What Scares Me
October 30, 2006
Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. I'd declared Saturday "Family Fun Day" for the first time in a long while. Which means that we all stay home and bake and watch old horror movies and just be together with candles lit and a few good things to eat and nowhere to go until Sunday. Well, my intentions were good, anyway.
The weather was about as perfect as it gets with an admirable wind blowing and sun and nearly sixty degrees at noon. There were leaves all the heck over and I thought Mr. Sundberg would spend the afternoon raking but instead he called up his friend Earl and got out his chainsaw and took off just after lunch to go thin out the trees with Earl out on the edge of the property. "Back for dinner," he said, and I waved from the kitchen until he was gone. The kids were restless and picking at each other so I gave them each a rake and a Hefty bag and sent 'em out and said, Don't come back until your bag is full.
So I mixed up some dough for cutouts and rolled it out and cut six dozen pumpkin-shaped cookies and baked them and lay them out to cool. Then I made a double batch of buttermilk pancake mix for dinner. There really is nothing as good as a pile of pancakes and some pork sausage fried dark on a Saturday evening at home. Then I mixed up some powdered sugar frosting and was putting in the orange food coloring when I heard screams and the kids came barreling through the door. "There's something out there," they said. "We heard it crashing in the brush by the road. Our bags are at least half full so can we please stay in?" Oh, all right, I said, and they kicked off their shoes and piled onto the couch and I put in the old version of Frankenstein which I thought they'd enjoy and then I went out onto the porch and listened and heard nothing at all but the wind.
Well, the show had started and the pork sausage was frying and it was getting a bit dark outside. I was dancing around the kitchen when there they were - all three kids standing there staring at me. "We're scared," they said. "Can we help you and finish the movie later?" Sure, I said, and gave them each a butter knife and a pile of pumpkin-shaped cookies. I set the bowl of frosting down in the middle of the table and told them to have at it and they did and we got to talking about scary things and what we're afraid of more than anything. The kids said they're afraid of things like monsters and sharks and sounds from the basement. They mentioned aliens, too, and cornfields at night, and kidnappers. They asked me what scares me, and I had to think about that for a good while. Well, I said, I'm not much afraid of any of the things you're afraid of. That's what growing up does to a person; it changes your fears. Makes some disappear and makes others come alive. What scares me mostly are things you can't see or touch. Ideas. Like what if I lost you. That kind of thing. (I didn't mention my fear of losing my mind. Too much to explain.) I did tell them that when I was young what scared me most was that some oddball would one evening just walk up to the window and press his face against the glass and simply stare at me without blinking.
Well, we finished the cookies and in no time at all I set a big plate of pancakes in front of them and there was butter and blueberry syrup and refills of milk and I made more pancakes and turned up the radio and sat down with them. I was about to ask them what their plans were for Halloween when their eyes got big and they put down their forks. Their eyes were fixed behind me. I turned to look, and there it was. A face in the window above the kitchen sink. A man's face pressed against the glass. My heart raced. Oh, my, I said. The face disappeared, and a moment later the side door opened, and Mr. Sundberg came in, laughing to beat all getout. Oh, for God's sake, I said. He smiled at me. "Any pancakes left?" he asked, and looked at the kids. "Boo," he said. "Did I scare ya?" The kids shook their heads. "Nice try, though," they said. We sat there together until the sun had set and the show was over and the very last pancake was gone.
2 t sugar
2 cups buttermilk
2 T melted butter
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 cups flour
Separate eggs into two medium-sized bowls - whites in one, yolks in the other. Beat whites until stiff; set aside. Beat yolks. Add buttermilk and melted butter. Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder; add to buttermilk mixture. Blend well. Fold in whites. Refrigerate until you're all set. Pour 1/4 cup or so of batter onto lightly greased, hot griddle. Flip when light brown. Serve with maple or blueberry syrup and butter. Enjoy!