Burnt Toast

I burn toast. It’s hereditary. My mother burned toast. My grandmother burned toast. In fact, the time my grandmother, making cornbread dressing for Christmas dinner, lifted the third consecutive pan of smoldering bread from the oven, my father, who had been observing in silence, drawled, “Mrs. Barrow, you’re a failure.”

Reminiscing about that bit of family lore, I burned the toast. When my husband came to see what the yelling was about, I pointed at the cinders and said, “That was the end of the loaf, so we’ll just have to eat it.” More tactful than my father, he turned around quickly, but not before I glimpsed the corner of his mouth twitch. He has learned to expect charred bread.

He’s learned to expect a few other things as well. I lock my keys inside my car; if I’m preoccupied enough, I lock the extra set of keys and the cell phone in with them. I try to make four quarts of soup in a two-quart saucepan. I hoard both fat clothes and skinny clothes for the time when they might once again, someday, fit.

That’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s good for a start. I used to ask myself why I keep doing those things. Lately, however, I’ve been wondering, “So what?”

I have a good working relationship with the roadside assistance folks–I send money and they send assistance. I’ve met some nice people this way; one locksmith, in fact, said I’d just made his day by not behaving as if it were his fault I was locked out. When the soup fixings start to spill over, I get out a larger vessel and arrange a transfer, and just add one more pot to the dishwasher. Some years that gray wool suit fits and some years it doesn’t, but it’s still in excellent condition, and there’s always hope.

And it’s not as if I don’t have a few talents. Soup is a challenge, but I can pack the truck of a car so that every suitcase, garment bag, and Christmas present fits without spilling over into the back seat. I can get pills down cats. My booktalks make sixth-grade boys scramble for the shelves. I make good ice cream. Surely these things count in my favor.

The day of the latest conflagration, I found–serendipitously–the blog Burnt Toast, whose author points out that while regular toast is boring, burnt toast has “flavor and character.” I like that. After all, without burnt toast, I wouldn’t have the memory of my father teasing his much-loved mother-in-law, a story redolent of the flavor and character of my family.

So in the coming year, I resolve to say, “So what?” to the small stuff. I’ll try to keep my keys in hand, but when I don’t, I’ll take the opportunity to make someone’s day. I’ll donate some slacks to the Salvation Army, but I’ll keep the gray suit. I’ll be grateful for soup that expands beyond the bounds of my expectations.

In short, I’ll embrace burnt toast, relishing the flavor and character it brings.

Burnt Toast