I was supposed to be hungry—NPO after midnight—the day my son was born, but instead I had a fried egg sandwich for breakfast.
Oozy yolk, melty cheese, crisp bread. Eight years later, I don’t remember if it was homemade bread or a sesame loaf from the bakery down the street. I do remember how my husband cleaned up the counter methodically before he got started cooking, as he always does.
He moved without haste as if it were any other day. But then he still thought our baby was going to be born the next day.
Henry was to arrive by planned c-section on a Wednesday, three weeks before my due date. Given the plan and those 21 days shaved off, I was pretty smug that I knew when my baby would be born. His birth one day earlier than planned would be the first of many lessons about expectations.
Late Monday night, I started spotting. A little anxious, though not alarmed, I called my doctor who said to call back if I had any cramping or contractions. I fell into the uncomfortable, fitful sleep of late pregnancy.
I felt a jolt and woke with a start. What was that? I think it was a contraction. Wait was it?
I waited and waited. Almost an hour. And then again.
I debated if I should call my doctor. Two contractions an hour apart. But my doctors had impressed on me that I should not go through labor, and after the spotting had said to call if I had any contractions.
5 AM. I called and woke her up. After reminding her about my case, she told me to come in for monitoring at the hospital at 8 AM. They’d check me out before my scheduled appointment at the office.
I quietly went upstairs and packed a bag and then I waited, letting Brian sleep as long as he could. Then I shook him gently and explained the change of plans.
“Do you want a fried egg sandwich for breakfast?” he asked.
I was hungry as I was so often those days, and we had a busy day of bustling from one appointment to the next. I was having more contractions, and I suspected that we weren’t going to wait until the next day to have this baby. I knew I wasn’t supposed to eat before surgery, but my doctor hadn’t said I couldn’t. . . .
So he wiped down the counter and cleaned a few dishes and sliced bread before heating up the pan for the eggs. All the while, I waited to get going.
I enjoyed that sandwich thoroughly, though I ate it quickly. It’s one of the last memories of before. At the time I watched Brian impatiently, wondering at his need to clean the kitchen before he started working, but looking back his unrushed approach was part of the normal of those last moments before life changed.
Henry was born that day. When the anesthesiologist asked when I ate last, I admitted to the egg sandwich as I signed consents and got an IV put in. Soon after Henry entered this world. Brian held him in the OR and chatted with the anesthesiologist about hiking in the White Mountains. Everything was OK, or so it seemed.
After Henry died, I fumbled around on his birthday for a while, trying to figure out what to do. One thing I settled on a few years in was making my self an egg sandwich for breakfast, a nod to the memory of the day he was born. These days we are just as likely to have cake and sausage for breakfast, a tradition that Henry gets included in though he wasn’t here when it began. Henry’s birthday is coming up. I think I’ll an early egg sandwich and second breakfast of cake.
I’ve listened to a few episodes of the Plan Simple Meals podcast recently, and host Mia Moran ends each episode with this question:
Tell us about one meal that made an impact on you, whether it was because of the company, the food, or an aha at the table.
She inspired me to start thinking about all the meals I could pick to tell about. It’s Wednesday—Write with me.
Tell me about one meal (yes, just one) that made an impact on you.
I’ve been in a non-writing rut. I’m not blogging, not journaling, not finishing articles. My writing notebook and online files are dusty.
It’s not that I don’t want to write. It’s just . . . work is BUSY, BUSY, BUSY as Humphrey would say in my kids favorite series. We’ve had snowdays and half days and school vacation. I’m tired. I’m uninspired. It’s been so long. Sound familiar?
So here’s how to start writing again:
Write something—anything. A letter. A list. Count it.
Write again. Five minutes about what you can see out the window. Go.
Email a friend or two. Say “I miss writing with you. Let’s write together again and share.” If you’re lucky, your friend offers to set up prompts to come to your mailbox every week. If you’re not, offer to send them out yourself. If you have no takers, dust off a book of prompts and work your way through.
Get the prompt. Sigh that you are too busy. Think about it all day. Shut down your computer. Say, Damn I didn’t write yet. Pick up a notebook. Write it by hand.
Clear your kitchen table of all the debris that loves to collect there—the junk mail and random toys and a dowel that you are sure goes to something. Wipe away the dust. In that empty space place your notebook and your favorite pen. Be ready.
Wake up early, but not early enough. Sit at the table with your coffee and start to write. Stop mid-sentence when your daughter comes down. Vow to get back to it.
Come back to it.
Print out the essay and the blog post and the article you want to finish. Put them in a prominent place on your desk (the one cleared just like the kitchen table) right next to the daffodils that make you smile each day. Open the file. Read. Think. Start making notes.
Put aside the thought that it’s been so long since you blogged. Write a simple post. Don’t overthink it. Hit Publish.
Open another window. Write some more.
Let it be messy and imperfect, but let it be. Make it be.
I’ve had some false starts over the past couple of months, but I feel like maybe I’m gaining momentum as the spring energy flows. How about you? How are you going to get writing these days?
Need an idea to get started? Try one of these.
Last weekend we had a killing frost. In the Saturday morning chill while my big girl got ready for soccer, I trotted up to the garden. I filled a plastic grocery bag with jewel-toned chard, crimson and gold threading through deep green leaves. I picked a quart of green beans, a handful of jalapenos and miniature bell peppers. I left the carrots and the beets in the ground; they’d be fine. I considered the basil, but it was looking anemic.
Just before I got in the car to head out for the weekend, I cut flowers—bright red dahlias and zinnias—orange-red, pale to deep pink, more red—and filled an old canning jar. There will be mums still and asters, but it’s my last cutting of these brilliant hues.
It’s a time of endings in the garden. Wrapping up.
And yet, cilantro is sprouting all over. Johnny-jump-ups raise their little smiles. And garlic is ready to go into the ground, with hopes for the spring.
While I worked on clearing the limp, blackened plants from the garden, my girls raked the yellow leaves that blanketed the yard, hoping for a huge pile to jump in. The wood piles grow. Dinner is less about grilling and salad than something that can go in the oven—shepherd’s pie, pork and apple pie—or simmer for hours on the stove—pea soup, squash soup.
It’s a time of endings, but it’s a beginning of this next season too. Snow flew briefly on Sunday. The girls ran out to greet it. I didn’t welcome it, not yet. This season on golden and crimson leaves will end soon enough, shifting to the brown of oaks. Even the cilantro and parsley and mums, holding out for now, will succumb to the cold. And then I’ll welcome the snow (though maybe not too much of it?). Then I’ll shift from cider to cocoa.
But for now, I’m cleaning up from the summer I’ve already said good-bye to. I’m embracing the smell of chilly mornings and wood smoke, and rotting leaves. I’m soaking up the sun and watching the busy bees, knowing I have much to do too, but feeling lazy.
Last night I sautéed some of that chard with mushrooms and my own garlic. I added white beans and grilled eggplant and bright roasted squash. I toasted bread and rubbed it with more of my garlic, sprinkled it lightly with salt, drizzled thickly with olive oil. Bright colors, rich and earthy flavors. The last of my garden bounty becomes one of my favorite fall meals. An end, a beginning.
What’s wrapping up for you right now? What’s beginning? Write about a time of transition whether it’s seasonal or something shifting in your own life?
“Let me take your picture before we eat,” I said imagine chocolate smears from the muffins all down her first day of school outfit.
As I grabbed the camera (I still don’t have a cell phone), she raced to the stand in front of the flowers where her sister had stood for her first day of school picture last week.
“Only with K!” she demanded wanting her sister in there too. Then quickly she changed to, “I wanna take a selfie.”
My preschooler wanted to take a selfie.
I didn’t go to preschool, but when I was in school, I didn’t know the word selfie because it didn’t exist. When my first day of school pictures were taken, my mom took them with a camera. With film. Long after school started, when we finished the roll and remembered to drop off the film and remembered to pick it up, we got that film developed and actually saw the pictures.
These days, my kids want to see the picture practically before I take it. “Let me see. Let me see!” Digital means you know if you got a good shot or not, but there’s no waiting, no anticipation. Sometimes it feels like everything is RIGHT NOW all the time.
But last week, my big girl headed off to school on Monday and the little one turned to me as the bus pulled away. “I’m bored. There’s no one to play with.”
Despite everything feeling “on-demand,” she had to wait for more than a week for her school to start. But today was her day. She was up early and dressed in the outfit she had picked out, the one that wasn’t my favorite on the rack, but was so her, bright and bold and sassy. She was all big grins that she had the same kind of muffins her big sister had had for her first day of school.
She waved her sister off and then hurried to the car. It was her day, and she was ready to start.
Both my girls are back in school, and I’m settling back into my own routine, including writing more regularly.
Are you writing today?
Think about what’s different now than when you were a kid. Make a list or zoom in one change. How do you feel about this change?
Four tomatoes hung in a small cluster, orange-red, with a bit of yellow on the shoulders. The other plants hold hard only green stones or tiny yellow flowers. I picked the first, held it warm from the sun. Every year when I pick the first tomato, I want to hold it up reverently, slice it ceremoniously, share it in the celebration of the first tomato.
Every year I remember that my kids don’t like tomatoes and my husband would think the first tomato celebration silly and a bit much. So I savor it myself, slicing it and sprinkling the ribbons of basil, drizzling the olive oil, sitting at the picnic table to eat because that burst of summer should be eaten outside. Or I stand in the garden, sun-warm tomato in my hand and eat it, slowly, juice dripping down my chin. Either way, a celebration.
I walk through my garden regularly, seeing what’s ready to be picked, what needs some attention, what’s going to be ready to pick. (Keep an eye on those zucchinis.) I enjoy all the foods that come out of my garden, but I don’t look forward to many of them the same way I look forward to tomatoes.
This year, four came ripe together and I bit into one in the garden, bursting its skin, the juice coming out with almost a pop. I ate the others under the pear tree, ignoring bickering at the dinner table and licking a bit of juice-flecked oil from my thumb.
More tomatoes will come and I’ll enjoy them fresh and slow-roasted with garlic. I’ll make sauce and simmer them into salsa. I’m looking forward to tomato bounty (fingers crossed against late blight, a problem I haven’t had yet, and septoria spot, which I have), but I celebrate that first tomato.
What part of summer are you celebrating right now?
Celebrating tomatoes is really about slowing down and savoring. It’s about finding and holding joy in small things.
What can you celebrate today? What can you notice? Think small and focus on your senses. Enjoy!