That's The Story Of Love
February 2, 2005
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I was making a batch of wild rice soup, which at one point brought the kids running. "What is it?" they asked. Soup, I replied. "No, the SMELL," they said. Oh... it must be the wild rice, I told them. Wild rice, as you must know, has its own musky scent. If you boiled the bark of oak trees I imagine it would smell about the same. It's an acquired smell. Like seaweed is an acquired taste. You eat enough of it and you find yourself liking it. Same with horehound candy and buffalo meat. "It doesn't smell like rice," they said. "It smells like hamster turds." And that's when I sent them out to shovel the driveway.
Mr. Sundberg heard everything. He was home for the weekend and sitting at the table working on the crossword puzzles he'd left behind while he was in Ohio last week. "It doesn't smell like hamster turds," he said. "It smells like earth," he said. "And I like it. What else are we having?" I told him I was thinking blueberry muffins. "I'll help," he said. He got up and refilled his coffee and hoisted himself up onto the counter. He held the bowl in his lap while I measured out the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. A cloud of flour rose up as he mixed. Hang on, I told him and poured in the milk, eggs and oil. Okay, now. And as he mixed, the Geezers or the Jug Band or whatever they're called played, "That's the story of, that's the glory of love" and I opened the fridge and stuck my finger in the Jell-O I'd made. It's Mr. Sundberg's favorite. A plain old bowl of red Jell-O. Raspberry is number one, but cherry or strawberry will do. It's been a thing with us. Whenever we argue or he's gone for longer than usual or I do something silly that makes him a little bit angry, I whip up some red Jell-O and write "I Really Don't Think You're Pigheaded" or "I'm Sorry I Shrunk Your Favorite Wool Sweater" or simply "I Love You" on a Post-It note and slap it on the bowl and I find him later on, sitting on the couch with the bowl and a spoon and a smile on his face. One time I added a little vodka for fun, to see how it would all set up. Let's just say Mr. Sundberg woke up the next morning with a red mustache and a headache to beat the band.
"Now what?" he asked. "Can I dump it into the paper things?" Not yet, I said, and emptied the cup of blueberries into the bowl. So he mixed and I tasted the soup and set the table. I watched him scoop the muffin batter into the paper cups. "Am I doing it right?" he asked, and dropped a big blob of batter onto his shoe. Looks good to me, I said. And that's when I felt this great urge to hug him. And I did. "Did you know that Mark Twain married a woman named 'Olivia'?" he asked. "She was smart. She helped him edit Innocents Abroad."
Mr. Keillor said, just then, that he's made a resolution to do more duets, happy or sad. What a sweet thing, I thought. Just the way to go. A duet. And he and Prudence sang together and I thought maybe Mr. Sundberg and I should cook together more often. I would pour it all in and he would stir. Our elbows would touch now and then or we'd bump into each other and it would be not a dance or a duet and it might take some practice but we would be together. It seems The Story of Love is about making muffins and paying bills and it not mattering so much who scraped the car while parking it in the garage. The car is dented and that's that and let's move on.
I ended up making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the kids. "Your dad made the muffins," I told them so they ate 'em up and told Mr. Sundberg he should be a chef in Paris. I got out the red Jell-O and everyone clapped and when dinner was over Mr. Sundberg said, "That was the best meal I've had in a long time" and I smiled at him. Not because his lips were bright red or his shirt was stained with blueberries. I smiled because we get along and because, when I told him I dented the car, he asked if I'd been hurt and when I said no he said, "Well, then." And I smiled because he does crossword puzzles and knows things I don't. What I know and he doesn't is that there's a case of red Jell-O under the sink in the laundry room. A Valentine's Day present. And won't he be surprised.