Wednesday, December 2 2020

wrapping christmas presents and marissa's pork skewers

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Happy Wednesday. Somebody pointed it out to me that I mistakingly called yesterday Monday. It makes me laugh knowing that I can declare victory with a good night of sleep, and rush into a new work day thinking it was the wrong day of the week. Maybe I went with "Monday" because my actual Monday was so terrible, my subconscious was crying out for a fresh beginning. Or maybe I'm just kind of a dingiss sometimes.

Well, whether yesterday you chose to observe Monday or Tuesday, it's a new day. Happy Wednesday. Here's to stumbling into the halfway point in our work week. I hope you have a decent cup of coffee with you in your favorite mug.

Sip. The house is quiet now. Ollie is asleep in his bed in the living room, Ziggy is shamelessly sprawled out on my side of the bed in my absence, and there's nobody here but myself and Rodney's deconstructed countdown snowman. As promised, we began yesterday together ceremoniously shaking his paper hand. Sure, we also pulled off an enumerated paper link from our actual Christmas countdown snowman, but we can all agree that shaking Rodney's flat snowman hand was more rewarding and fulfilling.

We had a busy day yesterday. Marissa's planner sat on the table opened to a full page of scrawled notes and checkboxes. Tape, bows, wrapping paper littered the dining room. Like two industrious Christmas elves, Rodney and Marissa busily wrapped presents while Christmas music quietly leaked out of the music speaker. Remembering I had my own secret present to wrap, I snagged a bag and a piece of wrapping paper and slipped out of the dining room. Thinking I was just trying to cause havoc, Rodney vigilantly followed me upstairs demanding I give the paper back. I stopped just before turning the corner into our bedroom, meeting Rodney at the top of the stairs.

"Shhh," I said with a finger to my mouth. "We have to wrap Momma's present. Do you want to sign the card?"

Rodney beamed. He took a seat, scooting a chair up to my desk. I handed him a pencil. Deliberately with the focus of a chess grandmaster, Rodney penned the letters of his name. RODNEY, complete with a disproportionately giant d and a wormy backwards n.

"Perfect dude," I said. "Momma is going to love this. OK, now go casually put this under the tree - don't say anything."

Rodney deviated, instead marching the wrapped present into the kitchen, showing it to Marissa. "But don't open it until Christmas," he instructed.

We all have a system for keeping track of what Christmas presents we need to prepare. I have a whole holiday section of my notes, and getting to check something off by wrapping a single present, I felt very accomplished. Meanwhile, Marissa must have wrapped two dozen presents singlehandedly before lunch, tracking her own success with dark strikeouts and heavy check marks.

"It's a weird system," she said, sliding her planner over to me. "I put a check mark on the left when I've ordered it, I highlight it in pink when it's arrived - wait no, I highlight it in pink when it's ready to be wrapped, and I put a checkmark to the right of it when it's ready to be wrapped." Befuddled with her own notes, she paged through her planner. I chuckled, seeing blocks of text blotted out with the word DONE written in heavy sharpie.

By lunch, most of the present wrapping supplies had been relegated to the end of the table. I heated up some soup for us, then finished out the workday upstairs before crashing on the couch for a quick power nap. At 5:30, Marissa stood over me as I emerged from sleep.

"Should we light the grill now?" she asked.

I smiled and rubbed my eyes. "Let's do it," I said.

For her Tuesday meal, of all things Marissa chose Chef John's Barbecued Pork Skewers - thinly sliced pork shoulder marinated over night and finished on a grill. I hung around in the kitchen on Monday night while she prepared the marinade.

"So grilling," I said, beginning to probe. "Kind of an odd choice."

"Yeah," said Marissa. "I want to get better at the grill. And I'm still not that confident making meat. Do you think it's going to work?"

"Yeah," I said, leaning in to smell the grated garlic and spices. "Grilling when it's cold out is kind of a challenge. I hope it works out - let's hope it doesn't rain or anything."

It turns out it was a beautiful day to grill. It was cold, but there wasn't much wind. Once Marissa had the fire lit, I joined her around the grill with a beer and a tiny cigar. She laid the three meaty skewers in the center of the grate just over the coals. The fatty pork began to crack and sizzle.

"Look at that," she said. "The pieces are melting together. It's just one giant meat log now."

She snapped off a dangling charred piece from the end of a skewer, handing it to me. My eyes widened and my knees felt weak as I chewed.

"Holy cow," I said. "This is... is incredible."

Marissa went on to brush on the barbecue sauce. The smell wafting up from sticky sauce carmelizing to the fatty meat made me drunk with hunger. We moved inside, where she deskewered the meat over rice with broccoli. The first few minutes at the table were silent, except for the sounds of teeth gnawing.

"I'm so happy I could cry," I said. Marissa beamed with pride.

Eating the sweet, tender pork slathered in warm barbecue sauce, I was instantly transported into a fond childhood memory of devouring Portillo's ribs after a summer hockey game. The stomach ache I got from eating to fast was unmistakably familiar. Doubling over at the table, I groaned with contentment.

"I don't think I can finish it," I said.

"It's OK," said Marissa. "I didn't expect you to. I gave you a whole pound of meat."

"I'm going to inhale that for lunch tomorrow. And maybe some in a few hours out of the fridge, I bet it's going to be really lekker cold."

2020 12 02 pork

Thanks for stopping by today. Have a great Wednesday, everyone.