Thursday, January 31, 2013

end of an era

I do not necessarily believe that everything happens for a reason. Everything happens. A harsh word, a hard conversation. An intake of breath. A slammed door, an outstretched hand, a pop of champagne, a glass clinks, a baby cries, a door opens and the world is made, piece by piece, forged on steps and moments and sighs and words spelled out, stretched out, words thrown and words whispered, letters strung into words into sentences and these sentences become celebrations, become sorrow. 

The moments I've had these past few months--the text that told me we'd be forced to move, the close of the house door as we headed to Virginia, the crackle of a shrimp shell I peeled in celebration of a fresh-faced college grad out to conquer the world. The hugs goodbye, the silence of the car. The click of a record about to play Vince Guaraldi, the spell of jazz as we open our presents. The car again. The dogs again. The presents again. And home we go.

The lists forged on new resolutions, written with new pens and new paper. A new Dutch oven on the stove, a pressure cooker in the cabinet. New slippers, new robes, new pajamas, new sweaters; the glow of a fire, the warmth of a mug.

A text one day that says Please call me.  
The grief that follows.

The whir of the train, the drone of a priest, the honking, gum-spit sidewalks of Manhattan.

My office, my quiet little desk on the fourth-and-a-half floor, my red-brick walls. Except it isn't my desk, and it isn't my office, I remind myself. You are a placeholder. You are temporary. You are here until they need you and not a damn day more.

But my first day back from the funeral, I learn that it is mine. It is mine and it always has been. My freelancing days—if I want them to be—are over.

And yes. Yes, I want them to be.

And so I get a letter. And I get a mailbox. And I get pretty little papers that say things like vision insurance and flexible spending and I am out of water, out of my damn mind, and this moment, this moment has been a long six months—10 months?—coming, and it is mine to seize.

And folks, I'm gonna seize the crap out of it.


Yes, folks, I'm selling out. Selling my Bohemian, penniless, fragile, feast-or-famine freelance existence for a 9-to-5 job with crazy things like benefits and 401ks and paid vacation time. The difference, my friends, is that instead of writing to fill other people's pocketbooks (namely, my clients) and meet their demands, I wholeheartedly love what I've been doing for the past six months. I won't bite my fingernails hoping a client's PayPal payment will come through, I won't have to chase down new clients, and I will not have to write about roofing or SEO or potato farms (though that would be awesome). Instead, I'll be working with food, writing about food, editing stories about food, and yes, tasting food, and the fact that someone is willing to pay me to do all that still seems re-god-damn-diculous. 

In fact, someone please pinch me to make sure this is not one giant Craigslist scam.

I cannot celebrate enough. There are not enough balloons or confetti or bottles of Moet in the world to achieve the level of celebrating I'd like to do. So please, tonight, when you're at home, eat a cupcake or a bite of baked alaska or just pour yourself a big ole glass of wine, because we're celebrating, readers, and I can't do it all by myself. There is only so much room in one person's stomach.  So have one for me. Have one on me. Have one in close proximity of me. I don't care. Last week it was nine degrees outside, so if there's ever a time for a little celebration to warm the world, it's here and now.


And now I want to say something to myself. Go ahead. Roll your eyes. I'll wait. 

But Nicki, I don't know how you hung in there these past 10 months, but you hung onto that company like a bulldog with lockjaw. Good for you. Good for you for not giving up, for believing that maybe, just maybe there'd be a light at the end of that tunnel. Good for you for transforming your little weak, whipped-dog-self into a semi-capable person. And good for you for going somewhere. For taking a step. For finding something that you wanted bad enough to say this. This is it, this is right, this is what I needThis. Because you got it. You won. And strange as it is to say, I'm proud of you.

Now get out there and knock 'em dead, killer. 

Friday, January 11, 2013


My uncle died yesterday and it is fine. It isn't fine, not really, it's awful and tragic and unexpected, but it is, and it will be, and I will go home on Monday and grieve with my family on Tuesday and make them chicken soup and lasagna and pie and anything else I can wrap up with foil and pack in the refrigerator with love, my version of love, made with my own hands.

My stepfather makes everything with his hands, large capable hands, the hands of his brother, the hands of his family. They were born to make, to fix, to build, and to mend.
Most days, my hands do nothing. They type and they scrawl and they accomplish nothing. My hands are soft and they are useless. My stepfather's family's hands are roughened and calloused, moving with sure and steady precision, capable. So capable. When I fell in love with Derrick, I fell in love with his hands first-- large and roughened and capable, born to mend and to heal. They were hands like my stepfather's. Hands that I needed.

I was born to fix sentences, not things, not people. I know where to put the noun and where to put the verb. I work in a language created by humans when they tired of grunting and pointing to indicate meaning. That's what I do for a living. I indicate meaning. I grunt and point. Eloquently.

My uncle fixed cars. My other uncle builds cabinets. My stepfather crafts parts. Capable hands, sure hands, hands now left idle in their grief, hands struck dumb at the sight of the casket.

And so I will go home and I will do the only thing my hands can do, the only place they are sure. I will roll dough and chop garlic. I will cover myself in flour. I will roll and wrap and simmer and stew and keep them busy. Make myself useful. I will listen. I will stand quietly. I will bake.

And I will grieve.