Valentine’s Day is a big event in La Mesa-Spring Valley public schools. I once baked brownies in heart-shaped ramekins, one per kid, for an entire, ineptly-taught second-grade classroom. Yes, I baked personal brownies long into the night. I hate doing anything in my kitchen other than admire my orange teapot and Andy Warhol mug collection. But the room parent asked, and I delivered.
I was outdone by a mother dispensing individual matching fruit brochettes with chocolate fountain.
The festivities in Zoe’s class today include a Lunch Swap. Lest you think I’m tactlessly riffing on the most memorable scene in Rick Moody’s The Ice Storm, it’s literal lunch. Each kid submits a questionnaire with preferred foods, then pulls a name from a bag. Zoe drew the name of a “popular,” as Jordan called her. This kid required Jif (no Skippy), real strawberry jelly, white bread (oy!) sans crust, strawberry Jell-o, Pringles, and lemonade. Like an idiot, I bought Jif. Everything on her list, in fact. The kid asked, and I delivered.
The lemonade was a challenge. I should have gone to 7-11 for a small bottle of Minute Maid. But I found a box of Capri Suns, lemon flavor, which I now own, minus one. Normally I’d use Foo Foo La La’s leftovers for meal packs for the local homeless, but the rain drove them elsewhere.
I’m glad I have a kitchen. Yes, I wish I had a nicer one. Yes, I wish I had the success I sought and expected in 1984. Yes, I compare myself too much to other people, friends and strangers. Some people win the professional lottery. Some people live under trolley trestles. Black and white thinking, I know. There must be gray. I try to see the world through Harris Tweed-colored glasses.
The Alexander McQueens and David Foster Wallaces. All that recognition and success. Top of their game. Didn’t matter. Miserable is miserable. Mental illness is mental illness. Addiction is addiction.
As my grandmother said, repeatedly, “If you don’t have your health, it’s all a crocka shit.”
I know of two singers, best friends. One is talented plus successful. The other is not so talented and definitely unsuccessful. They often perform together. Singer #1 is stunning, chiseled, and sings well enough for me to drive 250 miles roundtrip to hear her for two hours. Singer #2 has the stage presence of a Tofurkey. She does this awful akimbo thing with her legs while she plays. Visually and aurally unattractive. I dread her sets. But the more I see her, the more I admire her. She’s not silenced by the Himalaya-sized gap between her efforts and the gifts of Singer #1. She warbles, splays her knees, sprouts holes in her tights, and keeps going.