I didn’t wonder what it would be like to sleep in a bed in a house anymore, I no longer cared – I liked our bus. The house was crowded and wasn’t as cozy as our own little bus – our safe little cave of metal covered in green paint peeling up in benign curls to hint of the yellow it once was. Most the other kids had a dad and a mom, some kids at other houses even had 2 dads and 2 moms. We were different in many ways, deviant of everyone else, but I loved our private bus and my single mom.
We ate household meals at a long, long wooden table with wooden benches granting enough room for the 5 or so families, and sometimes more random or temporary people, who lived at Dogwood Blossom.
Dinners in the house were much better because they weren’t repulsive oatmeal that made me gag every morning and every afternoon when we had cold, gloppy, leftover oatmeal for lunch. The feeling of the gloppy slime with the the course little line in the middle of the whole oats against the inside of my mouth was agonizingly hard to force through my mouth and down my throat. Every bite swallowed was an impossible accomplishment. Sometimes I would plead, beg, even cry in a desperate attempt to be spared from eating it, but I always had to eat it. If I really wanted to impress my mom and make her happy, I would summon every drop of will power within me to eat it all with a smile without complaining but it was so difficult, the bland taste of horrible slime and that little wretched middle line in the oat made me want to choke and vomit with every despicable bite. Everyone else pours lots of white sugar on their’s and all the kids are so happy gobbling it down. But I cannot have any sugar on my bowl of torture, because to my mom, sugar is the root of all evil only for making cakes on peoples birthdays.
So, dinner, I love. Oh wonderful, anything-but-oatmeal dinner!
Except if it was dumplings. I hated those too. Slimy balls of boiled dough just as gag worthy as oatmeal. How could anyone in their right mind want to eat such a thing? But I did like the word. Dumpling. Too bad such a fun word had to be the name of something so gross. Thank god we usually eat soybean tortilla’s instead of slime balls.
We went to the house to help make dinner a lot. It was usually the ladies who made dinner. Big pressure cooker pots of soybeans steaming for hours. They were scary. The little thing on top of the lid shaking away with a jet of hissing steam escaping from the lid, threatening to blow at any time. And did. Everything spraying everywhere, shooting all over the ceiling, the adults yelling and running around. Chaos that only a pressure cooker explosion could create.
A lot of tortilla’s had to be made for everyone. The flour dough would be in a big bowl with a wet towel over it and I’d help in the assembly line of turning it into lots of balls then smashing and rolling the balls flat for someone to heat up quickly on the stove till they bubbled a bit before they burned. Then they’d go under a wet towel to keep from drying out before getting devoured.
Sometimes we’d wait for one of the men to come home with a rare, precious vehicle and they’d hook the battery up to make light in the house. Everyone in the house was excitedly buoyant about it, all of us huddled in the dark waiting for the special, sensational light to illuminate the room and be met with gasps and cheers. I didn’t know how they did it and I couldn’t even see the awesome car outside because it was dark but I imagined it was really close to the house to somehow provide it’s special power to us. It was so fun and amazing to get magical lights turned on.
We were all so happy to eat soybean tortilla’s. Biting into the warm, delicious, soft little soybeans wrapped up in a freshly made tasty tortilla with nutritional yeast, a savory delicacy of yellow flakes that we could only have a little sprinkle of, was eating happiness. I wished we could eat happiness for breakfast too.
The little garden outside by the clothesline was mostly taken over by catnip, but we must have squeezed some kind of salad out of it sometimes.
One time while making dinner, someone lifted me up and put me on the counter and told me to make the salad dressing. They gave me a bottle and told me I could use any of the herbs and spices and things on the shelves to mix with oil. Then they just let me do it all by myself with no supervision even though I had never made salad dressing before. This is so cool! I’m like a scientist cook making a potion. This is so much better than making horse poop potions in the bushes. I’m going to use everything! I blissfully add a dash of this and some of that and shake it up and find some more stuff to add and just keep merrily adding and mixing until it’s time for dinner…
Then at dinner, I could barely believe the main conversation was how good the salad dressing was! All up and down the huge long table, everyone kept exclaiming how delicious it was and kept asking who made it. I was a little bashful but smiley about it. Wow, they all like my salad potion so much, I’ve never seen people like salad dressing, or anything at dinner, so much before!
The next thing I know, while my mom is holding me on her hip just outside of the house on our way to the bus, a house lady is shaking me, waking me up, and more ladies are running out of the house to stop my mom from continuing up the path. They all want to know what I put in the salad dressing. I just want to put my head on my moms shoulder and close my eyes but they all are dying to know how I made the salad dressing that everyone loved so much. I don’t know what to tell them – I don’t know what all that stuff was, I just mixed up everything I could find. They try and try to coerce the secret ingredients out of me, begging for answers, but finally my mom puts a stop to their frantic questioning and I fall back asleep in her arms as she carries me up the path in the dark to our bus. I had no idea I could make such amazing salad dressing. I am so happy everyone liked it and so relieved my mom finally saved me from the salad dressing interrogation which was scary but also, thrilling. Maybe I’m a natural born salad dressing wizard.