Now and again, she gives me an impromptu dance lesson. It happens as we’re walking along an uncrowded street. She’ll take my hand and raise hers and all of a sudden I’m in mid-spin. The first dozen or so times this happened, I was as clumsy as could be. I’m getting a little better lately–not so much at the spinning as at recognizing the signs that it’s about to happen. I hardly ever stumble, and I know she’d catch me were I ever to start to fall. Occasionally, the turn even approximates something dance-like. Sometimes, the lesson is more formal; usually in the kitchen where there’s plenty of floor space for a little waltzing. We seldom do more than a few one-two-threes, but I haven’t crashed into any furniture or bruised any of her toes. Yet.
She can follow or lead. She’s apparently somewhat in demand in her folk-dancing community, where there seem to be fewer skilled leaders. I don’t mind following, since she knows what she’s doing and I’m still learning–and I know that both partners in a dance have important roles. She’s a better teacher than I am student, but that’s because I’ve been an accompanist much more often than a dancer. I haven’t quite gotten over my shyness about dancing, but I will.
Fortunately, either of us can lead or follow in the kitchen. I’ve done most of the leading lately, so I was happy to let her take charge as our holiday continued. She pored over a favorite cookbook and was forming a plan. The object was to make hearty fare, especially in case we ended up with an unexpected and heartbroken houseguest. A secondary objective was to use only ingredients that were already on hand. Thus, while happily staying in sous chef position, I suggested against recipes that called for a lamb shoulder, a whole turkey, or a big hunk of beef. Or, for that matter, more than two eggs or the cup of milk that would remain if we reserved enough for this morning’s coffee and tea.
I was a less effective kitchen aide than I could have been, owing to frequent but brief interruptions for chats with our friends in the aftermath of the weekend’s dramatic events. But nothing burned, no knuckles got scraped, and no emergency trips to the market were required. The refrigerator is organized, free of a few items that were unfortunately past their prime and well-stocked for the week. And we dined well.
The skillet rice that is one of her favorite dishes was tasted but otherwise left to cool and packaged for lunches: sausage and sautéed vegetables enveloped in sticky rice, sweet with tomatoes and warm with cumin. Southern Green Beans are nearer to a one-pot meal than a side dish, long and slow-cooked with potato and chicken stock. The recipe called for bacon; we used bacon fat and the last of a stick of pepperoni. It’s not quite the same, but no market runs! Leftover chicken subbed in for a freshly-portioned broiler-fryer; smothered in a mushroom and onion gravy, with timing adjusted to account for the chicken having been cooked already, it was ready in almost no time. A handful of sautéed turnip greens will be fine accompaniment to a sandwich later today. The first slices of zucchini bread that may be future breakfasts were a post-dinner treat while we strategized the evening.
There was no long walk, as had been originally planned for purposes of errands and exercise. Instead, the post-half-marathon cross-training consisted of moving furniture and packing some boxes for storage. A very tall bed (two mattresses atop a foundation, but with no pea tucked beneath) is now in the freshly painted master bedroom, even though new flooring won’t be installed there for another couple of weeks. An improvised padded headboard protects the pretty wall behind it, and the bed’s sturdy cherry frame is dismantled and stowed. The guest room is empty and ready for painting. There’s nothing we don’t really want or need at hand, yet we haven’t put so much away that it appears we’re living in a temporary space.
Lead and follow changed place many times over the course of the day, without tension or stress, as easily as shifting weight from one foot to the other. A choreographer might have been pleased. By the end of the long, productive, and restorative day, we certainly were.