Perhaps it’s nostalgia for when I was a student. Perhaps it’s a sadness that stems from things coming to an end. Perhaps I truly can blame Molly Wizenberg. But whatever the cause, last week, I was a weepy mess.
It started small, a feeling of ennui, of being discontented. Last week was the calm before the storm, so during my office hours, I buried my nose in a book since I had little else I could do until students turned in their research papers. The book I buried my nose in was Molly Wizenberg’s memoir, A Homemade Life.
Everything was going great up until Molly chronicled the loss of her father to a very aggressive form of cancer. The way she wrote about it – the way that food centered around it, from the complicated issues of appetite to the dishes people brought for her and her family – brought me screaming back to when my brother passed away. It brought me back to Selena’s chicken casserole. Selena was (probably still is) a member of the church I grew up in, and she brought us the most wonderful, homey, comforting casserole. I’ll make it some time. Though I’ve had it many times since, I can’t avoid relating it to an incredibly dark time in my life, so eating it casually is a bit complicated.
Suddenly, there I was, in my office, using my hair to hide my face from my officemate. I had to teach in ten minutes, and I was a teary mess. I made it to the bathroom and managed to get myself cleaned up and composed, but it was a close call.
So close, in fact, that I repeated it on Friday. I sat downstairs in my building, waiting for my roommate to finish teaching her class, and lo and behold, Molly Wizenberg’s book made me cry again. This time, it was as she chronicled her wedding. Weddings don’t typically make me cry (except for the ones that do), so I don’t know what my deal was. And then one of my students, a very sweet young man who always cheerfully wishes me a nice day/weekend as he leaves my class, walked by. I was misty already, but he stopped to thank me for helping him so much in the class this semester. He said I helped him a lot, and that he had learned so much. He thanked me for being patient and for helping him.
Oh, that just did it. I kept it together, thanked him for being a great student, and he walked away, but not before wishing me a great weekend.
So there I sat, in overstuffed leather chairs, trying to keep my composure, pinching the bridge of my nose to keep the tears at bay. What was my problem? Hormones? Possible. End of the semester? Sure. Molly Wizenberg? Most likely. I hate that feeling of things ending. And don’t misunderstand: this semester has been one of my most challenging yet. I’ve had some really difficult situations with students, and there have been days when all I could do was come home, cry, and swim around in a bottle of wine. But when things feel like they’re drawing to a close, when I feel transition coming on and am powerless (and frankly, truthfully, unwilling) to stop it, my first reaction is to have a weep-a-thon.
And then, as I sat there attempting to forcibly close my tear ducts, I heard a man behind me ask the most perfect question ever: “Ma’am, would you like a doughnut?” I turned around. The man working at the snack bar held out a tray of doughnuts, pastries, and a lone breakfast sandwich. My roommate was approaching as I said the only answer that really made sense: “I don’t turn down baked goods.”
My roommate and I and one other girl who had been sitting nearby gathered. “I would have to throw them away,” the man explained as we plucked tissue paper from the box nearby and selected our treats. That lone breakfast sandwich? Heather snatched that one up, as I thought she might. The other girl selected a Danish of some sort. But I went in for the doughnut.
In an act of forethought, I took a picture of it before beginning to take big bites of it, relishing the sugar I knew was collecting on my cheeks. There are times, I think, when a doughnut is the answer. When one finds herself on the verge of tears on a Friday afternoon on campus, a doughnut is definitely the answer.
Now before I conclude, let me clarify: if you’ve not read Molly Wizenberg’s book, you definitely should. The writing is delightful and fun, the recipes are delicious (seriously, I was wavering between needing a Kleenex and needing to go straight home, to my kitchen, to start cooking). It’s a lovely read that had me hungry, in tears, happy again, then hungry, in tears, and happy… repeat.
Also, in conclusion: doughnuts = good.