A Surprising Encounter With a Stranger (a.k.a., When Someone You Don’t Know Says Exactly What You Need to Hear)

I’ve been struggling with my daughter recently. Well, not so much recently, but since she was born. Since before then, actually. Since the 48-hour-long labor that almost took us both out. Since the week that followed in the hospital where I required chest X-rays in the middle of the night, extra oxygen to keep me breathing, a blood transfusion and lots and lots of medication. And a take-home blood pressure monitor – what a door prize! I should’ve known then that she would be a handful of a child – a spitfire. A beautiful soul packaged with fight and determination, the qualities that would serve her well in life ultimately, but that as a toddler, would be immensely challenging to manage. I should’ve known that she would test my strength as a person and a mother and show me each day how much commitment it takes to be a parent – and to survive it.

She was less smiley than the other babies in her baby group – she made you work for the giggles. She was colicky and hard to settle. She broke her arm at age two by throwing herself out of her crib because she didn’t want to take a nap. And now, she will turn on a dime in her affection for me – one minute telling me she loves me and wants me to do her bedtime, and the next, yelling I “can’t touch her or talk to her or help her ever again” and scream-crying that she only wants Daddy.

The other night I sobbed uncontrollably after returning to my own bedroom when I was unable to calm her after a nightmare – she’d pushed me away, rejected everything I tried to do for her, kicking and screaming, only to be instantly soothed when my husband entered the room and scooped her up in his arms.

laptop and apple fritter at a cafeYesterday morning, as I wrote for a few minutes in a local cafe, killing time before my dreaded mammogram “callback” – not the kind of callback I always hoped for when auditioning for shows as a kid – I was about to wrap up when a conversation commenced with the gentleman next to me. He looked to be in his late fifties, though I’m a terrible judge of age, and had a warm, calm demeanor.

I’d noticed earlier we’d both ordered soft-boiled eggs.

He commented on the emblem on my boots, I mentioned they were an on-sale, online buy that worked out, we laughed and started chatting. He shared that most things are online, on-sale for him, and that he has teenage daughters so there’s that. I shared I had a threenager girl – intimating that she was already a struggle in the behavior department. The conversation that ensued felt positively heaven sent. Like straight out of a Morgan Freeman movie, where he’s a wise angel who imparts pearls and desperately needed inspirational tidbits out of the blue.

The man shared with me that his two daughters are in a rough stage, in the throes of teenagedom. “I’m embarrassed to say what they’ve done,” he said sheepishly, sharing things like “putting trash in their mother’s makeup” and divulging that the family found themselves in counseling for awhile.

He gently put his hand on my arm. “I want to just rub your arm and tell you it’ll be okay,” he chuckled. “But thank you. I really want to say just thank you.” He started talking about his wife and how much she does, “it’s constant,” he said, “never ends.” Mothers “do so much,” he continued. “They’re everything. So thank you for what you do.”

Tears started to press behind my eyes. I worked hard to keep them there. I suddenly became aware of an invisible window to my soul, to my latest trials and tribulations and those of the last three plus years, apparent to this total stranger.

He said more, like a sage, though it remains fuzzy in the cloud of emotion from the memory.

“Wow. Thank you,” I said. “That means more to me today than you’ll ever know.” I paused.

“What’s your name?” “Van,” he said, extending his hand. “I’m Laura,” I said, shaking it.

I gathered my things. He insisted on bussing my table. It was that kind of place. I walked out the front doors into the bright sunlight, feeling awash in the sensation of being seen. Recognized. Acknowledged for the life I’ve chosen, and the turmoil I often feel of late because of it. Bolstered by the visit with an everyday angel, I walked down the street for my callback. Deemed cancer-free, I departed the mammography department and welcomed the day.

beer bread and eggs

Beer bread and hard-boiled, not soft, eggs. The combo is great either way.

Soft-boiled eggs

This is less a recipe than a method, and one that should be followed and adjusted for all manner of soft- or hard-boiled eggs, depending on what you’re going for.

What you’ll need:

  • 6 or fewer eggs
  • Medium-sized saucepan with a lid
  • Water

What to do:

  1. Place eggs in saucepan, cover them with cold water.
  2. Place uncovered saucepan over high heat; as soon as water begins to boil, turn off the heat and cover the pan.
  3. Set timer as follows for the eggs you desire (expert instructions courtesy of The Kitchn):

• For runny soft-boiled eggs (barely set whites): 3 minutes

• For slightly runny soft-boiled eggs: 4 minutes

• For custardy yet firm soft-boiled eggs: 6 minutes

• For firm yet still creamy hard-boiled eggs: 10 minutes

• For very firm hard-boiled eggs: 15 minutes

4. When timer indicates doneness, remove pan from stove, carefully pour hot water into sink and recover the eggs with cold water. When eggs are cool enough to handle, remove from water and enjoy (or store in fridge for a few days).

Five-ingredient beer bread

Because I made this bread earlier this week, I offer up the recipe here, unaltered and unadulterated goodness, from Tieghan Gerard at Half-Baked Harvest. It’s shockingly simple and absolutely delicious – and a perfect accompaniment to soft- (or hard-) boiled eggs.

What you’ll need:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
  • 12 ounces of your favorite beer (I used a hoppy, wheaty one – but Gerard used a pumpkin ale in her take)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 9×5″ loaf pan
  • Nonstick spray

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray the loaf pan with nonstick spray.

Add the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and a pinch of salt to a mixing bowl. Pour in the beer and stir with a mixing spoon until just combined. Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the top of the bread is lightly browned and the middle is set.

Allow to sit 15 minutes before serving.

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