Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Cleaning Up the Mess: Key Lime Pie

And so I found myself yet again in the middle of my pale blue 6x6 kitchen. Elixirs poised in my hands, the full bottles twirling like loaded pistols. My compadres Jack and Jameson. Mixing bowls shining nobly and Kitchen Aid tilted back rearing like an old trusty steed, preparing for a gallop across my frozen Midwestern countertops.

I'm sure that my Dad was already drunk for the night. Granted, the time difference was on his side. Granted, it was 5:00 not just somewhere, but sixteen after five here, too. So, I cut him some slack. Hell, I would have cut him slack regardless, since I was also pleasantly buzzed. I was home from my afterwork- workout and freshly showered, with a freshly opened bottle of High Life. It had been another eventful trip to the mailbox, which is precisely why I was warming up with a beer and flipping through muffin recipes. Not because I was hungry, of course. I can never eat while my brain is gluttonously consuming the thoughts of the day or the recently opened contents of the letter from my father.

I hadn’t heard from him in a month. Not because he was a jerk, of course. He was in hiding. Again. I was his only confidant, his only daughter, his only source of sympathy. Since he had run away six months prior, I could rely only on my monthly letter. It was more than anyone else he knew received, and so I felt auspiciously smug when I easily slipped my finger through the envelope. Of course because of this, I had become the family’s crisis hotline for those concerned about his health and whereabouts. I never heard much from Wives #2 or #3, naturally. But my mother, Wife #1, did periodically slip in a sly question regarding his wellbeing into our conversations. His mother, brothers, and sister were the most relentless trivia seekers. But, I only shared selective amounts of the Dad Data which I received carefully penned in his letters. Mostly because, as was his notorious custom, he supplied me with very little actual information concerning himself. We limited our correspondence to exchanged fictional stories. I didn’t even know where he was exactly. Somewhere in Florida. I never really ventured to check the postmark. I liked it better that way. Details have always been unimportant in the face of the history and love and enjoyment of being this man’s daughter.

So, when I was finally freshened up and sipping on a beer at 5:16pm, I sat down to read the latest exquisitely told tale from the tired fingers of my Dubious Dad. I was surprised to see only one sheet of paper inside. One sheet of high quality parchment and a plane ticket.

dear distanced daughter,
I have decided that now is as good a time as any. I would like to see you. I am sorry that it has been so long. Well, if “long” is how we would like to define eight years. Incredibly long? Embarrassingly long? That’s more accurate. Also, sorry about your divorce. I have enclosed a plane ticket for you. Sorry I am such a mess. I hope that you come to Key West, regardless. I think I need you and I certainly love you.
Ps: pack your summer clothes. Do you even have summer clothes?

I set his letter on the coffee table and smiled. I glanced towards the north-facing window in my living room and looked at the wild, icy lake. I got up, pulled on my puffy coat, mukluks and wool mittens. In much the same way that I'm always looking for that handbag which will change my life, I was on nearly-as-meticulous hunt for the most idyllic set of key limes.

Therefore, that night at 7:54pm, I was abandoning muffins. “Ed Abby” had been packed and gone for days and I was left blissfully to my own devices (cabinets full of baking supplies, a stocked liquor closet, and a playlist packed with old school hip-hop and punk rock). And it seemed fitting to let the kitchen become a disaster, to let myself become a disaster. To let the flour poof like clouds of magic dust from my carefully manicured and enchanted fingertips. To abandon the Muffin, who had for so long been my Knight in Shining Batter. I no longer needed his security. I was going to attempt to face my arch nemesis: the Pie. Pie is unpredictable and elusive. The various crusts and enumerable filling options. There is no base recipe, so it is an ever-changing list of options. I would whip and stir and splatter while battling my way through the turbulent mêlée with this Key Lime Pie. It would turn out perfectly. I would drink and dance and sing while wrestling with what I would do with the invitation from my father. I prayed that this sloshy, scattered process with the alcohol and the oven would allow enough warmth into my fingers for me to begin to clean up our messes.

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