The Pie Was a Final Draft: Good Grief

By Michaella Thornton

Lately, it’s been harder to gather my resolve and joy to bake or write much. I won’t lie; I’ve been struggling through a slow-moving season of pain and endurance, and that’s okay, too.

My focus lately has been on:

  • healing from heel surgery in mid-December while feeling and sometimes looking like a feral barn cat;
  • learning how to shower on one leg;
  • watching the laundry pile up in the corner of my bedroom;
  • kneeling on my scooter by the kitchen sink, learning how to bend and dip without falling as I load and unload the dishwasher;
  • forcing myself to ask for help, again and again, from friends, neighbors, coworkers, my 67-year-old mother, and sometimes, when I’m especially desperate, my exasperated five-year-old daughter; and
  • finally, collapsing into bed at the end of the day, ecstatic for sleep.

Of trying so hard to remember good enough is great, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and to let go. Let go, Kella. Let. Go.

Letting go is a theme I obsess over in my writing and practice in baking. Baking puts distance between worry and time. There’s ritual and space held in the act of gathering ingredients, tools, pans, preheating the oven, letting the butter and eggs come to room temp, mixing everything methodically, intentionally, and then setting a timer and waiting. There is a slowing of pace and pulse because if you rush through a step, mistakes will be made. And, if you’re measured and lucky, when you finish you have bread or quiche or a special treat to show for all of your efforts.

Writing isn’t like baking in this regard, though. Sometimes the words don’t come, or they do, and they’re not yet ready. Sometimes, many times, we write something that only we will read. Sometimes, just sometimes, we are too fucking hard on ourselves. Who cares how much you’re writing?

Let me ask instead: Are you having fun? Are you taking risks? Are you resting when you need to so you can refill your own damn cup and then eventually your notebook or Word doc?

Which reminds me, last week I managed to make Valentine’s Day Cookies for my daughter and her two neighborhood friends to decorate after school. The two kindergarteners and first grader made quick, wild work of my carefully baked cookies. Their devil-may-care artistry of slapping on knifefuls of cream cheese frosting and then dumping on more sprinkles, marshmallows, and milk chocolate chips than I thought possible was a good reminder, yet again, to let go.

Kids at play don’t beat themselves up if they’re hurt or healing or need a minute. They come back to the task at hand when they’re able and ready, and you best believe they’re gonna go hard, full throttle when that time comes. They’re going to use all of the sprinkles, and whatever else they can get their hands on, and dare someone, anyone, to tell them that their creativity, their joy is too much.

Read Kella’s other work here at Reckon:

The Pie Was a Final Draft: On Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls and the Root of All Suffering
The Pie Was a Final Draft: On Baking a Bad Cake
The Pie Was a Final Draft: Scraps
Beginnings: An Interview with Lyndsey Ellis
Fiction: The Hottest and Longest Lasting Fire

Michaella Thornton

Michaella Thornton

Michaella Thornton learned how to bake at the hips of her mother and her grandmother Anna Lee. A lifetime ago, she baked professionally before realizing baker’s hours require early mornings. Kella’s prose has been featured in Brevity, Essay Daily, Fractured Lit, Hobart After Dark, Reckon Review, New South, Southeast Review, among others, and her writing has been nominated for a James Beard award and Best of the Net. Many moons ago, Kella received her MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Arizona. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri with her daughter.