Mornings, memories, muffins, and me.

Recipe for Interdependence Blueberry Muffins below

Today is July 4th – a day when families and friends gather across the United States to celebrate, swim, grill, booze, and firework. In my nuclear family, there is also cornhole and, if we’re lucky, a board game or cards after the children off to bed.

But honestly, it’s been years since I’ve enjoyed the 4th with my parents and brother; the last with my parents in 2007. After that year, my ex-wife and I traveled to Maine each year. The early years were fun if not slightly uncomfortable. Her family joins for pancake and coffeecake breakfast, followed by the Pemaquid parade (a village festival with antique cars and political musings), late afternoon grilling, paddling in the ocean off the New Harbor rocks, and fireworks at night. Their pace is muted with revelries split between folks reading and napping individually. Many children. Over time, I grew used to Maine July 4th holidays – until 2011 when our relationship discontent; an overload of family members; and a parent-approved, cigar-smoking, underage nephew unraveled the holiday.

In 2012, due to a Wednesday holiday and a new job that required me to stay in town, my wife headed off to Maine with her brother, leaving me from Tuesday – Friday. She’d planned to leave Tuesday afternoon and I’d arranged a night of dancing with friends. At the last-minute the plans shifted, and my wife informed me she wasn’t leaving until after 6pm. “Let’s go out with friends.”

We’d been having a rough time for almost a year. My partner was less into romance and dates; I desperately wanted them. I changed my early evening to go out for dinner with her and another couple. We stayed on the Cambridge side of the river so I could go straight to dancing. But, halfway through the night the plans were delayed again – with her new departure closer to 10pm. “Come home with me. We’re having such a good time and I’m leaving. Come home and continue our date.”

I changed my plans. Went home with my wife.

Between arriving at home and a 7-minute walk with the dog to get her to pee, my wife was on the computer. “I’m just checking email,” she noted. I waited on the couch. Fifteen minutes later. “I’m just responding to one work project so I can put it down until Saturday.” Thirty minutes later I joined her in the office. “I came home to have a date with you,” I noted – somewhere between pleading and anger. I felt cheated, dependent, discarded, and lonely. “I’m working on a project. It’s important,” she replied.

At 10:30pm her brother picked her up. It was then I realized that our date had finished the moment we left Cambridge and that, despite my hopes, our same relationship discontent continued. She left with the dog.

The next day it thunderstormed all morning. I’d made plans with a friend for brunch and a motorcycle ride, but with the weather we opted to meet and eat. After sitting at the local breakfast counter, chatting and joking with the staff, the weather lifted and the sun came out. “Still want to ride?” he asked.

We parted, and I shuttled home to change into riding gear. I met him at his home and we took off with no agenda – first through the Blue Hills and then up 95-N to Route 2-W on the hunt for ice-cream. We ended up at Kimball Farm in Lancaster, MA – 42 miles from Boston. After enjoying massively-sized ice-cream cones, laughing and joking, we hit the roadand continued out west. Hours later, with stops along the way to look at antique stores, beautiful rivers, and scenic outlooks, we hit the edge of MA, pushed up to Vermont, and as dusk was arriving, realized we had a long ride home. Eleven hours after leaving, we made it back to Boston.

As I headed to bed that night, I realized that I’d ben happy all day. Honestly, that realization shocked the hell out of me.

Since that day, my friend and I have celebrated July 4th together each year. This year, however, the holiday takes on a different nuance – it’s our first wedding anniversary.

As we laid in bed at midnight, wishing each other a happy anniversary and thinking about the year past, we both acknowledged that our marriage is good. For both of us, this is a second marriage – a relationship marked by joy with some challenges rather than our previous experiences of challenge with some joys.

A year ago, we walked around Jamaica Pond with a dear friend and minister, Toni Amato, talking about our hopes for our relationship, identified areas of challenge, and set foundational agreements and boundaries. We wed on Jamaica Pond beach; just the two of us and Toni. Later that afternoon, friends joined in waves to grill, celebrate, converse, and wedding cake. It was a love-full and people-filled day.

Today, our anniversary is quiet. My spouse still sleeps having been awake for 26 hours yesterday. I spent a glorious morning next to him in bed, reading a food autobiography in the light of a cracked curtain and sipping coffee – the cat nestled behind my crooked legs. I rose only to let out the dog and refill the coffee until 10:30am when I emerged to the kitchen for baking.

This morning, I baked a “two-person” batch of blueberry muffins adapted from a recipe by a fellow blogger on Sally’s Baking Addiction. Quietly, I padded around the kitchen, being thankful for the quiet, the time to bake, and the opportunity to think and write. I like this recipe. It’s not cloyingly sweet. The muffins are fluffy but not too wet. And, the addition of a streusel topping – one of my favorite muffin additions – is pure joy. 

Lately I’ve been wrapped up in the next phase of my and my spouse’s life; a move South to Tennessee and a doctoral program. I’ve been sidetracked by my dog’s illness and my spouse’s recovery from surgery. I  haven’t taken much conscious time (outside of walking or swimming) for myself.

I could’ve woken my spouse up already. I’m sure he’ll say something to that effect when he wakes: that it’s our anniversary, our weekend together, and I didn’t have to “wait” for him. But you see, I’m not waiting for him. I tried that once. And I learned from it. Now, I’m investing in me. Enjoying my time. Celebrating myself. Loving us. Building my independence within our interdependent marriage.  And looking forward to presenting him with blueberry muffins for breakfast (or lunch…).

Interdependent  Blueberry Muffins (Makes 6 large muffins)

  • 1 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 Tbsp egg whites
  • 1/2 cup nonfat milk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup frozen Maine blueberries

Streusel

  • 3 Tbsp oats
  • 2 tsp AP flour
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Line or spray a muffin pan (for 6 muffins)
  • In a large glass bowl, whisk all dry ingredients
  • In a medium glass bowl, whisk egg whites and sugar until combined and smooth (about three minutes)
  • Add milk, oil and vanilla. Whisk until combined and smooth (about two minutes)
  • Create a well in the dry ingredients.
  • Pour wet mixture into the well. Stir wet and dry until just combined. Do not overmix! Batter will be thick and slightly lumpy.
  • Gently folk in blueberries. Again, do not overmix or you’ll end up with gray batter.
  • Scoop batter (6 servings). If using a 12-muffin tray, pour 1/2 centimeter of water into each empty cavity.
  • Bake for 10 minutes at 425 then turn heat down to 375 and bake for an additional 12-15 minutes.
  • Muffins should be springy, and a wooden skewer, when inserted into the muffin, should appear clean upon removal.
  • Enjoy! (With a cup of coffee – me) (With butter- my spouse)
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