Back in my partying days, well before children, I remember the best and most fun times were when I didn't really want to go out at all. On the nights when I had to be coerced to come along, it always seemed afterwards that I had such a good time when I obviously thought I wouldn't. I never learned from this lesson. I always had high expectations for well thought out evenings that very often turned out to be a bust.
Later, this feeling of expectation and need for planning drifted into my newly married life and came to a head soon after I had my first child. My hyper organized mind, the one that ate up all the information from parenting magazines about developing perfect little geniuses, creating lasting experiences and important life memories eventually careened out of control. I turned into the robot mom in the eighties song, "I Don't Like Mondays" the silicone chip inside her/(my) head has switched to overload...My only salvation was to let it all go.
Easier said than done, however. The balance between a little planning and organization and trying to completely orchestrate every situation is a fine line that was difficult for me to learn. It wasn't a light switch moment or advice from a book that made me turn the corner. More likely, it is a lesson I have learned after each time that I became disappointed that my expectations, my anticipation of a planned outcome of perfection did not come true. Each one wore me down like the incoming tide washing away a sandcastle on the beach. At times I am still not the master of it all but at least I am able to beat it back with a stick when it gets unruly.
My brother is coming home with his wife and new baby next week. Ethan and Catherine have not been back this way for a year and a half, so the baby hasn't ever been to the "Motherland". It's an exciting time for them but also full of family baggage on both sides and expectations as you can imagine, are plentiful. As for myself, I don't want to think about it, preferring to arrive at each day as I would in a chapter of a new and riveting novel that I am reading. I want to be excited about the unexpected outcomes. It makes for better copy, anyway. The hard part is, I understand how he must feel, wanting the visit to be perfect in every way. After all, being far away from the rest of us is hard enough, he wants the limited time back home to be everything he expects and more, the perfect memories, photo ops and all. But he knows just as I do, that people are imperfect at best. Kids get chicken pox on the way to Maine to visit Grampy and Norma, sometimes they even through up in Mom's lap on the ferry. Shit certainly does happen.
I hope he reads this and lets down even just a little bit. I hope he closes his thoughts to the plans and the expected outcomes and just decides to read the novel that is his life, waiting to see what happens with the imperfect homecoming and family gatherings where someone has a few beers and "falls out of the yard". And if he doesn't, that's o.k. too, it will just be part of the story.
For my part, my pledge is to only a plan a little bit. I'm making ice cream which can be kept in the freezer for whatever impromptu gathering may occur. And if nobody eats it, so be it. We'll have ice cream sundaes later.
Vanilla Ice Cream
Add whatever mix ins you like at the end, by hand before pouring the ice cream into containers.
5 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (cold)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups crushed Oreos or crushed Heath Bars
In a double boiler over simmering water, mix the egg yolks, milk, salt and sugar. Heat while stirring constantly until mixture thickens and coats the back of a metal spoon (about 10 minutes). Transfer to container and cool in refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
Set up ice cream maker. Combine cold custard mixture, cold heavy cream and vanilla. Pour into ice cream maker and process according to manufacturer's directions. When ice cream is ready, stir in Oreos or whatever you want and transfer ice cream to two 32 oz containers. Freeze for at least 4 hours before serving. Lay wax paper directly on top of ice cream under container cover to keep from developing a leathery crust or freezer burn.