Let me read it to you…

fistfuls of softness

by | Dec 5, 2019

Winter isn’t official until December 20-something, yet everything about the Minnesota sky in November moans winter.

I had just left my dad’s place. We spent a few hours in the kitchen enjoying the fine art of making lefse. Potatoes, butter, cream, sugar and flour. It seems like a simple recipe. But you have to flour the rolling pin just right. You can’t leave them on the griddle too long. Too much butter? No, maybe a little less cream next time.

Three zippered baggies of fragile pastry, still steaming, rested on the passenger seat next to the potato ricer bestowed to me.

I wondered if the man with the sign knew what lefse was? One hand in the pocket of his blue jeans, the other holding out the sign, shaking and bobbing in the wind. The strings of his hoodie were pulled tight around his face, threads of dark hair curling against his forehead.

If I had a brother, I wondered if this could be him, a shaggy man in the median of a four-lane highway, the ‘missing man’ in our Norwegian family traditions.

His remaining teeth smiled at me. He didn’t say whether he knew what it was. He just said, ‘Thank you so much, ma’am,’ and hurried to his duffle bag to put it in a safe place. Then he resumed his position with the sign, smile gone, too tough for tenderness.

The left arrow turned green and I pulled ahead to make a u-turn. Just before I passed by he glanced over with his eyes brimming and held up two fingers in a peace sign before putting them back in his pocket. I watched him disappear in my rearview mirror as I drove home with fistfuls of softness, though hands gripped tight around the wheel.

None of us is too tough for a little tenderness.

This journal writing was inspired by a line from the poem Thread by Maya Stein and the Memento Photo+Writing prompt for December 2019.

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