Butter has an amazing resilience all its own

Sharon Kennedy

The butter was cold this morning, a sure sign that fall’s on its way. The last few weeks have been exceptionally warm and downright miserable for those of us who look forward to a new season. I keep my butter dish in the cupboard, and lately I’ve had to scoop the butter with a spoon and spread it on my toast.

Today it was just the right consistency. Come November, it will be so cold and hard it will tear holes in my toast unless I cut a thick slice.

I bake bread almost every week but still haven’t gotten the hang of slicing a loaf into consistent pieces. I don’t know why, but they range in size from so thin I can see through them to so thick they barely fit in the toaster. I had one of those nifty plastic bread cutter guides where you put the loaf in and slice perfect pieces, but my bread was too wide to fit so I sold the guide at my garage sale. I hope the buyer has better luck.

Yesterday I spent hours compiling stories for a contest I’m entering. My eyes were nearly crossed by the time I proofread the last page. I went over all 186 of them and the more I read, the more mistakes I found like comma splices and tense changes.

I called it quits at midnight. I’m not going to give the manuscript one last look today before mailing it because I know I’ll find more mistakes.

In my last column I mentioned I’m a neat freak. You can just about imagine how particular I am about my writing. It’s never perfect, but it will have to do. My chances of winning are slim, but I have nothing to lose by trying.

A friend called while I was writing. She mentioned she would love to have studied at an art school in Detroit. She’s retired now so I suggested she take one class as a trial run. She won’t. She said her hands are too arthritic to hold a drawing pencil or paint brush, and she’d rather spend time with her grandchildren and travel than pay high tuition. I understand. There’s no point in spending money on something that’s only a dream, not a passion. I often encourage folks my age to try something new despite physical limitations. There’s no point in regretting a missed opportunity of our youth if we can do something about it now. I say go for it before it really is too late.

That soft butter got me thinking how quickly things change. Nothing remains static. Give any situation a few hours and that which seemed so bleak can morph into something wonderful. Sometimes it only takes a phone call to brighten our day. I’m alone a great deal of the time, mostly by choice. Usually I don’t mind as I keep busy at this keyboard, but every now and then I wonder what I’m missing. I enjoy an occasional outing with friends, but I’ve never needed an entourage like some people I know.

The holidays are fast approaching and for folks who lost loved ones during the year, festive days can be torture. Even Halloween can bring back memories of handing out treats to neighborhood children. It’s often difficult to figure out how to endure the next three months without having a nervous breakdown. I don’t have the answer or a magic wand to wave and make everything normal again, but I do have a suggestion.

First, have a good cry. There’s no point in pretending you’re okay when your heart is breaking. Friends will understand and will be there for you until the last one heads for home and closes your front door. Then that awful feeling of emptiness will fill your rooms and your tears will fall again. Memories will echo throughout your house, and you’ll yearn to hear the voice of your husband or wife, child or dearest friend.

Secondly, give yourself time to heal. In our fast paced world where every demand is met within seconds, we sometimes forget years of marriage or friendship cannot be brushed aside and forgotten in the same length of time it takes to nuke a frozen dinner. People need time to mourn, to reminisce, and gradually to smile and look forward to the future. We never forget our loved ones, but at the same time, we dishonor them when we give up. This is especially true if we watched them put up a valiant fight against whatever disease that claimed them.

What does butter have to do with missed opportunities or the passing of a loved one? Well, probably nothing. Maybe it’s just a symbol denoting change. The same stick of Land O Lakes butter that was solid when I first put it in the dish became a soupy mess from weeks of heat. Then when the weather changed, it stiffened up again and returned to its natural state. It was a bit changed, but it was still recognizable as butter.

Maybe people are like that. Life toughens us, then breaks us, then mends us. Each experience shapes our character, but ultimately we choose how we want to live each hour of each day. I hope whatever life has thrust upon you, it has also given you the courage to not only endure, but prevail.