Tuesday, October 21, 2014

On Apple Pie.

She’s my big sister so I always look up to her in big ways. The way she cooks, the way she bakes, the way she brings people together around a finely decorated, happily worn table… It always seems to feel just right.

I have watched my big sister constantly over my thirty-eight years. I watched as she chose horseback riding as her Thing, and I tagged along to be a part of her world. I watched as she married and began that strange and delicate relationship with her in-laws. She cleaned thoroughly, cooked well, and laughed politely at their stories. When she heard that her brother-in-law was particularly fond of apple pies, she set out to make the perfect one, months before he arrived at her Thanksgiving table.

She baked about a pie a week, and as I lived two floors above her in an apartment she owned (I think I was still tagging along in some way) and I was broke, I dutifully tasted these apple pies. As a lover of food and all things free, I was not a very picky or helpful judge. But we agreed on one and on Thanksgiving Day, that was the one she made for her brother-in-law.

He liked it, but in the litmus test of appreciation, he didn’t score as well as I thought he should. I don't know what she thought; we do a lot together but talking isn't one of them. But it was unfair—he didn’t know how many hours, how many pies, had gone into this single pie on this single day. But he ate it, and we ate it, and the experience had no big hurrah of an ending.

Fifteen years later, with families entrenched in Their Own Thing and too many miles between them, he doesn’t go to dinner much at her house anymore. After fifteen years of marriage, she doesn’t feel the need to show off as much as she did the first few years. But she and I still enjoy that fantastic pie. And we laugh at how silly and important it is to clean your house and be your best self with some people, and how wonderful and important it is to show your clutter and be your real self with others.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

On Being Fed (at Write Doe Bay)

Today is my first full day back from five full days away.  My body returned to laundry piles and grocery lists, carpool lines and fixing my eternally clogged sink. But while I do these simple chores, my mind is still processing this experience called Write Doe Bay (or, better yet, check out #writedoebay on Instagram) that happened on the other side of the country, with complete strangers who are no longer strangers.  I'll write about the writing aspect of Write Doe Bay another time, but it is was on the experience of being fed that seems most profound at the moment.

I am a mother of three young kids. I am easily moving, working, cooking in the kitchen half of the time I'm in my house. As soon as I'm done with a draft of this essay, I will make breakfast for three kids and lunch for two of them. After I pick up my youngest from preschool, he and I will come home and I'll make lunch for the two of us, and prep a part of dinner.  After picking up the older two, I'll come home and make dinner for the kids and sometimes me, then hours later for the hard-working man who comes home too late. If there are cookies or a cake to bake for a class party or school fundraiser, you can count on me to reappear in the kitchen after bedtime to make that happen. "From scratch" and "homemade" are part of my kids' vernacular.

At Write Doe Bay, one of the organizers told us, "I am going to cook for you. It is my gift to you." Jesse is a beautiful woman inside and out, and I readily accepted her gift. I was, and still am, so thankful.

And cook she did.  And bake she did. And feed, nourish, sustain me she did and still is doing. Here are some of the wonderful things she cooked for me, for us:
Bacon, eggs, applesauce, granola

French onion soup with homemade croutons, hearty bread

Jesse disappeared into the kitchen and quietly, slowly, built up the simple, straightforward menu with hearty, life-giving food and reminded me of the joy to show up and be fed.

Spending five days away from your husband and kids is a luxury.  An outright shock of a luxury, really. And while my writing career is important enough to me to spend time on, and my life is busy enough for me to say, out loud, "I need to go away for this," I would not, I did not have the insight to also say, "I need to be taken care of. I need to be fed." But as I turn to the weekend and look at it with the perspective that distance has always provided for me, I see that this sustenance fed my soul and nourished me in a deep, profound way.

A woman I never met before said, "Come. I will take care of you. I will feed you. I will nourish you."

Thank you, Jesse!