Published (updated: ) in letters from near and far.
It’s been a little while. I hope you don’t mind me writing to you again after taking a small break. A lot’s been happening, and I’ve had a lot on my mind, and I’m sure you’ve been thinking about a lot of the same things, too.
Like, for example, apple crisp.
I baked one today because I had a few dozen tiny-to-small apples that didn’t seem worth the trouble to cut up and eat with peanut butter as is my normal late afternoon snack. They kept arriving in the produce boxes, and I kept putting them in the refrigerator, and a few dozen apples seems like a lot of apples for one person to have just lying around. So, wanting to do something with them, but not knowing what, I started peeling and slicing, peeling and slicing, and then artfully dumping them in a 9×13 baking dish. I tossed together an oat-y crumble topping and stuck it in the oven, being mindful of the hot oven door as I put the dish in, and again as I pulled it out, as one should, as one is told to do, and sometimes, as one learns the hard way.
And I looked at my right arm, where I used to have a visible, almost three-inch-long scar from the time I pulled out a metal tray from the oven at the bakery at which I used to work. I didn’t pull the oven doors all the way to the side, so the tray got stuck and I lost my balance, and my forearm met with the lip of the tray, and was burned.
In the first few days after, I was painfully aware of my mistake. The wound bubbled, and blistered over, and because there weren’t really any band-aids fit for the job it felt like I was constantly fussing. Soon, though, the wound healed, and though unsightly, I couldn’t feel the pain any longer. I was still aware of it, of course, and the real possibility of that type of pain, and that type of burn, every time I went near the oven. Then, the scar, the reminder of that thing that had happened, was just that: a scar. Now, a faint nothing, and it’s just me, hoping for my forearm’s sake, that I stay present enough when tending to the oven that I don’t make that mistake again.
But while the scar is gone, I remember the moment. The shock of it. The details. It’s certainly a bit of history that doesn’t serve me to forget. And maybe if I could change it, I would, but it’s happened, and the pain’s been felt, and it seems generally best to avoid that kind of pain, because pain is hard to forget. So, if this once-pro, now-amateur baker can pass along anything to you, it’s be mindful, and know that even because you’re wearing oven mitts, you might still get hurt, or you might hurt someone else.
Even if it’s an accident. Even if it’s not your fault.
Because accidental or intentional, the pain is real.
So if someone else is hurt, or hurting, I hope you listen to them. And if someone’s community has been hurt, or is hurting, I hope you listen to them, too.
Especially if there’s something you can do to help them not hurt anymore.
Because even if the scars go away, they’ll still remember the pain.