I'm sorry I've been neglecting you. I've just been terribly busy, what with running away to Portland for a weekend, deep-cleaning the apartment, working, helping Michael study for his tests, and renewing my love for crime novels. And I'm even sorrier that this isn't going to be a terribly original post, since I am in a Christmasy mood and will just post an essay I wrote last Christmas season, as both a celebration of the coming season and as a place I can consistently locate it, so I don't have to search through hundreds of emails to find the latest copy.
I'll be better, really.
p.s. Does anyone know how to center the picture at the top of this blog? It's been driving me crazy!
“Hey love, will you be home for Christmas?” Joel asked the other day. The kid forgets that I live in Utah and he lives part-time in Washington and part-time in Arizona and Josh lives in Thailand and none of us live in Oregon anymore. But yeah, I’ll be home for Christmas.
Joel’s as good as a little brother, being best friends with my brother-by-blood Josh for seventeen years, and he’s spent most of those years at my house in Oregon building blanket forts and chess sets out of Legos and whining “Tasha, cook me something!”
Usually it was ramen. He and Josh picked my house because my parents never fought and weren’t even home most afternoons because Dad worked and Mom went to school. I was okay to be home because even though I was a girl, and a big sister at that, I made the best ramen. Oriental flavor. I cooked it three packets at once, until the noodles were thick as string and they slimed around in the pot looking for more water. I’d open the tinfoil seasoning packets—which was a trick because if they got too close to the steam then all the flavor would get wet and sticky and not blend in—and then I’d dump them in, all three at once. The real secret, and this I never let anyone watch, was adding a teaspoon or two of sesame oil and a few shakes of Dad’s hottest hot sauce over the top.
Sometimes we’d crack an egg on the mix for protein and because we liked to watch it get scrambled up to pieces with the noodles, and it seemed more like we were eating lo mein from a fancy Chinese restaurant instead of a thirty-cent snack cooked by a thirteen-year-old big sister.
We all three ate with chopsticks until we got too hungry to eat one noodle at a time and started to cheat by using forks. Sometimes we’d slurp too fast and noisy and the ends of the noodles would flip on and smack our noses, and the spice in the sauce would burn and squeeze tears from our eyes, and then melt down our throats and into our stomachs. And Josh and Joel would whine, “Tasha, cook me something.” So I would pour them little shot glasses of milk—normal milk, not chocolate or strawberry, because Mom banned colorful liquids (and Josh and Joel’s friend Evan) from the kitchen after the boys had chocolate milk laugh out of their noses and all over the floor.
Joel liked Rasmussen-house food so much that sometimes he’d even stay on for dinner. And when he did that we could pretty much count on him staying for all night. One time he and Josh wanted to build a fort out of blankets in our living room for them to sleep in, and asked Dad if Joel could stay for a fort night. “I’m not letting Joel stay for a fortnight!” Dad said, and I laughed and laughed because by then I was sixteen and I knew that a fortnight meant two weeks to Shakespeare. But I bet that Dad would have let him stay for a fortnight if he asked. Joel was just family like that.
I left first, off to Utah. Then Joel moved to Arizona with his dad, who only eats apples and whole wheat and counts every calorie going in or out of his body. After that he flew to Seattle for school, where he doesn’t have any family, not even someone to pour him milk or feed him pretend lo mein. Josh stayed in Portland and then moved on to Utah and then all the way to Thailand, where he eats real noodles that he gets from vendors and not sisters, and the noodles slime around in his bowl all the way across the world from me and Joel.
So this year’s the first one without Josh at home, and even though Joel doesn’t live in Portland he’ll come out for Christmas before he goes to Arizona, and I’ll cook him ramen noodles for a snack and maybe cinnamon roll sandwiches, which we made once and never again. And Josh will slurp his Thai noodles, maybe the ones with mixed up with pig brains or tentacles, and they will burn his nose and then his throat and make his eyes water, and we will eat our ramen with sesame oil and eggs and with hot sauce tears in our eyes and pretend we are all together in the kitchen using chop sticks really badly. We will be thirteen and eleven, waiting for Mom and Dad to come home, and I will be in charge, because I’m the big sister, and I make the best ramen.