It is a lazy Sunday afternoon and my son sits glued to his PS2, a dinosaur of home video game consoles, I’ve learned from stumbling from one Gamestop store to another unsuccessfully seeking programs that will function on it.
The name of his newest game is so long I had to write it down on a neon pink Post-it. Even reciting it diligently from store to store was not enough for my memory to grasp and make mine, and as we crossed off locations that told us they didn’t carry it, hadn’t in years, my faith began to waver. It was my son’s dreamy, hopeful eyes that ignited my resolve and kept me going, on to visit one more store, ask one more time, maybe, who knows, maybe, store #7 will be The One.
Store #7 was a washout.
“We only sell PS3 and up,” the cocky young salesperson with a shiny stud earring answered, tearing his flat stare away from his iPhone onto us and sighing, as if we’d interrupted an important direct tweet with President Obama.
Really? Look at the boy’s eyes. Look into those eyes. Tell me you don’t get lost in that caramel glaze of hope, like I do? Tell me you’ll go to the back of the store, the very guts of it, and search in forgotten boxes, hunt for this obscure outdated game whose name I fail to remember and need to recite on a now-crinkled neon pink Post-it.
I feel like saying this to the unaffected clerk who has already forgotten us and continued tapping away at his smartphone, Tweeting, Snapchating, or Instagraming some inconsequential hiccup of his life.
My eyes beg to burn my wrath in that dry-ice way they know how.
But I don’t let them because I glance at my son and his eyes, thoughtful, rich and deep, beg me not to.
I mumble a middle-aged, proper “thank you” into the empty space and head to the parking lot, my mind spinning for a solution.
My son is cool with the whole thing.
But guilt and anger fester in me.
“You wanna look into getting a used PS4?” I ask kindly, as we get back in the car.
I can’t afford a new PS4.
“Nah, mom. I don’t like those. PS2 is good. I like it. Retro,” he adds, strategically, making it okay.
I’m not sure if he is lying or not. He is, like me, quite skilled at telling fibs.
All I know is that he is fiercely loyal and protective , a cub growing quickly into a man.
“Let’s go home, Mom. I’ll find it on Amazon,” he concludes, laying a reassuring eleven-year old hand on mine.
Back home I am grateful for the Internet.
We do, indeed, find what he is looking for, quickly, cheaply, with no shipping and handling fees and zero attitude.
Within days the package arrives.
He opens it and is ecstatic to find the PS2 game he pined for. It is loaded with bad graphics and even worse music. It’s really too new to be retro, to old to be hip, but my son is happy destroying villains to a soundtrack of what seems to be The Carpenters merged with an overdose of bad 80’s electric guitar solos.
The one that needs reassurance seems to be me. I keep remembering that indifferent twenty-year old kid at the game store, his sigh at our outdated request, and the world of updated game consoles that flourished without us.
“You wanna eat something?” I ask as my son shoots, kicks and bombs his way through the game.
“No thanks,” he tells me, without moving his eyes from the screen.
“You sure?” I push, the Jewish mother in me can’t help herself.
“Yeah,” he says, then pauses.
And here I know I’ve got a gem of a boy. Here he takes his eyes off the game and looks at me. A good fifteen seconds of love pours out of his eyes into mine. Enough to have his leg blown to bits by his opponent, the one hiding behind the boulder there. For his mama, my son takes the fall.
There’s a big explosion and a scream that sounds like Mariah Carey caught naked in the dressing room.
“Okay, yeah, I’ll have something,” he answers, returning to his game, not even flinching at the trauma his onscreen persona has endured.
He’s picked himself up again and continued to battle, missing the smile spread wide across my face.
“How ‘bout a slice of Cranberry Bread,” I toss out in my best casual-sounding voice.
I believe I can fix any problem with a slice of something sweet.
“That’ll be great, mom. Thanks.” He chimes back. “And a bowl of strawberries, please.”
He’s not much of a sweet bread eater, my boy. I know this. Which is why he’s asked for the strawberries. He’ll eat all the fruit in the world, even when he doesn’t want anything, a bowl of strawberries is always welcome. But he is kind, thoughtful, and sensitive, so he will take my slice of Cranberry Bread for me. Maybe he’ll break off a piece as if to pop it in his mouth, then park it on the upper corner of his plate. If I serve it warm with a slab of butter, he’ll spread that around with a knife, watch it give way to the glistening cranberries. Engage in the ritual of eating it without actually taking a bite.
I’m overlooking the years of therapy I may be thrusting upon him with my need for happiness through food. Unlike him, I can be incredibly selfish, like now, plopping a piece of cranberry bread on a plate and placing it in front of my boy merely to ease the anger, frustration and hopelessness our unsuccessful store hopping flared up in me. There is more to this, I realize. But what better way to ease a mother’s sense of inadequacy than with cranberry bread?
“Thanks, Mom,” my son smiles, ignoring his game and playing along in mine. He is wise beyond his years, understanding me so well like that, choosing to give me this moment instead of enjoying his. I see the bad guys on the screen. They’re all out in the open now, approaching him, preparing his demise. He will have to start over from level one to regain all his powers if he doesn’t defend himself right now. His eyes scan the screen quickly, assess the situation in a matter of seconds and return to me. In my book, he’s ahead of the game all the time.
- (The Silver Palate Cookbook)
- 2 cups flour
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cup fresh orange juice
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 3 tablespoons butter, melted
- ½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
- 1 ¼ cups cranberries
- 2 teaspoons grated orange rind
- Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 8 x 4 ½ x 3 inch bread pan.
- Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl.
- Make a well in the middle of the sifted mixture and pour in orange juice, eggs and melted butter.
- Mix well without overmixing.
- Fold in walnuts, cranberries and orange rind.
- Pour batter into the prepared pan and set on the middle rack of the oven.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Remove from oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes.
- Remove from pan and cool.