He said, “I want to take you out tonight. Dinner. A movie. Let’s go see The Avengers.”
But I chopped onions and peppers and carefully washed the chicken breasts. Seasoned them with something spicy, something with a little bite. I thought of Sarah, and the way she experiments with the chemistry of food, and how she feeds us love.
He said, “I’ll get cleaned up. I’ll take a shower.”
I found the red square plate with the sunflowers on it, the one Sharon Rowland gave me on my fortieth birthday, the year everything fell apart and I was so broken. A handful of people gathered around me to hand me the gift of something steady, something sure. They surprised me, and isn’t that how it is sometimes? Grace, so surprising…
I washed the plate, carefully, in the new enamel sink, careful not to crack the old or the new. Wiped it clean and set it out to shine.
I felt something when I looked at it, this inanimate object. Like so many of the things that have surrounded me throughout the past two decades, it’s been tucked in a box, moved to make way for the chaos of the past few years. Now it sits on the counter and says something, it means something.
It reminds me.
He said, “We missed the movie; it’s late. What do you want to do?”
I looked at the cut flowers shining on the island, the blue of heaven. I thought about my grandmother, caught a memory of her walking through the yard, soaking in the joy of things that grow, that are beautiful to simply be beautiful. She enjoyed her yard, in a way that I never appreciated. I was so busy chasing kids, I never simply soaked in the time and the words of gratitude for color and blooms and glory and her pleasure.
He said, “It’s okay. Let’s stay home, but you don’t have to cook. You’ll just dirty the kitchen up again. You don’t want to do that, do you?”
But I do. I want to just stand in this kitchen. I want to make a mess and clean it up. I want to wipe the counters down and scrub the grease off the stove. I want to sweep the floor, again and again.
It’s beautiful, for sure. I love everything about this kitchen, from the dreaming that started years ago to the solid, real maple of the cabinets and the trim. I love the windows and the way the laminate counters look fine, even though we had to give up on granite. And how the vinyl floor looks fine, even though we had to give up the tile.
And I know that there is something to this, that so much has been given up along the way; and yet, it’s fine.
Isn’t that how it is, sometimes? And it feels so much like grace.
I’m swimming in it, soaking in grace.
It’s not the newness, the big kitchen, the pretty cabinets. It’s not the gift of having something. It’s not even the beauty of it all.
It’s like where my friends were for that difficult birthday, and the grass beneath my grandmother’s bare feet. It’s what we’re making here.
It’s the place. It’s the sense that I am settled, home, in the sweet spot of what has grown up through me and in me and around me, my family, the people I love. They are not all here in the moment; in fact, only one is in the house, and he is the bonus boy, the extra son who surprised us by showing up for the summer to fold himself into the love here. And yet, in the space around me, I feel and see and hear the presence of my family. And of the friends who will come soon, Walter and Sally and Brian and Susan and Lindsay and the old and the new and a million faces I can’t even imagine yet.
And so I cook food, probably more than enough, and we’ll eat, and I’ll pack up the leftovers and they’ll stream in and out tomorrow and all will be well.
I am filling the kitchen with the smells that will imprint themselves in the walls and the wood. Starting now, I’m staking my claim to the future, to the rest of my life, to the living that will come in this place, the new faces, the joy and sorrow and long conversations, the fights and the tears and every bit of the mess that comes with the raw humanity that we get when we do life together.
I could not find a better way to sing what seeps out of my heart and into this space around me tonight. All the riches, all the treasures, from the cradle to the grave…
…but all I want is you, my people. My tribe.