Pancakes

When I was young, my dad used to make pancakes. He used a Bisquick base, adding spoonfuls of sugar and dollops of sour cream. When he lifted the spoon, the batter plopped into the bowl. The pancakes always turned out fat, with stripes of white peeking between golden-brown surfaces.

 “The sour cream makes them fluffier,” my dad said. He sprayed the black skillet with Pam, and the grease pooled in the uneven dimples of the pan, cracking, popping, hissing. When the batter hit the pan, bubbles began to break its smooth skin, bursting and releasing tiny pockets of hot air which he pressed down with the back of a spatula.

My parents fought over pancakes. My dad liked his thick, cooked to a crisp, and dense. My mom liked hers thin, golden yellow, and full of air bubbles that dissolved like Pop Rocks in her mouth. She told me never to press the pancakes while cooking. She said it would make them chewy, inedible. When one of my parents made pancakes, the other one wouldn’t eat. 

My parents fought over whether or not my brother and I could keep a pet ant I scooped up at the tennis courts when I was seven years old. I named him Herbie, in honor of Herbie Fully Loaded. My mom warned me of the dangers of playing with fire ants. 

“You can’t possibly take that ant home. It will get out and have full run of the house, if it doesn’t die first. It’ll bite you and—”

“Jessica, it will be fine. It’s just an ant. Look at them—they’re playing,” my dad said. We took Herbie home in a tennis-ball can filled with rocks and scraps of grass. He died. 

My parents fought over the meanings of board games. My mom wanted to spend time together. My dad wanted to win.

My mom believes in ghosts. My dad believes in God.

When I was in high school, I had them take the Myers-Briggs personality test. They got exactly opposite types (INFP, ESTJ). On Zodiac compatibility charts, the intersection between Taurus and Gemini has a dark black “X” drawn through the box. The Chinese Zodiac does not recommend matches between Tigers and Rats. 

A modern-day soothsayer would tell you that the marriage between my parents would not be lucky. Any wedding guest would tell you the same. In the recording of their ceremony, captured forever on VHS, my mom is unable to keep a straight face, nervously laughing while my dad delivers his vows. When I asked her about it, she said she couldn’t believe that she was actually getting married, that it was real life. She looks incredibly small: five feet tall, barely a hundred pounds, with a train of white lace stretching back through an almost-empty church. She got married exactly one week after her twenty-first birthday. You can’t even tell that she’s three months pregnant. 

My mom doesn’t make pancakes anymore. She prefers spinach and avocado smoothies with protein supplements to fuel her daily half-marathon runs. My dad doesn’t make pancakes anymore. My mom got the skillet in the divorce.

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