I’ve been retired for a month now, and I think I have a bit of an issue with Retirement Attention Deficit Disorder. I’ve left a lot of pots on a lot of back burners for a lot of years…and they are all threatening to boil over. I don’t know which one to stir first. And I don’t want to turn the heat down on any of them–they are all far too important.
After the frenetic pace of teaching kindergarten, it is a real challenge to change gears. I confess that I have not been too successful with that. After a brief interlude at a cottage and some beach time, I came home and rolled up my sleeves. I’ve been gardening, making jam, hanging laundry and gutting the basement ever since. I’m also taking an oils class and trying to write a “cozy” mystery. (More on that later.) The other day, I had to reluctantly concede that I needed a day to do absolutely nothing. After all, isn’t it an imperial rule to SLOW DOWN in retirement? I almost had to duct-tape myself to the back yard lounge chair. I had my journal and my Kobo and my phone (for mindless bouts of Bejeweled Blitz), but even with these lovely distractions, I kept thinking of all the things I could be accomplishing in the house and (sigh) down in the basement. My resolve was firm. I stayed in that chair, only getting out to shower and paint my toenails and get into a pretty dress. My dear friend Lucy and I were headed out to dinner and a theatre production that evening.
Our dinner reservations were at the Windjammer Inn in Port Stanley. We sat inside, enjoying our wine and our fresh fish entrees. For dessert (which I don’t usually order, but it was a dessert kind of night), I chose a flour-less chocolate cake while Lucy decided on a slice of buttermilk cake. Our desserts were beautifully presented and equally enjoyed. I did glance at Lucy’s cake, and I remarked, “I could probably make that.” It had the texture of a coffee cake, with berries baked in.
This morning, I decided it was time to take up the challenge to myself and make a buttermilk cake. My first step in baking or cooking these days is usually to grab my phone and open the Google app. But, I had this thought: “You don’t need a recipe. You know how to do this.”
It’s true. I’m not going to impress Gordon Ramsay or anything, but I certainly know what goes into a cake and what the batter is supposed to look and taste like. I squirted some lemon juice into a measuring cup and filled it up the rest of the way with milk. Left to sit for a few minutes, that would be my “buttermilk.” I cracked some eggs, melted some butter, tossed in some sugar. Dash of salt, some baking soda and powder, “enough” flour and a jigger of almond extract. I had fresh berries and peaches on hand. I added, stirred, tasted, added a bit more…and there was the batter. I sugared the berries and sliced the peaches, greased my pan, and made my layers. Into the oven it went. And it promptly started to rise, quite pleasantly and most appropriately. I used some of my homemade raspberry jam to prepare a reduction.
As the cake baked, I decided that I would call it my “Trust Cake.” To create it, I trusted my experience and know-how and instincts. I trusted my senses (sight, smell, taste) to guide me. I trusted that I had everything I needed, already stocked in the fridge and pantry, and that if something was missing, I would make the right improvisations (in this case, the lack of vanilla extract prompted me to try the almond).
And doesn’t this simple little truth open the door to a much larger one? I don’t need a recipe for being newly retired. I can allow my experience and instinct to guide me along to whatever adventures await–whether I am painting, organizing, writing, singing, learning new yoga poses, traveling, playing the piano (or–here’s a thought: the cello), becoming a grandmother (not holding my breath), volunteering…(all those back burners). I have the confidence and the maturity to judge and to weigh and to balance, whatever I decide. And if something doesn’t go exactly according to plan, I can still make it second-helping perfect.
Not that I had a second helping.