The toaster oven was in flames.
We had been reading the news and following the GOP Debates on Twitter when we noticed the weird smell. The smell wasn’t weird enough—yet—for us to do anything about it; we were reheating fast food chicken “nuggets,” which are at their peak best worst in the moments after they arrive in your car, for you to shove with greedy fingers into your gob without chewing or even tasting, but still relishing the poisonous deliciousness of deep fried fat. Hours later, flames could really only hope to improve their flavor.
We didn’t even notice the smoke, because Christie and Rubio were slugging it out on stage and our levels of Schadenfreude were so high we were distracted. Twitter was delighted, at least the parts I follow.
Finally, a child more responsible than I declared,
Um. The toaster over is on fire.
It was indeed on fire. Bright orange flames shot from the charred remains of said nuggets, and when my husband pulled the tray from within, the flames leapt higher, threatening my dark oak cabinets, which, I thought, “no great loss.” He doused the mess with cold water and the glass door to the oven shattered.
Fire and glass and smoking hot pebbles of erstwhile chicken; everywhere.
And the smell. What had once been merely weird had now morphed into nostril-searing stench. The kids coughed and threw open the windows.
And I. I shook my head, immobile on the sofa. It was just the latest in a week’s worth of putrescence hitting the proverbial fan. I could hardly be bothered by fire in the kitchen.
Like most people, I’ve had my good days and my not so shining moments of despair. I step out of bed and into my life, one foot after the other, praying my prayers with a kind of half-hope, mostly distracted, mostly overwhelmed, mostly holding it all together, a kind of simulacrum of beauty and grace, mostly falling short, and mostly ok with that. We’re human. We can’t have everything.
I had already cried my tears for the day. I had already walked through the shitty news and the shitty day and the whining and complaining and inefficacy of those around me. I had already mourned and rejoiced and attempted to make all the right decisions. I had already attempted to make the lemonade, if you will, and found the batch lacking.
I could not muster the cares for the destroyed toaster oven, the ruined half-dinner, the smell.
And that’s where we are. We are straddling the line between Heaven and Hell, every single moment. We can only hope to reach for grace and, when we find it, to hold it like water in our palms, to share it with others without engulfing them in our own filth.
Grace is like the cleaned up kitchen after the fire. You know what’s been there, you can hardly avoid smelling what’s happened, but you find satisfaction that the house didn’t burn down, that a toaster oven is replaceable, that the world did not cease to spin in that one stupid act. It is the absence of smoke, grace is. The clinging, settling, encampment of peace. It is there, in the smoldering kitchen fire. It is there in the I forgive yous and the I’m sorries, and the please hold mes. Grace is there, the undercurrent vibrating so minutely that stillness is required to find.
But it is there. Yes. It is there.