Sandwich Generation

1 May

You know that touching sequence in the movie Sleepless in Seattle when Tom Hanks’ character is trying to help his young son remember his mom? One of the images he shares is, “She could peel an apple in one long, curly strip. The whole apple.” And a generation of women started practicing with their paring knives. Because that sounds like pretty much the most badass kitchen skill ever.

I’m still working on my mastery of apple peeling, because it was lower priority for me than tidy apple coring. I can picture sitting at the table after lunch watching my dad pop a perfect c-shaped section out of the center of each apple slice, (it’s especially easy to summon this memory since he still feeds me lunch most Saturdays, thanks Dad.) The ease and assurance with which he handled the sharp paring knife awed and intimidated. I felt all thumbs in the kitchen until I was well into my 20s–it seemed unlikely to me that I would ever be so dextrous.

And then I had children. I was married for about 5 years before the kids came along, and my home cooking was slowly improving during that time. I made especially large strides during the year I was at home “working on a novel,” aka surfing recipe pages and dreaming about dinner. I finally abandoned the writing life pretense altogether when I got pregnant, and just outright concentrated on feeding my face. Eating for two and all that.

Pre-baby we were relatively healthy eaters, save the occasional box of Lucky Charms and nightly pregnancy pint of Ben & Jerry’s Mint Chocolate Cookie ice cream, but once my little girl was on solids I really stepped up my game. Her eating and sleeping were objects of obsessive focus, to the point where I would note down each day the duration of her naps and the number of fruits and vegetables she consumed. (The best thing that ever happened to my firstborn was a sibling. We both needed me to be distracted by keeping another person besides her alive.) And when you’re feeding someone with an ever-changing number of teeth, you chop up a hell of a lot of fruit. Knife skills, managed.

I was contemplating my hard-earned knife aptitude the other morning while I prepared school lunches under the watchful eye of my now third grader. As I sliced apples she said, “Please make sure to get EVERY BIT of the center out!” And while I was annoyed at being bossed around, (“Jeeves, CORE NEATLY!”), I felt secret sympathy for her. I hate the texture of apple core–even one little scrap mars the slice. Which is why I was totally on it, back up 9 year old.

And then I thought about it again at lunchtime as I cored apple slices for the lunch of my sweet, ailing grandfather. I set a plate of thinly sliced apples and wedges of cheese in front of him and he whistled in appreciation, “Boy, does this look nice.” It was a day of lunch prep, a day when, excuse me but, I truly earned my “sandwich generation” stripes.

No matter that inside I still feel like an aimless, bumbling pretend adult, it strikes me that anymore I do have some grown-up person bonafides. I can crank out a Thanksgiving dinner. I can sit down in February and plan our entire summer camp/vacation schedule. I can, (slowly, painfully, but accurately), read a map. I can’t keep my temper while I’m assisting with math homework, but someday I’ll get there. And maybe that will also be the day I master peeling a whole apple in one long, curly strip.

This person should not supervise youngsters. She can't even tie a tie.

This person should not supervise youngsters. She can’t even tie a tie.

4 Responses to “Sandwich Generation”

  1. Baddest Mother Ever May 1, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    This is lovely. I was talking to a friend yesterday at lunch about mothering (I’m 44 and she’s 53) and we both mentioned that “when are the GROWN UPS coming?” feeling that never really goes away.

    • amomynous2 May 1, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

      Thank you for the affirmation! It’s easy to feel like the only grown up who’s a pretend grown up. And thank you so much for reading and commenting. Greatly appreciated. XOX

  2. Casey May 8, 2013 at 2:50 am #

    Love how you connected the different roles you hold. And that I can picture you in your lovely kitchen too.

    • amomynous2 May 8, 2013 at 2:54 am #

      Thanks, darling Casey Lou! Wish lovely you were back sitting in my kitchen entertaining me. And thanks for commenting!!! 😉 XOX

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