When my thrifty mother-in-law made mincemeat, she would start with the venison roast from a deer who may have had the audacity to nibble on her tulip leaves. From there, she would improvise, adding whatever needed using up on that particular day: a batch of jam that didn’t “set up” just right or an over-abundance of applesauce. Somehow, the mincemeat always simmered fragrant and delicious.
When I make mincemeat, I follow a recipe – to the letter. But it is likely that if any of my daughters-in-law find a need for that particular pie filling, they will just buy a jar off the shelf.
(Or I will give them one of mine!)
I’m well aware that generational change is a given. Good and exciting things happen quickly once our kids hit the double digits, so I’m braced and on board. Change is on the menu whether I like it or not.
I’m choosing to like it.
Today I’m anticipating the cycling changes that come as the tilt of the earth’s axis begins to register longer days and more direct sunlight. However, here just below the 45th parallel spring is still weeks away and will arrive in its own good time.
The majestic evergreens and the kindness of low bushes that turn a deep red after they drop their leaves are all that rescue my early spring landscape from a panorama of sepia and gray. Last night, Venus and the waning crescent moon were veiled in mist, and the damp cold that is seeping into my bones today tells me that change is on the way. And I welcome it.
If spring is still an unfulfilled promise anyway, then let it be cold. Let the ground stay hard, and let the sky send a fresh, clean blanket of white every few days to relieve the monotony of all that has expired. Better to walk on frozen ground or across the crunch of snow than to sink into the mud of early spring acedia. Better to bring my mittens, my shovel, and my small resiliency to a beautiful world than to mourn the slow and uncertain advent of spring.
In this season of slow sunrise, when the daffodils snooze and the robins make angry phone calls to their travel agents, I will make kielbasa bean soup and fill up the empty spaces around my table with people who need the full feeling that comes from a hearty welcome. After all, no matter how earnest my intentions, I cannot make less than six quarts of anything. (And I can’t shake the idea that if Jesus had walked the frozen fields of New England instead of the dusty roads of Galilee, He would have worked His way with a metaphor around an abundant kettle of steaming chowder.)
With sons coming and going, who knows how many bowls I will need to put on the table? This ever-changing count provides a concrete measure, a confirmation of the vague sensation I carry that someone, somewhere has thrown a lever, releasing a huge gush of life from this busy and crowded home.
This season of change includes kids with parenting questions, kids with careers, kids with house-buying dreams–and “the baby” just bought a car! I’m certain that the boy behind the wheel was napping in his crib just yesterday, while I weeded green beans and scribbled in a journal. We gave him a cell phone to keep in his car–just in case. (He is happy to leave it there, because it’s not a very cool model.)
My first cellphone had a tiny antenna on it. It rang infrequently, but when it did, I usually missed the call anyway, because, buried in my purse, it sounded like a distant chainsaw in the woods.
I still keep my phone in my purse, despite the “fervent counsel” (i.e. nagging) of my children.
Them: “Where were you?”
Me: “In the garden.”
Them: “Why didn’t you take your phone with you?”
Me: (momentary silence while I try to adjust my wording and tone to be kinder than I am feeling) “Because I carried a baby monitor around in the garden for ten years.”
Is it a sign of progress that, now, when I hear a distant chain saw in the woods, I run for my cell phone?
A more urgent question: Am I willing to “outgrow” my crankiness and claustrophobia about technology in order to connect with the important people in my life?
Facebook updates me on the steady advance of the cancer that is tunneling its way through one more friend or of the dementia that steals the self-hood and the memories of yet another precious personality whose creativity and warm laughter will be forever lost to this world. Thanks be to God that the offset of all this lament comes in celebration of the full-body smile of my grandson and the mischievous giggle of my blue-eyed granddaughter. Both have absolutely no idea how much joy they add to the world just by inhabiting their own tiny skin.
And while it is true that it is the voice of the Lord that “strips the forest bare,” it is also true that when “winter is past [and] the rain over and gone, the flowers appear on the earth . . . and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree ripens its figs, and the vines are in blossom; they give forth fragrance,” (Song of Solomon 2:11-13).
I will bring what I am learning about patience from this cycling of the seasons to my navigation of a life of perpetual change.
I will start where I am with my full days and my inconsistencies and my pitiful mixed motives.
I will use what I have, putting it all in the pot to simmer, and somehow, by the grace of God, I believe that it will be enough.
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