Critical Care - On Ferociously Tending to You / Living

What are we (really) doing here, Harry?

Over the Christmas holiday, I visited my grandparents. My grandpa mentioned a fondant candy that I remember fondly from my childhood. My grandma pulled out the family cookbook containing the candy recipe. The cookbook was given to her by her husband’s grandma (my great-great grandmother).

I am, by nature, a rhythmic person (I find my groove), and my default setting is love. That means that when I’m at my best, I take time to slow down, to cook, to connect, to feel, read, and write. I love the kitchen; it’s part of my heritage.

But, I am also a learned survival strategist; a very driven and focused person, capable of such feats of multi-tasking that octopi worldwide have grown quite jealous (they don’t have hands). It’s just that, at this stage in life, I don’t particularly want to leap any tall buildings or swallow anything in gulps. I want to slow down. I want to watch my babies grow up. I  want to get back to my truer, more delicate self, take my armor off for a while, and do more writing.

I’ve been pondering this for some time. It has, actually, been quite the source of stress. I feel, somewhere deep down in my bones that I should be writing. But, what the hell should I write about?

My memoir feels like a too big a building to leap right now.

A cookbook feels like a toothpick in a lumber yard – who will even notice?

This blog feels like my Little Engine That Might-Be-Able-To Experiment. Maybe, if I just keep swimming…

And then, Christmas happened. I was walking the aisles of Barnes & Noble, searching for a gift for my thirteen-year-old genius son (ah come on, lemme dote – I only get to raise him once) and couldn’t find anything that seemed to fit. All the cookbooks were clearly for people who already know how to cook, or they were sterile and text-booky, or written by boobs Giada. Even though he loves to cook, I felt like my son needed a book that was part-cook’s-education, part-inspiration, and part-heartfelt-story. I couldn’t find the book I would have written for him, given the chance.

And so, the words all writers hear at some point in our lives danced like winged sugarplum fairies in my exhausted-from-shopping head: Write the book you want to read.

It’s perfect; my son doesn’t need a cookbook. He needs me. He needs our history in the kitchen, recorded. He needs our recipes in an accessible book – the ones geared to our dietary needs. He needs our story, shared, so he can share it with generations to come. I thought my heart might burst at the realization that by committing for one year to work on a cookbook with my oldest son, I was also committing to him. I was committing to giving him everything I could for the next year (both in-and-outside the kitchen) to help him along in this big, scary world. I hope that someday, if I can’t be with him, he’ll feel me next to him, humming and stirring while he chops, offering comfort and gentle guidance at whatever turn his life may be at. Someday, my recipes will be the ones the rest of the family knows as “Grandma’s.” I want to leave a piece of me with them, and teach my family what the kitchen has been for me – a sanctuary, refuge, and prayer-house.

I bought my son a beautiful journal-style Nigel Slater cookbook, anyway, so he wouldn’t feel empty-handed on Christmas. But, I also bought a journal that we could use over the course of this year to write our recipes in. It felt so tender, significant, and beautiful.

When I purchased the books, there was a lovely woman working the register. She must have been in her late seventies. She had a moonstone ring and curly silver hair. She talked me into getting the B&N Membership (they’re not paying me to say this, I’ve just included it to prove that my heart was softened – I never buy those memberships!) and she asked me who I was buying all these books for. “My kids,” I answered. I told her their ages, and after talking about how fast they grow up, she said, “You don’t have to be dying to see your life passing you by.”

Amen, sister.

Here’s to 2014, to making history, understanding your own significance, and making a difference right exactly where  you are. After all, you do not have to be dying to know your life is passing you by.

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One thought on “What are we (really) doing here, Harry?

  1. You might want to also add the Tag “Family History” – a great bunch of people over there will help give you the recognition you deserve. Best of luck in the New Year!

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