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Zsofia McMullin Archive

Zsofia McMullin

Mind the Gap

October 13th, 2009
by Zsofia McMullin

PORTLAND, ME–

Today was an exciting day for me. It will not sound exciting to anyone else, but here it is: I received a large package from The Gap.

The package was for me. It wasn’t a gift for someone else, or a mistake, nor did the package contain shoes or a bag or other accessories. No: it contained actual clothes. Maternity clothes. For me.

Now, the reason why this is so exciting is because the last time a piece of clothing – namely a pair of jeans and men’s shirt – from The Gap fit me was in 1996, if I remember correctly. I was a sophomore in college. It was a long, long time ago.

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Zsofia McMullin

A Thousand Words: Family History

August 25th, 2009
by Zsofia McMullin

PORTLAND, ME-

The stories start right after Sunday lunch.

We are all crammed around our tiny kitchen table – me, my brother, my parents, my fraternal grandmother, and my maternal grandfather. The table only fits four, so my Dad is sitting on the office chair brought out from the living room and I am sitting on a small, red leather stool that’s usually in the hallway. I am wedged between my brother, my grandfather, and the dishwasher.

Our Sunday lunches – golden chicken soup, Wiener schnitzel with potatoes and cucumber salad, brownies – start late and end quickly. Toward the end of the meal the others know what is coming and they start to scramble towards the living room right after the last bite of dessert.

It is probably my position at first – too far from the door with no obvious escape route – that makes me the perfect audience for my grandfather’s stories. Later I feel too polite and too invested to get up and leave with the others.  

So I load the dishwasher and sit back on my little red stool and prepare myself for a long afternoon.

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Zsofia McMullin

There Are No Dessert Forks in America

June 30th, 2009
by Zsofia McMullin

PORTLAND, MAINE-

A couple of years ago, when I was fresh out of college and living in my first apartment, my parents came to visit from Hungary. Opening a kitchen drawer, my Mom was surprised to find months’ or even years’ worth of Hungarian snacks, spice mixes, and other food stuff stashed away.

“Why do I keep sending you all this when you don’t use them,” she asked me. I didn’t really know the answer — or didn’t want to admit — that it just felt good to have all those familiar flavors right at hand, even if I didn’t want or need to use them. The shiny packages of meatloaf mix, the crinkle of the chocolate pudding powder package, all reminded me of home.
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Zsofia McMullin

A Roll of Cottage Cheese, Covered in Chocolate

May 27th, 2009
by Zsofia McMullin

PORTLAND, ME –

It is the most unique candy bar imaginable. I am not even sure I can call it a candy bar. It is a roll of sweet, lemony cottage cheese – smooth and fluffy, none of that weird, gritty, rubbery stuff – covered in a layer of crunchy milk chocolate. It’s about the size of my middle finger and it’s wrapped in a red polka-dot foil. It’s “Turo Rudi.” Literally translated: Cottage Cheese Roll. Or “rollie,” if we want to be accurate.

It is only for the Hungarian palate. I have never met an American who enjoyed it. I think you have to grow up with it to appreciate its weirdness. You have to have eaten enough to know how to open the package so that the chocolate doesn’t brake off and how to fish the last bits of chocolate crumbs out of the foil.  You have to have crushed enough rollies in your backpack on hot school days to appreciate the way it tastes when it’s melted and to not be too surprised when it comes to represent your entire personal history and identity.

Because of course, it is more than just a roll of cottage cheese, covered in chocolate.

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Zsofia McMullin

Leaf Management

April 20th, 2009
by Zsofia McMullin

PORTLAND, ME -

My garden taunted me all winter long. And that’s a long time in Maine. For several weeks, the snow was so high that the small wrought-iron fences that give the garden some sort of organization and form were completely invisible. I couldn’t wait until spring to dig my hands into the soil again.

My husband always corrects me when I call the area behind our house a “garden.” “It’s a yard,” he says, and I think he is wrong. A yard, to me, is some sort of vast expanse of grass, maybe some bushes and hedges. Perhaps a flower bed.  I am sure that there is a dictionary definition that would clear all this up, but frankly, I am just not that interested in the terminology.

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Zsofia McMullin

Sticking Your Finger Up Someone’s Nose

March 17th, 2009
by Zsofia McMullin

PORTLAND, ME-

My first kiss tasted like red wine and cigarettes. These are not completely unexpected flavors in someone’s mouth.   

He was 28, I was 16. He was French, a saxophone player with long hair and an earring. We spent almost every evening together that summer, holding hands, talking, eating dinner, drinking wine. He loved to use the salt and pepper shakers on the table to demonstrate situations. As in:  “this is you” – holding up the salt shaker – and “this is me” – holding up the pepper shaker. Then the shakers were off, moving around the table, doing whatever it was he was talking about.

I am not sure what made him want to kiss me that night. We were sitting on some stairs leading to the waters of the Danube. I swear there were shooting stars in the sky, but I could have been imagining things. I didn’t know how to kiss. I was OK with our lips touching, but once his tongue entered my mouth, I wasn’t sure what to do with it.  I pulled away a bit, mostly to giggle, but he interpreted it as reluctance.

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Zsofia McMullin

Ritual

March 4th, 2009
by Zsofia McMullin

PORTLAND, ME-

We have the ritual down pat: My Mom gives me an old t-shirt to wear and she takes her clothes off to her underwear. I mix the hair dye in the bathroom, wearing those plastic gloves that come in the package. I squeeze the dye into a little one-cup Tupperware dish and use a small brush from another hair dying kit to apply the color.

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Zsofia McMullin

Eczema-Schmeczema

February 27th, 2009
by Zsofia McMullin

PORTLAND, ME-

Looking in the mirror every morning requires a lot of courage lately. My latest eczema flare-up is attacking my face, turning it into scabs, raw meat, red bumps, flakes of dead skin.

I pack my face with a heavy moisturizer every night before bed, sleep on my back so I don’t rub it off, but still, the results are the same every morning: rawness and redness.  I am not generally vain and I know that I am not a great beauty – I have a big, crooked Jewish nose, an aggressive chin, and my left eye is bigger than the right. But the fact that this latest flare-up is on my face is really pissing me off. I could handle it anywhere else on my body – and I have – just not on my face.

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Zsofia McMullin

Budapest

February 18th, 2009
by Zsofia McMullin

PORTLAND, ME-

I like to stand at the foot of the bed and throw myself on the bouncy mattress. My hair splashes around my face like water and I pretend that I am a weightless, powerless body. I turn my palms toward the sky and hold my breath.

That’s what I was doing as he packed his suitcase. The big bed in the hotel room was wide and flexible, so I bounced for a long time. Once the bouncing stopped I stayed there, staring at the cheap chandelier hanging above me. The hotel was in one part of a converted downtown apartment building, near the train station—a formerly bombed-out, turn-of-the-century building along a wide, congested boulevard. Our window looked out on the wrap-around balcony facing a stone courtyard. Old ladies shuffled by our window and a couple of kids bounced a ball on the old wooden gate below as we made love that afternoon. (more…)


Zsofia McMullin

Messy, Messy Adult Stuff

February 11th, 2009
by Zsofia McMullin

PORTLAND, ME -

My brother always says that if he had a choice, he would have stopped aging right around the time he turned two.

Life was simple back then: Play dates. Naps. Mushy comfort foods. Lots of crawling around on the floor. Do something simple like utter a sentence and the adults around you clap and call you cute names. How much better can it get?

I, on the other hand, always wanted to be a grown up. I wouldn’t leave my mom’s side at the playground, because I just had to listen to what the adults were talking about. Going to sleep was out of the question while my parents were still awake, because I couldn’t possibly miss all the exciting stuff that was going on between my bedtime and theirs.

I thought that adults had it all. They could choose what clothes to wear in the morning and what to eat for breakfast. They could go to work and drink coffee and smoke – all at the same time! – and nobody would tell an adult to “put your gloves on!” or “no dessert until you finish your homework!” Also, as an adult, you could have a boyfriend and get married and have sex and babies – and not necessarily in that order. You didn’t have to account for where your allowance went and, darn it, if you wanted to spend it on pink notebooks, you could and nobody would say a thing about it.

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