Dining and Dreaming at the Blind Salamander RV Park – Bon Appetit

I stood at the kitchen sink scraping peanut butter off a spoon with my teeth. The idea of cooking an actual meal was enough to make my limbs go leaden. So my family survived on what we scooped out of jars or unearthed from the freezers icy crust.

It was November, and in anticipation of the next disaster declaration, we let the news pipe into our living room at all hours. A stone-faced anchor rattled off COVID-19 statistics. Nanny, my husband Prestons 91-year-old grandmother, interrogated the TV. Now just what in the holy hell is happening? she asked.

Nanny suffered from Alzheimers, and this question burbled up often. When the pandemic hit, when she noticed everyone wearing face masks, when our groceries arrived at the door in boxes, when the death toll climbedagain and again, she wondered what was happening. Preston and I never came up with a good answer. Theres a virus going around, like the flu, but worse, wed say.

Because finding Nanny a safe nursing facility mid-pandemic was impossible, shed moved in with usindefinitely. We all adjusted to new routines. Work Zoom meetings were followed by denture scrubbing. Then we disinfected surfaces, answered emails, and puttered around the neighborhood with Nanny in her wheelchair. And when we climbed to the tops of particularly loathsome hills, we whooped at each other like excited geese.

Six months in, though, I couldnt help but feel swallowed up. Id transformed from a carefree 31-year-old to a full-time caregiver combating infectious disease. Some days I wanted to bolt. Or crumple to the floor and let jagged, snotty sobs shake out of me. But I figured these responses would only amplify Nannys bewilderment.

So instead, after all the responsibilities (aside from cooking) were done, I retreated to my small lonely space at the kitchen sink, stared out the window, and studied a creek flowing in our backyard, looking for a way to feel normal. That evening I thought about our lives seven years earlier, at the Blind Salamander RV Parka dusty patch of Texas land, dotted with ancient pecans along the San Marcos River. Back then we were in our early 20s, not ready to become corporate cogs, eager for at least one more grand adventure. So we moved into a leaky 26-foot camper and enrolled ourselves at a nearby college.

We didnt cook much in the RV, either, but for practical reasons. Our oven was child-size, akin to the Easy Bake variety, with a temperamental pilot light. For Prestons 25th birthday, I made a rum cake. It took three hours to bake and came out of the Bundt pan in gelatinous, boozy chunks. We ate with our hands, giggling through each bite. But privately, I noticed an anxious hum in my brain.

Id left a full-size apartment and a reliable job for a tin-can home with a hardly functioning oven. Why? Right now it was just the cake that was falling apart. But what if I never finished school, never got another job? I could practically hear the whisper of self-doubta silvery voice that said, Youll never make it here.

I was spiraling. The parks groundskeeper, Eddie, noticed me frowning in a lawn chair at the helm of our RV. When I described my cake failure to him, he slapped my shoulder and said, with a no-big-deal rhythm, Come by tonight. Richards grilling.

So at dusk Preston and I walked a short dirt path to Eddies trailer. Outside, a few park residents lounged on tailgatesunhinged and scratched to hell from hauling kayaks. Richard, a tattoo artist in his 40s, manned the grill. He smoked everything over split mesquite. Until that moment I didnt realize wood had a fragrance, a flavor.

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Dining and Dreaming at the Blind Salamander RV Park - Bon Appetit

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