I read somewhere this weekend that stepping into grief is a lot like stepping into a dark room. The door shuts behind you and you panic because you can’t see, your arms go flailing all about, you're lost and alone…
"Choose love not in the shallows but in the deeps." Christina Rossetti It's Valentine's week and people are talking about love, and I already brought you two sets of hearts, so I better talk about the thoughts behind them if…
A few Wednesdays ago, sitting at our weekly dinner with Tim and his brother, Nate, I quizzed them about their favorite Christmas memories. Tim and Nate are two of three children, their older sister still in Ohio with her husband and three kids, and, as two boys only 13 months apart, they shared a room until the day she left home, when they were ages 16 and 17. They stayed housemates, first in Ohio, then in Tennessee, until the day Tim and I got married and he moved out to live with me. So I like asking them together about their childhood because, in the way that your best friend remembers things about that summer road trip that you forget, the two of them round out each other’s stories. “What were some of your favorite Christmas foods?” I was asking the two men that people still call by each other’s name. Tim said pasta. Nate tried to think. But before long they were telling me about the piles of cookies their mom made every year, from cathedral cookies (marshmallows peek out between layers of cookies, creating what looks like stained glass) to kolachkys (a favorite in my childhood, too) to what Tim referred to as “color cookies,” something I’d never heard of before.
“You remember them, Nate, the ones that had food coloring in them? Red and blue and gold and green?”
When Tim and I came home from Maine, it was with three or four local publications in tow. Between the food festival, our hotel, and a few Portland kiosks, we’d managed to wind up carting around copies of The Portland Press Herald, Down East Magazine, Green & Healthy Maine, and, amongst some other pamphlets, information packets, and a city map, the source of today’s recipe: Northeast Flavor Magazine. This was partly because people kept giving us the content and partly because I can’t turn a glossy magazine or fresh newspaper down. I’m a sucker for pretty packaging, I’m not ashamed to say it, which is at least part of what’s drawn me so deep into the blogging world, as well as why walking through Anthropologie is my idea of a good time.
Is it too slight a thing
To have lived long in September,
To have caught the golden light,
To later have these days, “Remember?”;
(Could we hold so much in
Our grasp, yet reckon things askew,
Because the things we hold are
Moving, moving, like things do?)
I bake a pie on Friday,
I bake a pie today.
Is it too slight a thing to get to
(That’s our way).
At night, I miss the golden hour,
In life, I’ll miss these days—
When we were happy, simple, full,
Working from bed,
Baking our pies,
Laughing at night—
I say this now to know,
Everybody wants a piece of the pie, everybody wants a “How high you fly!”
We’re all looking for something, something to say that we count.
We meet and we’re asked, “What’s your something?”
We meet and we’re asked, “Who are you?”
“I’m my family,” “my beauty,” “my job skills,”
“My companion,” “my food blog,” “my work.”
But deep down, there’s somewhere a gnawing,
Deep down, there’s somewhere an ache.
We can mask it and hide it and hope that
Our efforts to cover will work.
“I’ve got it!” “I’ve won it!” “I’ve made it!”
“Look at me!” “Now, at last, I’m complete!”
But deep down, there’s still somewhere a gnawing,
Deep down, unmasked, still that ache.
When we know this, when we see this, when we are this,
Why don’t we respond to the root?
Instead of ever reaching and striving,
Instead of just joining the race,
Why don’t we step back, slow, and realize
What’s driving our envy, snubbing and spite:
We’re, all of us, everywhere, hungry,
Hungry for wholeness, hungry for life.
All our pushing, for small fame and fortune,
For approval and high-fives and praise,
Is, all of it, every time, grasping,
For something much greater than that.
There’s a secret, locked up in there, hidden,
A secret you learn at the top—Solomon, that rich man, once said it:
These things we want won’t fill us up.
“All is vanity,” so says the preacher. “All is empty,” he finally concludes.
We think we want Big Brand to see us. We think we want That Guy to stop.
But that pushing, that fighting, that clawing,
Is such a fast, black waste of time.
They won’t fill you up! They are empty!
What you want is the water that lasts!
So why not open-hand it and drop what
Was never yours, in fact, at all:
Everybody wants a piece of your pie—Let ‘em have it.
There’s much more to fill empty palms.
MY BODY WAKES UP BEFORE MY ALARM CLOCK THIS MORNING, so it’s at 6:42 that I’m turning off the timer before it sounds and stumbling to the bathroom a few feet away. I open the window shutters and brush my teeth, and when Tim doesn’t follow, I step back towards the bed and find myself crawling in.
“What time is it?” he asks me through half-opened eyes. “Are we getting up to walk?”
I pull the covers to my chin in our bedroom with the shades still shut and say, “Maybe we should walk tonight instead,” and Tim comes closer and rubs my side, and I think of my grandma and the way she’d scratch my back until I fell asleep at night and about the love it takes to do that for someone who is not yourself.
Yesterday, my friend Michele was in town. She took us out for brunch to Marché, my birthday breakfast choice from just a a few days before, saying, “I hope you’re not bored with this place,” to which I shook my head and said, “Listen, I could eat here every day!” Atop our white marble table we shared toast with homemade ricotta and sliced plums, and I ate a lamb gyro with the most tender meat and most buttery pita and a mess of bright tzatziki all over everything. Afterwards, I hugged my friend who is all life and travel and laughing, the same friend I feared for the year I met Tim, and I thought how sweet it is to have prayers answered and friends alive and thriving to eat brunch with, on mornings when they pass through Tennessee.
The night before Michele came, Tim’s brother was over for our usual Wednesday dinner, and he brought me birthday presents wrapped in brown paper and string, and we ate a typical Mallon hodge-podge dinner for three: homemade French fries and roasted peppers stuffed with cream cheese and pie pastry baked with tomatoes and basil into a tart.
It hit me this week that these are the things in my hands right now, in my 31st year, in August 2013. When I applied for college, back in 1999 (!), I had to predict where I’d be in five years, ten years, fifteen, and nothing I wrote in those essays figured a life that looks like this. I look around me some days and think, Why should I have a kind husband who loves me and hugs me and laughs with me early in the morning? Why should we be given breakfasts and lunches and a fridge full of food to eat? Man, we’re blessed to have friends who come take us to brunch. Man, we’re blessed to have mornings to linger in sleep longer, to decide to walk later, to be free.
And it also hits me that, from where I write this post right now, still in bed on Friday morning, my hands don’t look like yours. Maybe you have kids. Maybe you have a house. Maybe you wish for quiet mornings or maybe you wish for loud ones. Maybe you wish for hands to rub you to sleep at night; maybe you wish for fewer hands to surround you at all. Maybe you look at my hands and want to say, because they look different from your hands, “Why haven’t you guys done this yet or that?”
But whatever your life looks like, whomever it’s with, whatever work or school or family needs take up most of your days, your empty hands are being filled with it all, like my hands are being filled with it all, and, the truth is, a lot of what fills them is outside our control. It’s human to look at my hands and compare them to your hands. It’s natural to want to tell other people to fill their hands the same ways we’ve filled ours. But I didn’t meet Tim when I was 20 like I would have wanted to when I was 17. I didn’t get to have a baby at 23 and a full brood of little ones by age 30. I haven’t written a cookbook. I wouldn’t say I’ve achieved some great earthly success. Instead, I’ve been given grad school and travel and new friends and the most loving husband I have ever met, and along with them, I’ve been given a broken heart and rejection letters and a little blog that brings me a lot of joy. We all wish and desire and long for things, even as we hold good gifts of breakfasts and jobs and not getting everything we thought we would want. But it’s hitting me this week, this full week, that my hands are always holding something, like your hands are always holding something, and I’m so thankful for my somethings and for your somethings, and that they’re different. And that really our hands are always full.