Community, Mourning, & Food: Let Them Eat Pie

For the second time in less than two months, J & I found ourselves this week surrounded by family in mourning. We drove to Western Pennsylvania and gathered with family from far away and from close by. We mourned, yes, but we also celebrated; cried, but also laughed; we hugged, and we remembered, and we ate.

Did we ever eat.

On Wednesday evening, the day we arrived, so did a vat of potato salad like I had never seen. At least ten pounds of potatoes lost their lives and quite a few onions, too–after seven of us ate it for dinner, along with a delivered meatloaf, only 1/5 of the salad had disappeared.

Two full dinners arrived on Thursday, and by Thursday evening, we had more loaves of bread on the counter than people in the house. We had soup and beef stew, cole slaw and salad, lemon cake and raspberry bars. And every time we turned around, more food arrived: breakfast food, dinner food, desserts, desserts, desserts. By late Thursday night, an aunt joked that nobody had stopped by in awhile, and within a few minutes the doorbell rang. Breakfast casserole and muffins!

In days like this, we know what community is.

Grandma had lived in the same town for her near-ninety years. She and Grandpa went to the same church for the sixty-one years they were married. They raised their kids here, and many of their grandkids. This is the community J has known his whole life. And for the last ten years, it is a community that has welcomed me in, too.

One of my favorite moments of the last week came on Thursday afternoon. Some of us had been outside in the cold looking at a renovation project, and when we stumbled inside, we found that three pies had been delivered: a cherry rhubarb, a coconut cream, and a blackberry-blueberry combination. As the pies were pulled from their baskets, we realized that they were still warm.

Grandpa was sitting at the table in the kitchen, and we were all standing or sitting around him, marveling at the pie excellence in front of us.

And then the patriarch requested a piece of pie.

Right now.

Before dinner.

And so the pies were cut, first just the cherry rhubarb. Then the coconut cream. Then the berry. It became clear that if we wanted to eat pie, we’d better grab it while we could.

That is the image of community I will carry with me in the coming months: Grandpa, requesting pie in the middle of the afternoon, and the rest of the family surrounding him, happy to oblige.

Snow, Stomach Viruses, Salt & Pepper Shakers, & A Texas Schmexas Update

These days, my life isn’t affected much by the weather, except that it often seems the temperature is inversely related to the number of times the Bean points to the window and asks to go “Ow-Side.”

Still, there’s something fun about the idea of snow days, don’t you think?

Lying awake from pregnancy insomnia in the wee hours of the morning, I think back to that early-morning feeling I always had growing up in Pennsylvania when there was a forecast of snow. We lived between two really busy roads (our backyard butted up against an interstate), and when I woke up in the morning after a snowfall, it would be quiet. On other mornings, the roads were never quiet. Just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, that there wasn’t just a break in the flow of traffic, I’d lay in bed and wait, listening to the eerie silence, hoping to hear that grating of the snow plow. The sound of the plow–dull and thudding, rather than twangy and metallic–let me know if there was enough snow on the ground to warrant a two-hour delay or–gasp!–a day off of school.

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When the words are just what you need to hear

My friend Elizabeth makes me think.

I’m pretty sure all truly good friends make us think; the kind of thinking that results in spiritual encouragement. A couple of weeks ago, she wrote something simple to me in an e-mail that hit me right away as just the truth I needed to hear. She said that my kids, my family, they are the community I spend the most time with right now.

And there it was. Truth I needed to hear and reflect on.

My husband was away for five days playing drums at a worship event out of town and on the day I received that email from her, the kids and I were at the end of our second day of not leaving the house. Two days of being cooped up together with temperatures over 90 degrees so the kids couldn’t go out and play.

Preface to what I’m about to say: I love being a mom. My kids bring me joy and fulfillment beyond words. We are overall a happy and loving family. That said, at the end of the second day, I had a headache and my two-year old, who is at the brink of several big breakthroughs (potty training and expressing complex thoughts and such) was particularly cranky. You know how they’re always unusually cranky when they’re about to do something big but haven’t quite grasped it yet. I was down and out. I had all these plans when my husband left; all these things I was going to accomplish. When he got back our toddler would be potty trained, the kids and I would have done several adorable craft projects, gone to the jump house place, spent time with friends, gone swimming, the laundry room would be cleaned and organized, I would have a clear homeschool plan for the school year….. it went on.

I know. Why would a person set herself up for failure like this?

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Pappy Sands, the Stories We Tell, & Remembering the Good

Pap2My Pappy Sands passed away on Sunday night, January 27th.

Alzheimers had slowly been stealing him from us for more than a year, but his sudden, rapid decline in recent days caught us by surprise. At Christmas, his family had gathered around him to sing carols together–and he sang along, knowing the words. In fact, when I greeted him in December, he kidded with me about wanting to call me Betty. Maybe it was confusion. Or maybe he was cracking jokes. Either way, he was in good spirits.

Pappy Sands and Grandma Bev, his wife, owned a campground in New Hampshire. Throughout my childhood, we often drove the nine-hour trip north through the night to visit in the summer, especially over my birthday, the day before Independence Day. Flipping through his old photo albums, there were an inordinate number of me opening birthday presents year after year after year.

Pappy and Grandma were snowbirds in the winter, and eventually retired to Florida. We frequently drove south to Florida–again through the night–to celebrate the Christmas holiday in the warmer weather.

So yes, lots of pictures of those Christmases, too. One year, for some unknown reason, I had a Christmas sticker on my forehead in every single photo. Why I put it there in the first place, I don’t know. Why nobody insisted I remove it after the first few photos, I really don’t know.

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