When Sean found out that he got the job, I remember feeling nauseated but excited, like the feeling you get when you decide to ride the biggest rollercoaster at the park. You know you won’t die, but it feels like a test of resolve that you didn’t know you cared about until the moment you decided to do it. Heart racing, nails digging into your palms, you drag yourself through the line, not wanting to let yourself down. That’s how moving was: I slowly packed up my Boston apartment, riddled with anxiety, fists clenched, sweating. I panicked over how to fit my cast iron skillet into a medium sized brown Home Depot box when really I was just terrified to move there, the place I left 10 years before.
I showed up there one month later, after a pleasantly mind numbing road trip through fields of grain and corn and wheat, after 20 hotels and camp sites in places where no one knew us. I picked up my new keys from my dad in the middle of the Azteca parking lot in the middle of the day in the middle of August in the middle of the Seattle suburbs. He hugged me and I remember looking at him while my dog pooped on the pavement and thinking “What have I done?” The permanence seemed transparent, like I could see it all clearly but I could see right through it, too, to the other side where there existed a moment where I hadn’t made this seemingly massive error of judgement.
We unpacked for three hours on our own, then they came, too. Our tiny apartment was so crowded with boxes that we couldn’t move around without standing chest to chest in the hallway. My mom. My dad. My childhood best friend. My brother. Me. My husband. My dog. After a mediocre dinner together at a mediocre new bar in the neighborhood, during which the harried waitress misheard my request for my favorite drink – a bee’s knees cocktail – and instead brought me hot water with gin in it, I came home. I sat on the mattress on the floor of our new bedroom. My dog tried to escape out the back door, unsure of where he was. I chased him down the stairs, grabbed him by the collar and pinned him to a car. Then I went back inside and sobbed so hard that I could feel my brain pressing against the back of my eyes. I sobbed so hard that I thought the pain in my chest might come heaving out my mouth, so hard that the colors in the room dripped and burned and I thought I might run out of breath or die.
I CAN’T DO THIS, I wailed to my husband.
But then, somehow, I did. The arrival was worse than the settling, it turned out. This new place was softer than I expected, easier than I remembered. Many of the old stories I’d carried back East — stories about my family members, about who I was, about who they were, about what Seattle was — had changed in the time between then and now. It all felt mysterious and odd at first, like my once-anxiety riddled life in Seattle had been traded in for a newer model that was pleasant and comfortable.
I’ve started reading through my junior high and high school journals this week and as I look hard at how my old stories came into being, I’m finding that these demons are becoming less scary, less life altering, less commanding. My biggest lesson in Seattle has been this: There is true power in staring hard into our darkest moments, in returning to our hardest places again and again instead of running away. My old Seattle demons — my angsty high school experience, my anger about the religiousness of my childhood, my complicated relationship with food, my confusion about who to be in a world that seemed dead set on taking away my individuality — are thin compared to my life now. They are simply tiny, broken things I know well.
I still feel slightly aghast most of the time here in Seattle, full of a bursting and pleasant sense of surprise. Who are these people? Who is this place? I’m finding, in the end, that I like it and them and me very much.
Thai Turkey Meatballs in a Coconut Green Curry Sauce
Or “A Recipe to share with Mom and Dad.” Serves 6. Recipe adapted from Feasting at Home.
- 1-2 lbs ground turkey
- 1 shallot, minced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 T grated fresh ginger (or 1 t powdered ginger)
- 1 T soy sauce
- 2 T fish sauce (or 1 t salt)
- 2 t red chili paste
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 3 T cilantro
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- 1 can coconut milk
- 2 T green curry paste (or 2 t yellow curry power, which will make this a yellow curry dish and not a green one)
- 1 cup chicken stock
- Squeeze of lime, plus lime zest
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
Add the turkey, shallots, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, fish sauce, chili paste, breadcrumbs and cilantro to a bowl. Mix just until combined, then shape the mixture into meatballs (about 2 T per meatball) and place them on a greased cookie sheet.
Put the meatballs in the fridge for about an hour to let them firm up.
Then add a splash of olive or coconut oil to a fairly large skillet (we used our 12″ cast iron) and turn the heat to medium-high. Once the pan is hot, add the meatballs and watch them, turning each meatball until they are browned on all sides.
While the meatballs are browning, whisk your curry power or paste into the coconut milk in a bowl. Slowly add this mixture to the pan, plus the chicken stock and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Reduce to a simmer and let simmer for 10-12 minutes, turning the meatballs every 3-4 minutes. You’ll know the dish is ready when the meatballs are cooked through (there should be little to no pink).
Garnish the dish with cilantro, green onions, lime juice and lime zest. We served it for dinner over rice noodles, but my mom ate hers over buckwheat noodles and gave rave reviews. Plain ol’ rice is also an option, or you could make this as an appetizer and serve the meatballs in lettuce cups.