#64 Muffins with secret ingredients, orange juice, science, and magic: If my story were a meal with many courses, this chapter is a palette cleanser.
On Tuesdays we don’t have cross country practice, so Oliver and I walk the twins home from school. We meander; it’s a scrum-then-scatter pace. Sam and Clyde skip ahead, yell over their shoulders about gym, race back, explain a recess game, stop to check the sidewalk cracks, explain their hot lunch choices, run ahead…repeat. But today, all of a sudden, as if we were joined at the hip, we come to a halt. Across the street, Belle the Barrister has emerged from Ye Olde Coffee Shoppe with her sandwich white board. The twins read it out loud in unison. They holler: GET ‘EM WHILE THEY’RE HOT: MORNING GLORY MUFFINS! Laser-focused on the sign, we pivot, cross at the crosswalk, and give Belle hugs and kisses. While I use my cell phone to check in with Our People, we hoist ourselves up on the counter stools. I love this sort of serendipity.
A few notes on “cross country” and “cell phones:”
Cross Country: Our school has separate junior and senior cross country teams, but Mr Grim—my teacher—coaches both and we practice together. Oliver is on the senior team—he is very fast—and I’m on the junior team—I run a respectable 7 minute mile. On practice days, either Zia, Pop, or Mimi—or sometimes all three of them or combinations of them!!—pick the twins up. When there’s a meet, they come to cheer us on. (Being retired, they can center their entire lives around us; phenomenal for us at least.)
The Cell Phones: After the harassment incident, Mimi, Pop, and Zia leaped into the 21st Century with this statement: Oliver and Isabel should carry a cell phone for emergencies. And just like that we were cell-toting teens. When I showed it to my classmates, they were amazed that,number one,I hadn’t begged for it and, number two, it came with no tracking devices and parental controls. Honestly I’ve been too preoccupied for the former and was ignorant of the latter. It’s not that I’m clueless; it’s that I’m “clued” in to other stuff.
Pop had a few rules: 1. No Pokémon GO in math class. (I think he was joking with this one.) 2. Answer when it’s Your People calling. 3. Check with them before downloading. 4. Don’t show it off. (I wasn’t flaunting it when I told my class about it; it just came out, literally: it fell out of my backpack.) 5. Do good with it, not evil. (I guess this would mean if we witness police brutality we video and broadcast it? But don’t be pulling it out and texting or taping and annoying and hurting and embarrassing? I sense that we need to mull #5 more.) 6. Our People have promised not to call or text us during the school day unless, needs must as I say.
Back to Morning Glory Muffins:
Belle doesn’t even have to heat them up. Straight out of the oven, you guys. Lots of secret ingredients today. Can you figure them out?
I pick out sunflower seeds and line them up to eat later. It looks like Belle’s tossed in some dark chocolate and cranberries (don’t like cranberries). The four of us sip orange juice and sort out the various chips and chunks in an effort to decode the recipe.
I meander down memory lane. ”Orange juice is a mixture of water, sugar, and citric acid,” is what Mom would say.
I have the twins undivided attention. Mention Mom or Dad and they’re on you with unblinking eyes and quivering chins.
One time, before you were born, we were drinking OJ from those cartons with pictures of missing children on the side? Mom opened her notebook and wrote this: H20 + C12H22O11 + C6H807.
And I write the formula for orange juice on my placemat! The letters and numbers glow. My handwriting is unusually legible. I sense an energy—a presence—that hadn’t been here a few moments before.
Oliver, Sam, and Clyde look away from the equation and stare at me like I’m Harry Houdini.
How’d you do that, Isabel? asks Clyde as he pats my hand and hugs me. I’m his supergirl.
I pluck crumbs off his sweater. I pulled that memory out of a deep lagoon, Clydster.
I am gobsmacked. How DID I remember this.
Oliver is watching me carefully. Isabel Scheherazade. This is what you mean about your Mom and Dad sitting in the Way-Back Seat, isn’t it? Your Mom is, like, nearby?
I nod. I don’t want to scare the boys, but they’ve moved on to hugging. Sam is leaning over for a hug from his stool on my other side. He doesn’t like to be left out. He gestures to Oliver, You too, mister.
It’s a stretch for four people on counter stools to hug without an accident happening, so Oliver hops off his stool and gets behind all of us and squeezes. He and I are cheek to cheek and laughing. I like it. The boys squeal. Bella comes over to top off our OJs and check on how we’re doing on the ingredients. The hug lock is over, but I know my cheeks are still pink and I think Oliver is blushing. It’s hard to tell.
So far we have the following ingredients:
Brown sugar, dried raspberries (NOT sour cranberries, that’s why I liked them), coconut flakes, flax seed, cinnamon, shredded Granny Smith apple (that’s the green kind that’s sweet?), shredded carrots (you’ll never frown at a carrot again after eating these), crushed pineapple, applesauce, pecans, vanilla, and baking soda-salt-spelt flour-eggs. Oliver did a ski and bake winter break camp in Vermont before he came to be with Zia. He knows that probably all muffins have some arrangement of the hyphenated list of ingredients
He keeps staring at me like I’ve become a unicorn. Is it the up-close and personal cheek to cheek? Or the up-close and personal Mom mirage?
Bella sends us home with three whole muffins for Our People. She adds the OJ formula to the white board.
See what mean? Palette Cleanser.