When Tim makes Italian-style green beans, he thinks of his grandma Emily, a beautiful Italian woman with short white hair and smiling blue eyes, who still explains recipes with a flick of her wrist and an “Oh, it’s so simple!” When I make Italian-style green beans, I think of Tim, the man who brought them, along with avocados and perfect grilled cheese sandwiches and raw milk bought straight from the farmer, into my life three years ago.
It’s not very interesting to hear that someone’s content or that she’s counting her blessings, but that’s really all I’ve got for you today, all frustrations and disappointment eclipsed by other, fuller emotions, so I’m sorry. What can I say? At least there’s a recipe at the end.
This weekend, I went antiquing in Gurnee (where I bought seven white plates, a gift and a vintage camera, all for under $35!) and had dinner at Cracker Barrel, after which I fell asleep in the car, just like I did when I was eight. I stayed up late watching television, I went to church, I phoned an old friend from freshman year who still makes me laugh like crazy, and the skies were always blue, and the sun bright, and people I loved nearby.
One of my best friends went on a first date this weekend, too, after we spent the morning shopping, and she looked so nice, I was so proud of her for giving it a shot, and even though she and the guy had an only OK time, the whole thing reminded me how much I love her and am glad to know her. I tried on a jacket at H & M and a random stranger came over to tell me it was supercute, I had to buy it, so I did, and I wish very much I could take him with me every time I go shopping. And there were bike rides and fresh tomatoes from the garden and DVDs of Life that my friend Becky gave me for my birthday, and I just think, you know, in the seasons of life, there are some times that are especially good, and this is one of them.
One thing you can say for green beans: they make sense. When you take a big bag of them out of your second CSA box, for example, confusion is not what assaults you (unless it’s curiosity over which of the many good, good ways to make them you will choose).
That’s more than I can say for a lot of things, and I mean even beyond turnips or Swiss chard or bok choy. Like relationships—is there anything more wonderful, painful, easy, hard and just plain confusing than knowing another human being? In my life, I’ve sat across the dinner table from someone, recently, and heard myself sing-song-ing surface things like, Oh, you know, I’m just keeping busy with work, I like to bake, and nodding while they say, Yeah, here is what I do for a living and here is where I live and gee, it was great seeing you, let’s do it again sometime, while we both walk away with our pasted smiles, saying, call me later!, hoping we won’t, interacting on a shallow level when we both want deep (I mean, I want deep. Or at least real).
I want to be honest with the person I sit down with, to not pretend, to share my stories and hear theirs, to stand on top of the table at our plastic booth of pretense and yell WHAT IS THE POINT OF THIS? But I don’t.
So eventually there comes a point when we’ll rise from the table, from the topics, to something else, anything else, that feels safe, and neat, and not so messy. I think we both want to know and show love, but we fail at it.