I'm making chicken stew today but not properly, not really. I mean, it's the kind of chicken stew that uses Campbell's Cream of Chicken soup and a slow-cooker but while I'm chopping celery, I'm basically a homemaker in the 1970s, putting together a casserole in my cork-heeled sandals while smoking a Virginia Slim and my hair is up in a scarf and I'm wearing big sunglasses, I don't know why, because why not? I'm probably dancing or singing Joni Mitchell. Of course, almost none of these things are true. The celery and the Cream of Chicken soup are real, nothing else. I don't smoke. I have cork-heeled sandals but I'm actually wearing fuzzy socks with multi coloured stripes because I don't dress in reality the way that I look in my head. It's too much trouble. Soft socks are the only reason to keep going sometimes.
This morning was a hard morning, parenting-wise and writing-wise for that matter, and now nothing is clicking together for me and I have to write a blog promoting a book and all I can think about is chopping the celery and the specific smell that celery has and the way my daughter thinks that celery makes her throw up because she once choked on a piece of lettuce in a sandwich when she was three and became obsessed with the idea that celery and lettuce are the same thing. She hasn't touched either vegetable since and when I serve this stew later, she's going to squint at it suspiciously and maybe eat one small piece of chicken and then she'll see the celery and get hysterical and I'll end up feeding her portion to the dog (minus the celery, which she won't eat either) but the thing is that I really really like celery. Is being a parent a contract that you sign that says, "I will never again cook with celery"? Did I sign up for this, a life free of the satisfying crispiness of a celery stick?
Celery strikes me as the most French of all the vegetables, although I have no idea why and maybe the French people reading this are rolling their eyes at me and saying, "Zut alors!" in horror at the very idea of it. And then I'll clarify: "French people in the 1970s" and I'll explain about the cigarette -- maybe in a holder this time -- and Joni Mitchell and the way the sun picks up the glints in the linoleum, the gold flecks in the pattern and the way that soon the other wives from the neighbourhood will come over for coffee and we'll sit around and talk about what so and so said to somebody until it's time to pick up the kids from school. Then they'll understand. They'll know what I mean, except maybe I meant chilled white wine, which sounds more French than a coffee klatch, I suppose.
Somehow celery is now also connected in my train of thought to shag carpeting, avocado coloured of course -- and how if you vacuumed it in a certain direction, it made a pattern like freshly cut grass, which in turn reminds me of how we had an actual carpet rake -- it was green, too, both the rake and the carpeting -- and after the carpet was vacuumed, we'd rake it, which strikes me as very Zen, like raking a sand garden, at the same time as being a painfully colossal waste of time.
I have hardwood floors, which aren't even wood, they are bamboo. Years from now, I'm sure my kids will roll their eyes about that, the bamboo floors, and why were they a trend? I don't understand either. I don't know what the best floor would be, as it turns out. I don't even know what I want, not when it comes to that, to the thing on the floor. I just think I have better childhood memories of that green shag rug than anyone could possibly have about ugly dark brown wood-ish stuff.
That's all I have today, just the celery that I'm chopping for the stew no one will eat except me, at least not happily, an unfinished draft of a book that I have to get to, and the hard slamming of the doors of the car as the kids stormed off to school, affronted by the earliness of the morning and the way their hair didn't look quite the way they wanted it to be.
Life as a vegetable, I call it. Or maybe Celery, Life.
I once choked on a piece of celery myself actually, but I didn't die. I'm still here. I'm still writing. I'm still chopping as though my life depends upon it, the stew starting to bubble in the pot, while Joni reminds me about the painted ponies, the carousel of life, everything going round and round and round.