Heartcracks and egg magic

I read once that tiny fissures can appear on a human heart; the cracks driven by stress hormones. It turns out that a broken heart isn’t just a way of describing an emotional sojourn.

When life throws you a curveball or three, how do you react? People deal with challenges in different ways and with me, my cooking routine can go one of two ways. I either try to lose myself in detailed, painstaking cooking that requires hours of attention or I shut down and stop cooking. With a mountain of baking ahead for a tea party this weekend, I figured I could give myself a little break until then. Lately, it’s all I can do to boil an egg for dinner.

Sometimes, a boiled egg can be more than just sustenance. You know how things are crowdsourced? In my Chinese family, I was crowdraised by my grandparents, uncle, parents and family friends. The house was never empty and it’ll sound peculiar but I must have been about 10 years old before I found myself at home without an adult. On that occasion, I ended up trailing behind my brother who was seriously annoyed to find he had acquired a new shadow. A shadow that whimpered and clutched at his sleeve, no less.

I was eight years old when a boiled egg was the centre of one of the strangest experiences of my childhood. I’d stayed home sick from school for several days. I remember lying prone on the couch, as my throat felt like a barbed wire fence, strewn with harsh spikes. My grandmother’s hands feathered my brow to gauge my fever and then quickly retreated. My eyes stayed closed as I tried to sleep to escape reality for a while. Nudged awake by my grandmother, I was told to sit up and hold still. I yelped as my back was suddenly scalded. Turning around, I found my grandmother holding a single egg in her hand. She asked me to lie on my stomach instead if I was going to fidget.

Wincing, it felt as if my grandmother was repeatedly stabbing a hot poker onto my innocent, bare back. Meanwhile, my only thoughts were:

  1. What was my grandmother doing?
  2. How could she hold that freshly boiled egg without burning herself?
  3. When will this ritual skin burning end so I could sleep?

I’d forgotten that my grandma had asbestos hands that could withstand very hot temperatures. Come to think of it, I’ve developed asbestos hands myself over time. After about five minutes, she relented and let me rest. Huffing, my grandmother said that she was only trying to help me get better. By this point, I was feeling hard done by and sulkily asked if at the very least I could eat the egg now if she was quite finished with the treatment.

Good ol’ granny reacted as if I’d asked for a shot of hard liquor! Insisting that the egg had absorbed some of my fever and illness, she carefully peeled away the shell from the still hot egg. Now this is where the story gets interesting. From memory, the hard boiled egg emerged with tiny bubbles captured within the white, not dissimilar to a Aero chocolate bar, except not quite as bubbly. I mentioned this to my mother recently who says that my mind is playing tricks as it would have been the yolk that had the holes. Who knows where the truth lies?

I honestly can’t recall if I recovered any quicker after the boiled egg treatment but I was always cocooned in the intense concern of my grandmother and for that, I’m grateful. I was spoiled rotten by my grandparents when I was young and not with material things. This is how I always remember my grandparents and not how they are/were in their later years when time had taken some of its revenge.

Papery skin, cranky tantrums, halting steps and eyes that light up when I enter a room. All of these, I find bittersweet. Of late, it wearies my heart in a way that makes the small, petty machinations of others seem very insignificant.

I’ve got more important people on my mind and in my life.

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