It’s pouring today. Reminds me of being 10 and sloshing to school in rain soaked Nikes. Why did I never own rain boots? The cars that whizzed by just a tad too close, their tires slapping the perfect spot in the puddle, ensuring that the splash effectively covered my lower half. Soggy jeans in homeroom. The way paper lunch bags turn tearable when wet. As if PB&J needed help in the sog department.
I hated walking to school. I fear I would have gladly hopped in the back of a white, unmarked van for a ride. Puppies inside, you say? Walking to school meant three things: battling New England weather, moving when I’d rather be sitting, and that bloody backpack. The one filled with four textbooks, an unnecessary binder (because really, how many notes was I taking in fourth grade?), and a pencil case with not one, but two sets of colored pencils- God forbid that someone needed to borrow brick red.
I didn’t really mind the walk home, though. Cereal was at home. Punky Brewster was there.
On one afternoon, I’d opened a cabinet to retrieve a cereal bowl only to find that they were all in the dishwasher. Thankfully, clean from a recent cycle. Good daughter that I am, I set about putting the dishes away. Cups, plates, knives, forks, spoons, and finally, a stack of bowls. Wobbling bowls in hand, I made my way to the cabinet. One slip of my thumb and the bowls toppled. Each and every one in pieces on the floor. I thought of Punky. How would she tell Henry if she had clumsily destroyed all twelve of their floral painted bowls? Where was Cherie to help me cover up the catastrophe? I’m not sure which of us was worse off, the bowls or me, both of us sitting sad and shattered on the linoleum. My tears in a throwdown with the rain outside.
I ran to my bedroom. Snatched my pink velcro wallet from that secret spot under my mattress. The spot where Sami hid hers on Days of Our Lives. I wondered if she, too, had three dollars and sixty nine cents. Either way, it wasn’t enough to buy a new set of bowls.
I returned to the kitchen, perhaps more blue than before. I began prepping my “I’m so sorry but I-” speech for when mom came home at 11. And just then, at the moment when I was considering life as a runaway, I saw it. Zucchini bread. If it had arms it would have hugged me, I’m certain. I carved a thick slab, poured a glass of milk, and settled back down on the kitchen floor beside the bowl shards. I bit down through sweet cake, pulling back to take a peak at those toasty walnut polka dots.
It was soft and sincere, warmly spiced and nostalgic, tender-crumbed and forgiving. I vividly remember those first few bites, the ones that tasted like “It’s okay. It’s all okay…” I might have fallen in love then, with zucchini bread. I might have even thought it to be a magic cure for all the world’s ills, right up until the minute I knocked over my glass of milk.