Picture my kitchen: green granite, white wood cabinets, a center island. Used to be that two children came downstairs each morning to this kitchen. One before the next, forty minutes apart. They both sat on the same side of the island, on the brown wooden stool from Pottery Barn that had been empty at six am, where my daughter sat at 6:45, where my son sat at 7:25.
At 7:45, I would wipe the counter in front of the stool where my children had eaten, swiping away breadcrumbs and sticky fingerprints from jelly or cream cheese or syrup.
At some point I would feed my husband, not literally – he’s good still with a knife, fork, and spoon – but by putting toast and cottage cheese in front of him. Well, to the side of his computer where he would be deeply focused readying himself for his day. He was the fixture across the island from where the kids sat. There as both kids had their breakfast, to see them off to school.
Add to that my own breakfast and coffee, and a second coffee. By the time I turned the kitchen light off to go upstairs and work at my desk, I would have made four breakfasts and two lunches, packed snacks and fed the dog.
I bring all this up a few days before Thanksgiving because my husband and I have been empty nesters for a while. In the beginning, we forgot to eat. Both in the morning and particularly in the evening: standing together at the same center island, a glass of wine in hand, perched over a computer watching Colbert or Seth Meyer on YouTube. The sun would go down, the sky would darken, and there’d be nary a pot on the stove. It turned out that my children were a kind of time clock from which I could set my day around meals and snacks. A way to insert my presence in their lives as they started the day, and again as their day wound down. Love through food.
Eventually, I adjusted. We are not long for missing meals in this family. And my husband and I fell into our own routine, setting the clocks now by each other’s coming and goings, not our children. We ordered in, I cooked, from time to time. We ate out a lot. But we found our rhythm and a way to express love without food.
This week, however, is that wonderfully sweet return to life with a full house. I say this knowing full well that I was caught, more times than I prefer to admit, doing the jig o’joy. A dance I did on the driveway when the last car pulled out for school and I thought I had the house to myself. But the true joy of an empty nest is in the contrasts.
Having a clean kitchen all day only looks good because of the contrast. When my kids are home the sink is always brimming with dirty dishes. There is always a pot with something cooking on the stove. Crumbs on my counter. Most things in life are better that way, seen through the contrasts.
This week without guilt will be a full return to love through food. For families all over this country. Maybe it’s the one thing we truly can unite on – Thanksgiving tables brimming with Turkeys and all its trimmings. My daughter’s passion in high school was feeding those without tables that looked like ours. And so we will make donations and bring canned goods and boxes of stuffing to Sova.
Love through food.
I will feed my adult children this week as if they are starved for pancakes and tuna sandwiches, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. There will be bagels and cream cheese, coconut donuts from Randy’s. There will be a bowl filled to the top with Honey Crisp apples and Cara Cara oranges, (if I can find them!) And while they eat, they will satiate my craving for having them sit in my kitchen at the center aisle counter. I will feel fully whole, even if I was never aware of feeling anything less while they were away. I will lean into that contrast and smile at the dirty dishes, and laugh at the discarded containers (and all their crap) strewn around the house. Oh, I will yell at them to pick up after themselves, but you know, they will when they pack. So, I won’t yell too loudly.
At Fiftiness we live fearlessly and we love fearlessly! Enjoy your Thanksgiving this year, put aside petty and gargantuan differences, and remember the contrasts.
Erica’s 3 Quick Tips for a Healthy Happy Thanksgiving:
- Get Up Early: while the house sleeps, get up and get out for a quick walk or trip to the gym. Don’t forget that exercising not only helps your metabolism but it keeps you feeling strong, able to handle any dispute that arises!
- Start With Veggies: Add vegetables to your breakfast, get them in early. Eggs on a bed of Arugula. A green smoothie to go with pancakes. (Or just have the smoothie!)
- Disarm with Laughter: We all have those hotbed issues, and we all have that relative or friend that loves to rile us up. When they do (as they always do), surprise ‘em with a response they are not expecting. Laugh with them. Turn it into a joke. Don’t let them get a rise out of you! I used do this with my kids when they were teenagers – I can’t tell you how many awful arguments we sidestepped when I surprised them with the response them with laughter.
11/20/18 This post was edited.