When I was 26, I moved to Champaign Urbana. I was a wife. It was different out there. For one thing, it is flat. If you had a marble, you could roll it from Kanakee to Champaign, and it would get there, on time.
Corn and soy stretch as far as you can see. It is like an ocean. Driving through with the crops rising on either side, makes you feel like Moses.
When the moving men got back in the truck to go home, I had an interior sign held up that said “don’t leave me here.”
I food shopped a lot. At Schnucks, there was no problem parking. There was an aisle dedicated to corn dogs. I tried to make friends with the check out girl. She was super friendly, but a little weirded out when I asked her what she was doing after work.
My upstairs neighbor, who sold drugs for a pharmaceutical company invited me to a Junior League meeting. At the initiation, a sort of cheerleader stood up and gave a speech about love and happiness and inclusion. She asked if anybody had a question. I raised my hand and stood up and asked why it was that nobody had skin not even a shade darker than mine in the auditorium. I said it made me feel uncomfortable. I wasn’t asked back.
I was 15 years younger than my husband’s colleagues. They had that look in their eye when I spoke that you get when you look at puppies in a window. They are cute, but you have no time; if you go in, you’ll miss your bus.
I swam every day and worked out a lot.
I hated to cook then.
I auditioned for a play and I got the role of the shrink in Agnes of God. I tried to relearn how to smoke in my basement for the part. It made my husband uncomfortable. He was sure I would start it up again. I had a bit of a habit when I was nine.
I did find friends; I found beautiful friends, but to really love someone in that way that feels like home, can take a while.
I missed my family, who are not the type to call much. I did terrible tests like waiting to see how long it would take my mother to call me if I didn’t call her first. I waited six weeks and then picked up the phone. I didn’t mention the test.
“What are you doing, Mom?” I asked her.
“What do you think I am doing? I am baking. It is Christmas.”
“I am homesick.”
“You are what?”
“I don’t know why all of you mumble into the phone.”
“I miss you, Mom.”
“I miss you too, Doll.”
That is all you need.
This is what she was baking in that minute; you don’t have to wait for Christmas. Just think of Christmas. It will cool you down.
Cream cheese cookies
1 stick butter
3 ounces cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Beat butter and cream cheese together til light. Add sugar gradually and beat more. Add the flour and salt and stir just to combine.
Drop on parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees until the edges are just golden.
They are excellent plain with a lime Rickey ice cream soda or
if you don’t have the ingredients, just eat them without. Or a little orange marmalade or homemade raspberry jam. I know, I don’t stop.