A phantom limb is the sensation that an amputated or missing limb is still attached to the body and is moving appropriately with other body parts. Two out of three combat veterans report this feeling.

Early this morning, as I was making Paul’s lunch for work, I sliced cheese on my mother’s cutting board, which is plastic. The cheese would suddenly give way to the knife, and the knife would knock the plastic, making a loud noise and dulling the knife. Dammit! My nephews were asleep on the hide-a-bed and it was 6 a.m. I sighed. It will be nice to get back home to my wood cutting boards and wood counters — naturally antibiotic without any nasty sprays, the knives cut completely through …

oh. i forgot. i don’t have a home anymore.

The majority of the sensations in a phantom limb are painful.

Each morning, I wake up and wonder what to fix for breakfast. When it comes to cooking, my mother and sister arrange their kitchens the same way. I’ve been staying with both of them. They are both welcoming, cheerful, even inspirational. Full of energy and goodwill, everything is done in the blink of an eye. They have dinners cooked, laundry done, beds made before you’ve noticed they weren’t done.

But alas, I am lost. All of the basics that sit so handily on the top of my counters are carefully packed into corners of their cupboards, with packages arranged neatly on top of them. To pull out all the needed ingredients would double the work and time.

And — especially in my mother’s kitchen — I can feel her consternation of my baking … the flour dust on the floor, the pile of utensils it requires, the oven going. She hand washes each dish before putting it in the dishwasher, cleans her sink after every meal, sweeps her floor as you walk in. Every picture is straight and dusted. Every knick-knack has its corresponding doily. My pulling out books and pencils and drawing activities, bringing in branches and leaves to draw, having a CD player in the kitchen so I could listen to books being read aloud, setting aside little piles of mismatched swimsuits and socks for friends that have come over and left things behind — all of the activities that mean home to me are mess to her.

Paul and I usually drink espresso over potato scones, Dutch babies, or applesauce pancakes. Sometimes we’d have a slice of bacon with our oatmeal or a slice of sausage with our scones. French toast. Cardamom-prune scones. Waffles. I use unwieldy cast iron pans without lids and the grease spatters out sometimes. I clean it, but I don’t stress about it. It builds up, but I figure, the sabbath was made for man and not the other way around. I should slave over the food, not the stove. Food tastes better in cast iron. I use the mixer and the waffle iron and big baking stones for baking.

My mother’s stove is spotless. Every meal. All the time.

But I don’t think she eats as well.

Occasionally, the pain of a phantom limb can be made worse by stress, anxiety, and weather changes.

I burst into tears the other day after house-searching for hours. They’re expensive and ugly and without character or fine lines. They don’t smell of juniper, but of must and other people’s blighted dreams. They feel … cursed. Like to live in them would be the ultimate defeat, the last humiliation before the end.

Though they have gardens or wood floors or quaint arches or other redeeming factors, there is always some tragic flaw — a demise to its being acceptable for our family.

Phantom limb pain is usually intermittent. The frequency and intensity of attacks usually decline with time.

I hope so.

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