The other day I was wondering, Where did April go? And then I sorted it out. It’s the calendar. (Cue shrieking music.) The dreaded calendar. I don’t know how it got so crowded, but it’s a bit maddening. I loathe a crowded calendar. Read mine like a country auctioneer with me: haircut, grooming, dentist, doctor, and vet appointments; prom tux pickup and drop-off; meetings, rosemaling. Actually, scratch that idea. The list would take too long. Just looking at it is making me cringe a little this morning. If you are the keeper of your house, you may find yourself, like me, wondering how exactly it came to be that you are the person to organize these things, how you became the person who orders the corsages and monitors the milk and sundries, who knows that there are sports forms to be filled in and well doctor visits to be scheduled, prescriptions to be picked up, and closets to be cleaned out, lost library books to be hunted down and returned, and beds to be weeded outside and changed inside. You may find yourself, like me, scratching your head a bit over this puzzle. It happened so gradually, so quietly, like nightfall or a creeping ink spill.
Your partner, like mine, may be a perfectly amiable person who would likely be happy to help if he only knew the list, the plates that need to keep spinning, the balls that need to be kept midair. But he doesn’t somehow. However innocently, he isn’t aware of these things. The dog goes to the vet for an annual teeth cleaning? Who knew! We need to renew a boathouse membership and register for three sessions of rowing? And fill out doctor forms for this? Really? There is a whole book of usernames and passwords for these kinds of online registrations and purchases and scheduling? What? We have a file cabinet full of immunization records and past vacation itineraries?
I sometimes think about what it would be like to be another person in this household. Items in the pantry reappear magically as they are depleted. There is someone who can answer the question, Where are my fill-in-the-blanks? Towels are always clean. Food appears and meals are produced. Budgets are made and managed, and bills paid, and taxes organized and filed. Appointments and schedules are announced, no need to think about them, and there are friendly reminders about when and where they are taking place as they approach. That tagboard you need for your school project is at the ready, and so is your replacement toothbrush. Even your sock drawer repopulates. These things pass largely unnoticed. Entire events happen, albeit small, during daytime working and school hours, and they are unknown, not secrets, but so unimportant as to warrant a quiet around them. Why would there be a reason to announce that a closet has been sorted and used clothes donated to an organization in Richfield? Or that any of these small details have been taken care of? It’s hardly the stuff of conversation. And the list grows as a family grows and takes on a life of its own. A silent life.
My good friend Erin tells a story about a friend whose frantic husband came to her repeatedly with questions when she needed a few minutes to herself. Where is the baby thermometer? How do you use it? Things of this nature. “Pretend I’m dead and figure it out,” she called from the bathroom. I think about this sometimes when I’m otherwise occupied and one of my beloveds needs something. It wouldn’t be my style, but thinking about it adds a certain levity to a moment when I am calling quietly on my patience, when I’m wondering why the proverbial call seems to be “Mom!” and not some other name or title.
My Dear Husband is not a lout. He mows the lawn and shovels the walk and folds laundry and vacuums and cleans windows, in addition to working long hours. And my children are equally capable and kind. They just don’t know about all of the bits and bobs, the invisible list. And I don’t know quite why or how that happened. It certainly wasn’t planned, and there was no malice in it, nor martyrdom. It’s a bit of a mystery, really. Something to think about over a nice bowl of crumble, perhaps.
My crumble isn’t too far off the usual, but I prefer to increase the ratio of sugar to butter and flour for an extra crisp topping, and I use whole wheat pastry flour, which adds a nuanced softness of flavor, too. I also barely sweeten the rhubarb so that it’s a tart contrast to the sweet topping and I don’t gum it up with thickeners. Tart against sweet, meltingly tender rhubarb against the crunch of baked sugar and butter and whole wheat pastry flour, hot fruit with cold ice cream, and quick to make, too. What’s not to love? This rhubarb season, squeeze it into your calendar, woefully crowded or otherwise.
I talked with my Sweet Boy after writing this, about taking on some of these responsibilities. He was cheerful about the whole thing. “Of course!” he said. The next day I suggested he register for the ACT and put some money in his school lunch account. “What? I thought you were talking about the future, Mom.” “I was,” I said. “Welcome to the future.”
Yield: about 8 servings
6 c. diced rhubarb
¼ c. sugar
½ c. cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 ¼ c. sugar
¾ c. whole wheat pastry flour (or substitute all purpose flour if you don’t have it)
pinch of salt
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a medium baking dish, toss the rhubarb with the ¼ c. of sugar.
- In a medium bowl, pinch together the butter, remaining sugar, flour, and salt until it resembles sand and has butter pieces no bigger than the size of an almond. The mixture will come together when pressed or squeezed when it is sufficiently combined.
- Crumble the crumble in an even layer over the rhubarb.
- Bake the crumble until it is golden brown, about 30 minutes.
Serve warm with pouring cream, custard, or ice cream.
The crumble may be rewarmed in a 350 degree oven.