Waiting for the Twilight Zone

twilight zone

I hate collards. It is New Year’s Day, so I’ll eat them, but know this: I’m just in it for the cash.

I was told at an early age (and on an annual basis) that collard greens symbolize money. According to southern tradition, beginning the year with a steaming plate of greens is a person’s best shot at a prosperous year.

Collard greens make the house smell foul. It is the kind of stench that, on cartoons, is depicted with curls of sulfur-colored steam. The odor hangs about the house all day, for they take forever to cook. Absolutely forever. The southerner who eats this meal may end up prospering the rest of the year, but the bounty will be hard-won.

I remember attempting to cook collards for the first time as a married woman. It seemed like the responsible, grown-up thing to do. Like paying taxes or getting a pap smear.

Kroger was nice enough to place the collards in the middle of the produce section of the store. They were banded together in bundles the size of toddlers. I had neither the cookware nor the desire to prepare and consume such a massive amount of greens, but it was New Year’s Eve, and I was a grown up. It had to be done. Taking care to lift with the knees, I hoisted that dark, leafy nightmare into my cart, paid, and returned home to fumigate the house.

By the time I got the collards home and out of the grocery sack, I had pretty much exhausted my collard-cooking skills. Truth be told, I was in way over my head. Forget for a moment about cooking them; how would I ever manage to chop them? Hedge clippers? Gurney-sized cutting board? I broke down and called my mom.

“How do you fix collards?” I asked.

“Boil them,” she said. The shame was evident in her curt response.

“Yeah, I know,” I said, “but like… how much water?”

“A good bit,” she answered.

“How much is ‘a good bit,’ mom?”

“I don’t know, honey, just a good little bit.”

“And how long am I suppose to cook them?” I asked.

“They gotta cook quite a while,” she explained.

“How long is that, exactly?”

“Ginger, (sigh) a pretty good long while.”

When I asked if half an hour would be sufficient, she said no. When I asked if I should cook them for 10 hours, she told me I was ridiculous. In an attempt to be helpful, she recommended that I use a pressure cooker.

“Cook them in a pressure cooker,” she said. “You wont have to keep them on but half as long.”

I didn’t own a pressure cooker, and even if I had, I would not have known how many minutes or hours constituted half of ‘a pretty good long while,’ so I asked my mother if I should just get canned collards and heat them in the microwave. At that point she hung up on me. Todd and I ended up eating our “lucky” New Year’s lunch at the Piccadilly cafeteria.

That was a number of years ago. I have since settled on a collard-eating ritual that works for my family and me. I make a stew with frozen collards, the leftover ham from Christmas, and black-eyed peas (which are also good luck if eaten on the first day of the year). That is one of my New Year’s traditions. The other is watching the Twilight Zone.

I don’t remember what year it was that I got hooked on the SYFY channel’s annual Twilight Zone marathon, but it has become as big a part of ringing in the new year for me as the collards. I love the style of acting that was popular during that time period. I love the special effects, though they don’t look so special by today’s standards. I love the way this show tells a story. The Twilight Zone doesn’t get in a hurry. As a viewer, you are given lots of time to relate to the character and to empathize with his frustrations.

All the episodes of the Twilight Zone are now available on Netflix. Todd asked me once why I bothered watching the marathon that runs of January 1st. It’s true that I could watch any episode I wish, and at any time I please. I could watch it 100 times. Why wait for New Year’s? I guess sometimes I like waiting.

There has never been a time in my life, in any of our lives, when we could get so much so soon. Instant gratification. And it is great. I love the conveniences afforded to us by technological advances, and while I’m not interested in going back, sometimes I miss the feeling of satisfaction that came with getting something for which you had been waiting.

A dozen waiting experiences that my children will never endure/enjoy:
1) waiting for Saturday morning cartoons
2) waiting for Friday night videos
3) waiting for the dail to come back around on a rotary telephone – 6 more times
4) waiting for a favorite song to come on the radio so that it can be recorded onto cassette
5) waiting by the phone (i.e. not getting up to use the bathroom, not checking the mail, certainly not leaving the house) for an important phone call
6) waiting (months!) for a movie to come out on video
7) waiting to get photographs developed
8) waiting to get a letter in the mail from a boyfriend or girlfriend who attends another college
9) waiting for the teacher to wipe the chalk off the board (or marker off the overhead sheet) so that she can finish writing out the lesson
10) waiting for a dial up modem
11) waiting for the dot-matrix printer to create your document, one line at a time
12) waiting for a cassette or VHS tape to rewind

I don’t want to wait for any of those things. I know they were annoyances, but I remember them fondly, all the same. Is that silly?

Today is New Year’s Day. I am going to spend the day waiting. I will wait for the collards, and then for their horrid odor to dissipate. I will enjoy the Twilight Zone, which has been long (however needlessly) awaited. I will try and anticipate what is to come in this new year, but there is no way to be sure. Nothing to do, really, but wait it out.

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11 Comments on “Waiting for the Twilight Zone

  1. Happy New Year! 1) I first heard collard greens in rap music. I also later learned what 187 meant. I just sang them w/o even knowing what they meant. 2) I love The Twilight Zone. We don;t get Netflix in Korea, so I just ordered the entire DVD. Do you know the episode The Howling Man? 3) I wish I didn’t have to wait the PC to boot? Am I asking too much now? Haha…

    • I am amused at the thought if an attorney in Korea rapping about collards and murder. “It’s a small world after all.” I have not seen the howling man. A good one? Will there come a time when we are nostalgic for buffering and rebooting a computer? Happy new year – hope y’all get netflix

  2. Waiting is a valuable thing, and I sometimes fear my children’s generation will never be able to fully appreciate that. One of my favorite poems in the whole world is called “Saturday Night in the Village” by Giacomo Leopardi. It describes the villagers preparing for the day off on Sunday, but muses how the ANTICIPATION of the day off is more exciting than the actual thing they were looking forward to. All the things you described were just that..there was excitement in the waiting.

    Also, I ate a cheeseburger and a Frosty from Wendy’s today. Is that good luck for anything? 🙂

    • I am going to look up that poem. I really relate to that sentiment. That anticipating a day off is more joyful than the actual day off for me as well. We have discussed briefly the stay-at-home vs working mom thing following your wonderful “Picket fences” post, and I think one of the toughest things for me when I was a stay-at-home mom was never getting to look forward to getting off work and coming home. I like the contrast, I guess.

      I don’t see how a Wendy’s cheeseburger could be an omen of anything other than good things to come.

      • Well, it could be an omen of heart disease, but I will go with the “good things to come” instead.

        I do miss that “day off” feeling. Now that I’m not teaching, snow days aren’t the same anymore. Neither is summer vacation. Actually, both of those seem more like “overtime” now 🙂 I guess my equivalent now is anticipating the kids going back to school after a long break. But it’s still not quite the same. I can’t say I ever truly feel “on vacation.” So I totally get what you’re saying.

  3. I was told yesterday that broccoli could be substituted for collards. Don’t forget the black eyed peas!

    Here’s one of my favorite waitings that I do not miss – waiting for leftovers to heat up in the 4 separate pans I had to dirty up again on the stove (love, love, love the microwave).

    • Do you cook your peas in hog jowl?! That is hardcore! I have heard that chitterlings smell God-awful.

      Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

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