February 12, 2021
When I was crying alone at my stove at 11:45 last Thursday night, any number of things could have been the culprit. The most obvious one, at the time, was the recently-exploded Pyrex measuring glass, which one of my kids had been using to attempt to melt blue raspberry Jolly Ranchers in a cup-and-a-half of water. In case you’ve never tried melting Jolly Ranchers in a Pyrex measuring cup over a low flame for the purpose of an elaborate popsicle-making experiment, let me save you the trouble — it doesn’t end well. And, as much as I’d like to blame the kid who did this, the cold hard truth is that he asked me first, and I was slightly distracted and simply said “Mm-hmm, sure, yeah, should be fine.”
Now, in my defense, some measuring glasses ARE safe to put over an open flame, like this beauty:
And there is such a thing as a glass saucepan, which is obviously stovetop-safe:
Pyrex measuring glasses, however, are not stovetop-safe. And to make sure no one gets the harebrained idea to try putting a Pyrex measuring glass over an open flame, Pyrex prints a warning label right on the dang thing:
Todd was feeling poorly that night and had gone to bed early. My oldest two boys helped me — kindly and eagerly — with the cleanup for awhile, but it was late and it was a school night and I finally sent them to bed. Glass shards hiding all over the cooktop, sticky blue water clogging every gas burner and dripping down into the basin below the range, and midnight fast approaching, it might be not be surprising that I cried as tried to sort things out, that I shed tears while wondering if an old Pyrex, a handful of Jolly Ranchers, and my own stupidity were going to be the ruin of a beautiful appliance that had been, up until that point, all shiny and new. The whole situation was very ridiculous.
Earlier on that Shattered Pyrex Thursday, we had celebrated Will turning six years old. He’s our youngest, which means every age we leave behind, we’re leaving it behind for good.
Goodbye, Five Years Old! You were one of my favorites, and now you’re done.
Will is learning to read, and he’s a whiz at math, and he’s trying real hard to be a Big Kid, but also he still sorta believes he’s a Power Ranger and he absolutely adores stuffed animals. Before going to bed on his birthday, Will asked if he could watch Bluey, an adorable, funny, utterly wholesome show about an Australian family of dogs. Will isn’t much of a snuggler, but that night he let me snuggle him for awhile anyway, in his funny little footie pajamas that he still likes wearing, before going off to be tucked into bed by Todd. Even as we celebrate him getting older, he’s still so little.
Also on that Shattered Pyrex Thursday, Kiefer officially became a licensed driver. That was just the way the chips fell, that he was eligible to get his license on Will’s birthday, and he didn’t want to wait a day longer than necessary. Kiefer’s our oldest, which means every age we enter, we’re entering it for the first time.
So hello, Sixteen Year Old Driver! You are terrifying, but I’m here for it.
In point of fact, Kiefer is a very cautious, conscientious driver, and so far he’s giving us every reason to trust him. While Will and I were curled up on the couch watching Bluey together, Kiefer was driving himself and his brother Cooper to youth group. When youth group was over, they drove to the store to pick up some groceries for me on the way home. Having someone who is eager to run errands for me is maybe the most exciting development of 2021 so far. They were safe on the road, they were efficient at the store, and they checked every item off of my shopping list.
It was late when they got home, and their little brothers had been asleep for quite some time by then. As those older two embarked on an ill-advised plan to melt Jolly Ranchers on the stovetop, I sat down and tried to string together some thoughts about how extraordinary it is to celebrate our oldest and youngest sons — the two bookends of our family — on the same day. But as I tried to find the words, a painful ache crept over me instead.
I’ve been missing my dad a lot lately. We all have. Todd feels it. My mom obviously feels it. People told us to be prepared for that, for the sadness to kind of settle in a few months down the road. Turns out, people were right, and sadness keeps coming back to poke holes in our happiness.
When my mom brought Will the sweetest birthday gift this year, she brought it alone. And the card from her — a funny little monster card that made Will laugh out loud and which contained six whole dollars inside — was missing a name on it.
After my dad died, my mom generously gave us one of their cars, knowing we’d be able to put a third vehicle to good use. Kiefer paid us for the car, and it’s his now, and he couldn’t be more delighted, but that car is packed with memories too. Kiefer and my dad talked about cars when we lived at my parents’ house last summer. It came up that Dad’s favorite car was a 1965 white Mustang, and after that conversation, Kiefer went on eBay and ordered a die-cast little figure. He gave it to my dad a few days later when it arrived, and that little car sat on Dad’s bedside table until the end. It sits on my counter now, a small reminder of the connection Kiefer felt with him. A small reminder of the loss he feels now.
Man, how I wish my dad was here to celebrate Will’s sixth birthday. (“Six?!” he’d gasp. “Why, it was only last year you were five!”) How I wish he was here to shake Kiefer’s hand and congratulate him on being a driver. (“Be alert!” he’d advise. “The world needs more lerts!”)
I sat at my desk that Thursday night, wanting to write but feeling distracted and a little overwhelmed by thoughts of Will turning six and Kiefer getting licensed and my dad being gone, and while thus absorbed I heard something shatter in the kitchen. When I hurried in, I discovered the Jolly mess, with Kiefer and Cooper looking alarmed and a little sheepish, and glass and sticky liquid everywhere. And that’s why I was weeping over my stove at 11:45 that night. Because the mess made me sad.
Our stove is fine, by the way. And I’m okay too. Things shatter sometimes. Messes happen. The best-laid plans of people and popsicles go awry. But unlike Pyrex, people don’t explode to smithereens when the heat gets turned up. We stretch and we hurt and we grow and then we stretch and hurt some more and then we grow again. And usually, there’s sweetness to be found along the way, even in the broken things.