The Kid in headlights

Recently, I’ve learned something.

I’ve realized why my mom is so eager to have Petey and me visit, and why she doesn’t like it when we show up late, or leave early.

There’s no accounting for her taste, but I think she misses us.

This epiphany smacked me upside the head after The Kid moved out.

I went from being pregnant with my child living inside me, to a baby then toddler that was always with me. Later were schooldays, each one complete with crazy mornings followed by evenings with the whole family. Then it was college, with every break spent at home. The last step was adulthood, and The Kid’s own castle which has relegated us to a couple of phone calls a week and two or three quick (quick to me, anyway) visits a month.

Petey and I are seriously missing this human we’ve created.

It’s like trying to lure a fawn to eat out of your hand. I try to be subtle and not make any sudden movements. Or pester with too many phone calls and emails. I don’t want to scare Bambi off, and clumsily miss a visit or cut one short by being too “Mom.”

So, when we are lucky enough to have The Kid join us for a meal, I try to make sure everything on the menu is either a childhood favorite or something new that will really be enjoyed.

Whenever we eat at Mom’s and something doesn’t turn out perfectly, she gets upset. I have to admit that I’d get a little impatient because it was just a burned roll, or a veg that finished late — no big deal.

But now I understand. A few weeks ago The Kid came for Sunday lunch, and I made a family fave; porcupine meatballs (or as we call them, road kill). I was crushed when they didn’t quite cook all the way through, and the rice was a little crunchy in spots. We were so eager to have our offspring over, and I had screwed it up.

My rational side (and spouse) tells me The Kid probably never gave it a second thought.

Last weekend we had our precious guest for dinner. We had bacon wrapped tri-tip, salad, Whole Food’s really delicious yeast rolls, peas, and a tasty new potato dish.

Horseradish Baked Mashed Potatoes

3 pounds waxy potatoes

1 medium-large russet potato

1 Bay leaf

4 sprigs rosemary

1 1/4 teaspoons dry thyme, divided

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Kosher salt

12 peppercorns + freshly cracked

5 tablespoons butter

½-1 cup buttermilk (approximately)

1/3 cup provolone, shredded

2 tablespoons horseradish

1/2 cup shredded horseradish jack (I use Taste of Inspirations brand available at Food Lion) tossed with 1/4 teaspoon of the thyme and paprika, then set aside.

Peel and cut up potatoes to similar size. Place in a large pot. Cover with cold water by about 2 inches. Add 3 tablespoons salt, bay leaf, 4 sprigs fresh rosemary. In an infuser or cheesecloth, place 1 teaspoon dry thyme and 12-15 peppercorns. Add to water. Boil until knife easily pierces potatoes. Drain, removing any herbs from spuds.

Put potatoes back into pot, along with salt and pepper to taste, and cold butter cut into pieces.

Mash with potato masher until mostly smooth, with a slight chunkiness.

Stir in provolone, horseradish, and about 1/2 cup buttermilk.

Check for seasoning. Stir in only enough buttermilk as needed, you want it stiffer than normal (like biscuit dough). It loosens while baking, and you don’t want it runny when serving. Spoon into greased casserole dish.

Bake covered for 20 minutes at 350.

Uncover, sprinkle on horseradish cheddar, and bake for 30 more minutes. Then put under broiler, and watch until the cheese is browned and crusty. Remove from oven, and let rest for 10 minutes.

Serves 6-8.

So there you have my pathetic tale of woe (and a new way to enjoy spuds).

Your children have the ability to turn you inside out forever. For those living in an empty nest, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

And for parents who are lucky enough to have kids still living at home — just you wait. It’ll come sooner than you think.

Thanks for your time.

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