Crybaby Ranch **** by Tina Welling
I’m joining Jain with my edible book review at Food for Thought, where pages from your book magically mix with the kitchen and your camera. Books, Food & Photos, my three favorite things all in one place!
This book stars Suzannah, who realizes her sense of self has been defined through her relationships with others: wife, stepmom, daughter. She finds pleasure and satisfaction through her love of beads as she dabbles on the weekends when she isn’t teaching school. Suzannah’s jewelry-making becomes a catalyst for changes that take place in her life.
“Saturday morning opens like a meadow in springtime, about to flare with bloom and birth. That’s the way the beginning of each weekend feels, even this one in the middle of January, even when memory proves weekend after weekend turns out pretty much the same. Still, possibility nests in the tall grasses. And if I keep alert I will not step on any eggs.”
When her stepson leaves for college, she discovers her mother has Alzheimer’s, and also realizes she has been “inflicting a good marriage on a reluctant husband.” As these relationships fall away and change, she rediscovers herself through her love of jewelry making.
“Some men ended their marriage by bringing home floozies, expensive cars, drunken friends, empty pay envelopes. My husband brought home pineapple pizza.”
In a moment of courage and inspiration, she moves from Ohio to Wyoming:
“I was looking for life itself. Here, where the land thrusts upward and the wild animals abound, the world pulses with aliveness. I need the majestic doses to stun me into wakefulness after marriage to Erik.”
“Something about birds’ nests intrigue me. The intentional gathering of supplies for one. The deliberate downiness of its interior. I am reminded of my connectedness to other living things as I, too, prepare a home.”
“I sit at the table on a bench I found weathering behind my shed, and I read by the pin-up lamp on the wall, hung just below the shelf that holds my books and the bird’s nest and a jar of wildflowers.”
“I look at my new home and feel so thrilled I could gnaw on a porch pillar. I look closer; the base of the left pillar looks as though some woodland creature has beaten me to it. I give the post a gentle push. I don’t think the roof will cave in anytime soon, but the supports are sadly deteriorated. The front step sags on one side. I prop it with a flat-topped stone and stand back to admire my first home improvement.”
“I sure don’t want a man in my life, but I’d feel more secure if I could install one in my house, because propping boards with a handy stone is the outer limits of my renovating skills.”
Bo Garrett enters the picture (aka The Marlboro Man). Bo is the former owner of Suzannah’s cabin, who’s neglected to tell her that the appliances were not included in the sale. Suzannah’s welcome to “borrow” the appliances when Bo is not using them himself, cooking in his former, and her new, kitchen. As a result, he comes up with an arrangement where they share meals. They slip into a comfortable co-existence.
There were lots of food references in this book–Bo cooks eggs, ham, potatoes, soup, beans. . . here is one where Suzannah has a drop-in visitor.
Recipe for Glazed Lemon Bread Here.
Suzannah visits her mother to give her father a much-needed break for a week. Her mother has developed a fear of moving air–fans, and breezes, since she last saw her, so her plans of walks on the beach and picnics, all have to be scrapped.
In an effort to entertain her mother, Suzannah decides a matinée will make for a fun afternoon, since her mother always loved the movies with popcorn. A disastrous movie experience begins:
“My mother’s seat won’t stay down unless she sits in it. I can’t get this idea across to her. My hands are full, so I try to hold her seat down with my left knee…”
“In a commanding voice that sounds just like my real mother, she says, ‘I’ll pay you any amount of money, but please, let me go now.’ Heads turn. I smile at the strange faces in the half-light and wish the room would fall darker. ‘I don’t know you and I don’t want you touching me.’ She shrinks from my arm. No one would believe this woman is ill. She sounds sane and cultured. And wealthy and kidnapped.”
“In Florida, I seem to unconsciously assume an army nurse facade. Nothing shocks or dismays me. My mother put her used underwear in the dishwasher beside the silverware. The army nurse cheerfully sorted clothes from dishes and washed everything over. I should offer a name to this inner soldier of mine: Agatha, the army nurse. Even-tempered and nonjudgmental, Agatha absolutely loves her work.”
“As usual since Mom’s illness, I am enveloped in pastry wrap, buffered, smiling, unshockable. Suzannah en croute. But I am aware, too, of a sodden center, enlarging as my time here goes by, gaining heaviness, solidity.”
Brie en Croute. . . Lots of variations Here, I settled on strawberries preserves since I had some on hand (anything in puff pastry is good :-)
“All at once, I realize that I have learned the most about gaining independence and strength through dependent and weak people. Erik and my mother. In my heart, I thank them. I remember a long ago talk with Bo when I wondered why the strong must be in service to the weak. I think now I know the answer. It is in the gratitude for the lessons they teach.”
Stumbling on his book was a happy accident…it was on the $2 table at my bookstore, and after thumbing through it, I snapped it up. I think you’ll enjoy reading about Suzannah’s new life, as she navigates her way through her new relationships and old ones.