I needed to get rid of the bump on my kitchen wall. It wasn’t functional. It wasn’t ugly, maybe, but it was unignorable.
“What is it?”
“Old chimney. They just covered it up with cement when they closed it.”
I sought out a bid for a cosmetic fix. The remodeling business that redid my floor and countertops sent me a design of a cupboard they could hang so that the bump would no longer be visible. I wouldn’t be able to use the new cupboards because they would be filled with the bump. I had done an effective job of cleaning and organizing the kitchen. I didn’t need the extra storage space so I could work around the bump, hide it.
The suggestion didn’t not make sense. After all, it was how I studied these days. My Hebrew conversation teacher admitted that communication, not precision, was what mattered most for us as learners. I recalled the days of my high school Spanish journal that filled so quickly because I wrote around the words I didn’t know. The explanation took longer, more words, but they were familiar words. This was somehow less effort, an appearance of functionality.
The cabinet designer sent the quote. No. It was far too high a price to pay for something I could never use. Cosmetic cupboards were not the answer to the bump. However, I continued on the path of extra work for a work around.
For months, I went in the same circle, on the same path, around the bump, and the path I wore down, made other bumps rise up. Spurs. Callouses. Bumps. Adaptations are okay if you are stretching and releasing, but if you create a compensation pattern that’s harmful, that’s something else. This wasn’t just a bump. It was also a lump. A hardened over sore.
Lumps are imagined before they are real bumps. Lumps in your throat or just under your skin as imagined bruises of what you thought you were or should be in intellect or physical appearance, and even the capacity to be coached to these things.
Bumps are just lumps, but aren’t lumps a sadder type of bump? Moreso if we allow them to become permanent?
I waited. I waited years staring at the bump while I vacuumed or stirred soup. I stared until I found a repair man who said ‘yes’. He could take the bump off the wall. Just like that, it was gone.
I still stared. Nothing else changed. Now I stared at the spot because I didn’t know what to put there. I spent so long working around the bump that I forgot how to imagine something I really wanted. The only thing worse than a lump, a sad bump, is a pit. The natural opposite.
“Hang the spice rack. It’s practical.”
“I guess that works, but it’s small. Looks lonely.”
“Like the bump was never there. I kind of miss it.”
“No you don’t. Really?”
“What are you going to put there?”
“Framed family recipes. What is the favorite recipe your mom made for you?”
“Hmm. Have to be the chocolate pudding.” Dad answered more quickly than I expected.
“Yeah. She didn’t make it much but it just tasted like clouds. I don’t try to make it much because I can’t ever get the lumps out.”
I decided I would make the pudding, and I would make it without lumps. I turned the recipe card over in my hand. I was pleased the text fit all on one side because that meant the recipe itself would still be usable hanging in the frame.
The metaphoric sanding of this house was always about sifting stories to the top. Instead of a headstone of sorts on a mass grave of memory. Living voices. Bumps are dead, but lumps are alive. One rose in my throat. Too few words. What instructions, conversations rested between the lines? How had my grandmother made it without lumps?
I Googled, ‘How to make chocolate pudding?’ No shortage of recipes. Google had many suggestions. I scanned the ingredients, all pretty much the same. Maybe if I asked a different question, my actions and my goal would share an answer. Lumps were not bumps. I could not go around them. I could not smash them off a wall.
I Googled, “How do I get lumps out of pudding?”
Take your time. Bring things together slowly. Be patient. Lumps don’t have to become bumps. The chimney was a bump because no one wanted to pause to choose a smoother path. The brick was covered with cement and then paint, years and layers of paint, until we didn’t even realize how many bricks were waiting to crash down.
“How did you do it?” he asked.
“I split some of the milk out and blended the corn starch first. Then I put that with the rest of chocolate mixture. No lumps.”
I needed this reminder. Few words. Precise words. Worth more than more words. Not around, but through, the bumps.