A young woman stood by the classroom door, a clipboard in her hands. She looked impossibly young to be the teacher, her short red curls bouncing with every move. She reminded Barbara of Little Orphan Annie.
“Hi! Are you here for the Cook for Your Health class?”
Barbara couldn’t find her voice, so she nodded.
The young woman checked her clipboard and pointed to the classroom.
“Great, if you’ll just find your name card, we’ll be starting in just a few minutes!”
The classroom resembled a reality cooking show, long tables embedded with cooktops, shiny wire baskets filled with food at each one, a mirrored demonstration station at the front. Barbara found her name alongside the windows in the middle of the room. This whole class was so unnecessary. She’d been cooking for Frank for fifty years and he’d loved every meal. The doctors were crazy to think that her cooking had anything to do with Frank’s heart attack, and even crazier to believe that a cooking class could teach her anything about how to feed him any better. But the insurance savings just from taking this stupid class were significant enough to suffer through it.
The whole class seemed younger than Barbara, or maybe she was older than she felt. She wished there was at least someone her age, someone else who might know something about cooking.
With the classroom mostly filled, the young teacher closed the door and took her place at the front of the room.
“Hi! My name is Stephanie. I hope you’ve introduced yourselves already. For the next twelve weeks, you’ll be working in groups so make sure you get to know each other. Tonight, we’re going to focus on knife cuts, and then we’re making omelets. Let’s get started!”
Frank heard the car outside. He and John, his nephew, had been watching a basketball game. He muted the TV, anxious to hear how well she’d done. With all her experience, she was sure to be the teacher’s pet. He rose to greet her.
“So, how was the class? Let me guess, they asked you to teach it!”
Barbara stood in the doorway, twisting her hands around her purse straps. He knew that look, the trembling lip, the flushed cheeks.
“Barb, what’s wrong?”
She shook her head. “Everything! Everything’s wrong,” she blurted. She ran past them into their bedroom in the back of the house.
Frank turned toward the bedroom, “Well, guess I’d better go take care of that.”
“Yeah, guess so. I’ll tell Susan it’s going to be awhile,” John answered.
Barbara was at the dresser, opening and slamming each drawer in search of something unknown. Frank pushed her purse aside and sat on the bed.
“So, what happened?”
“The whole thing is just ridiculous. What difference does it make how you hold your knife. I’ve been cutting onions for fifty years. Now some little girl tells me I’m doing it wrong!”
They’d been married for more than 50 years, so Frank held his advice.
“And omelets?! Who cares about omelets? I’ve been making scrambled eggs for you since the day we got married, and have you ever complained?” She asked.
“No Barb, I…”
“No. Of course not. And why would you? If scrambled eggs were good enough then, they’re good enough now.”
Sensing she winding down, Frank patted the bed. She sighed and sat next to him. He put his arm around her and gave it a squeeze.
“I wouldn’t eat an omelet if it was the last food on earth.”
She buried her head in his chest. “Stupid old man,” she said.
“Stupid old woman,” he answered by kissing the top of her head.
Barbara wiped her plate’s edge a final time as the judges approached. They each chose one of the plates she’d prepared. The judges were chefs from local restaurants. They scribbled on their clipboards and moved on to the next student. She looked to the back of the room and exchanged a thumbs up with her family.
When the judges finished, Stephanie addressed the class.
“Thanks everyone. We need a few minutes to review the results, but you’ve made me a very proud teacher tonight. Your dishes were wonderful! Families, feel free to join your students and taste the dishes yourselves while we wait.
Frank slid his arm around Barbara as John and Susan sampled Barbara’s plates.
“This is wonderful! I’ve never had Beef Wellington before!”
Stephanie started again.
“Can I have your attention please? After a tough discussion, so many fabulous dishes, the judges have a winner. Barbara? Would you join us please?”
Barbara gasped, kissed Frank and hustled to the front of the room.
Stephanie continued, “when Barbara started, she was already a great cook. It’s been fun watching her learn to make her favorite dishes healthier. She’s taught me so much too. That first day though, when it seemed like she would never learn how to hold a knife, or flip an omelet. Barbara, I couldn’t be happier to award you our Best in Class award! Do you have anything you’d like to say?”
She waited for the applause to quieten and dabbed at her eyes before lifting her head.
“Thanks Stephanie, yes, I would like just a few minutes. First, I want to thank my team, who put up with my whining about how unnecessary omelets were and my tirades about Stephanie.”
She smiled at Stephanie who blushed and shook her head.
“Turns out, Stephanie was the best thing to ever happen to me and my family. Thank you Stephanie. You literally saved our lives. We felt so alone when my husband was diagnosed. But you, my team, all of you helped us fight. You taught us that by working together, even an old dog can learn to flip an omelet!”
Written for YeahWrite’s January 20/20 Hindsight assignment. 1000 words or less. Comments and constructive criticism welcomed and encouraged!