny new stoves that work just perfectly, that remind me I am still not a chef, but I can do the most with a just a bit.