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Thoughts While Walking the Dog
Memories of a Jewish Childhood
By Lynn Ruth Miller

Hurts That Never Heal

An injury is much sooner forgotten
Than an insult.
Lord Chesterfield 

My mother could remember every insult she received since the day she was born.  Her mind was a garden of hurts she watered with sprays of righteous indignation until they blossomed into rapiers she hurled at her offenders months, even years after the event.  I can still remember the conflagration we had the winter of my fifteenth year.   I pushed open the front door and called, ”What’s cooking, Mom?“

My mother threw her spatula at me and hissed, ”That is precisely the tone of voice you used when you were six years old and interrupted my telephone conversation.”

I had experienced many attacks like this one and each time I was baffled into silence. How can you defend something you can’t remember? I had tried,” My God I’m sorry,” and got “It’s a little late for that now, isn’t it?”

I attempted silence and received,” How can you be so insensitive to others?”

I even attempted to meet fire with fire:  “WHAT telephone conversation?” and was pulverized with “You know very well what telephone conversation, Lynn Ruth.”

Mother harbored actions even longer than words.  It must have been a year later that I walked into the front hall and my mother stormed out of the kitchen with her cooking fork at the ready.  “You’re doing it again,” she roared.

”Doing what?” I asked.

“Don’t pretend you don’t know what I mean,” my mother said.  “You always do that when you disapprove.”

“Do WHAT?” I asked.

My mother turned her back and stomped off into her stove.  “I don’t want to discuss it,” she said.

When I approached my father for some clue on how to handle this avalanche of  unexpected rage, he said, “Women are like that, Lynn Ruth.”

“Like WHAT?” I asked.

 “Oh you know,” said my father.  “Sensitive.  Things hurt them more than they do men.  You’ll be like that too when you get older.”

I shook my head.  “I will not,” I said.  “I am a reasonable human being.  I don’t rehash old grievances.  I am too intelligent.”

My father smiled and kissed the top of my head.  “Sure you are,” he said.

“YOU never get angry at people for things they did a hundred years ago,” I said.  “Why can’t I be like you instead?”

“Because you aren’t a man,” said my father.

 “I don’t believe you,” I said.

My father smiled once more.  “Yet,” he said. “You don’t believe me yet.”

It wasn’t until after I married that  I understood the truth in my father’s words.  My husband and I lived on the top floor in what was originally the master bedroom of a pre-Civil War  mansion.  The stove had evidently been rescued from the original kitchen and was fueled with coal.  The oven was rusting and its door had to be taped shut whenever I used it.   The night that clarified the endemic difference between men and women for me, I was attempting to bake a leg of lamb. I had a terrible time getting the thing to stop bleeding when I tested it for doneness and was stabbing it with belligerent fury when my husband walked into the kitchen. “What smells?” he asked.

“Dinner,” I said.  “What do you THINK smells? ”

“For Gods sake, Lynn Ruth,” he said. “I just said ‘what smells’ and you get in a huff.”

I dried my eyes on a dishtowel.  “That was the exact tone of voice you used when you told your mother you hated spinach last spring.”

“Stop making a big thing out of nothing,” said my husband.  “You are acting like a child.”

“Oh no I am not,” I said and I remembered my father’s psychology lesson .  “I am acting like a woman wronged.”

“WRONGED?” said my husband,  “Just what have I done that’s wrong?”

“You said  you didn’t like my cooking!” I said.

“But I LOVE your cooking,” he protested.  “Put your dinner on the table and I’ll prove it to you. Why do you think I’ve gained forty pounds since we got married?”

I sniffled and readjusted my apron.  “That’s because you are sedentary,” I said.

I returned to my hemorrhaging main course and tried to do something to make it look edible before I hauled it to the table.  I threw it on a platter, pricked holes in its hide and stuffed in clusters of mint and parsley. The roasted potatoes were so hard the fork buckled when I tried to pierce them. I pitched them onto the platter and they circled the roast like magnetic billiard balls.  I sprinkled them with paprika and drizzled mint jelly over the entire arrangement.    I took off my apron, smoothed my hair and called,  “Wash your hands, honey.  Dinner is ready!”

My husband sat down at the table.  He looked at the red and beige main course with quivering green blobs of jelly and stalks of greenery poked into it and he shuddered.  “That looks like a war casualty,” he observed.

“What a cruel, insensitive remark!” I said.

I handed him the carving knife. ”Slice the lamb while I serve the vegetables, please.”

My husband held the knife in his hand and contemplated it for a very long moment.  “I don’t know how to carve lamb,”  he said.  “You do it.”

I smacked the platter of beans almandine down on the buffet and hurled hatred across the table.  “I have spent all day cooking that damned hunk of flesh,” I said.  “If you want to eat it, you’ll have to cut it.”

“At MY house, my mother carved the roast,” said my husband.

“Your mother was nothing but a slave to your father’s commands,” I said. “I am a liberated human being and I will not be reduced to a servant.”

“Oh yeah?” said my husband.  “Well, if you’re so liberated, you can slice that meat.”

I walked into the living room, grabbed the telephone and called my father.  “I want a divorce, ” I said.  “I am being abused.”

“Nonsense,” said my father.  “You sound just like your mother.”

“Would you let mother carve a leg of lamb?” I asked.

“Of course not,” said my father.  “I’d take her to a restaurant instead.”

I looked deep into the telephone receiver as if it held a secret I couldn’t figure out. “Why would you do that? I asked.

“Male intuition, Lynn Ruth,” explained my father.

“I suppose you’re going to tell me that’s a guy thing,” I said.

“Not at all,” said my father.  “It’s self preservation.  Forget that lamb and let Tom treat you to dinner.”

“Are you going to tell me that’s the girl thing to do?”

“No,” said my father.  “Its common sense.”

Conflicts have a natural lifespan.
The trick is to know when to let them die.
Ian McEwan


Remove all fat from the roast and make four deep pockets in the flesh.  Stuff these cavities with cloves of garlic, parsley flakes & rosemary.  Rub with olive oil and surround with raw, peeled potatoes.  Roast, uncovered at 350 degrees until fork-tender (depending on the state of your oven this can take from an hour to several months.)  Right before it is finished pour one-half cup dry wine over the roast. 

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