A person’s face from the nose down covered in droplets of luminescent paint/makeup/glow stick solution.
Source: h heyerlein on Unsplash

As soon as Lydia scanned the map with the light, I saw everything glow like a beacon of home.

“How…how did you know that?” I asked. Most parents think their kids are smart, but that level of problem-solving blew me away.

“Just a guess,” Lydia surmised. “I saw it in one of my school assignments, but I don’t remember which one.”

That night, we enjoyed the rest of the cupcakes and mamoul, but Cara wasn’t having any of it. She lowered herself to the ground and screamed at the top of her lungs. Getting down to her level, Gavin helped her calm down with some breathing techniques. After Cara calmed down a bit, he explained that it wasn’t safe for us to have a party now, but that we could have one next year.

Since three-year-olds don’t have much of a concept of time beyond the immediate future, that backfired. To be honest, I wanted to scream and cry too. It wasn’t like me to nearly forget dates, especially not one of my kids’ own birthdays.

In addition to turning four, Cara was also moving up to preschool and I hadn’t done anything to prepare her for that. I also had to get her started on learning Belarusian — a language that I didn’t know myself. I guessed that we could all learn together, but where was the time?

The next day, Asher got discharged from the hospital and he told me that Felicity, one of the nurses, says hi. Glad to have him back, I made harissa with shredded chicken, one of his favorite foods. Although he’s not picky, I wanted to honor his preferences when he voiced them.

I pulled the chicken off of some old pieces of the fried stuff since the soggy breading wasn’t worth anything and started cooking the wheat. Normally, harissa was served with lamb, but I couldn’t type fast enough to keep up with inflation, let alone outpace it. Besides, no matter how much I tried to like it, I hated the taste of lamb.

After all three kids and my husband had all helped to stir, it was ready. We all made a bit of a mess, but to be fair, I still firmly believed that a kitchen wasn’t a kitchen without the occasional spill or splatter. Some of the rich didn’t even have kitchens because they could just summon one of their servants to cook for them and their families.

It was funny how status symbols worked. First the rich wanted spices and now they don’t season their food because it was raised so well that seasonings would just mask the supposed terroir that their foods had. They used to have lavish kitchen spreads with commercial ovens, more pieces of equipment than I could ever use, and numerous knives made of the finest Japanese steel. Now, they didn’t even want to cook for themselves.

On an even more ironic note, some of these people owned culinary empires and still didn’t want to cook for themselves. They even had the nerve to say that we were poor because we didn’t work hard enough. Even if we literally wore our fingers down to be bone, it wasn’t enough. I’ve seen fellow CNAs literally drop on the ground due to overwork and get up and keep working as if nothing ever happened. There was even a safety net installed outside the hospital to prevent on-the-spot suicides among other workers.

As we ate, I made sure to put some extra butter on my harissa. I wasn’t thin by any means, but I did notice that I had lost some weight. It was funny how a bit of stress could turn us into different people, even if we eventually got used to it.

Death-positive, sex-positive, and LGBTQ-affirming Christian. Gen Z. I hate onions.