The house was quiet last Friday night after an evening of happy chaos. My children tucked into bed, I faced the kitchen with resolute attention.
On the stove, a nearly-empty pot of lentil stew was developing a crust. Next to it, the picked-clean brownie pan shone with spray-grease, and a cutting board with the shreds of peeled carrot and the ends of a cucumber was topped with my best chopping knife, visibly dirty. The sink was empty, but clean dishes dripped on a towel on the counter above my humming, hardworking dishwasher. Every measuring cup and spoon in the house awaited me.
I put on some quiet music and hatched a plan. First, set the oven to pre-heat. Get the next set of ingredients ready before you tackle the pots on the stove. Make some tea.
Every moment saved is vital to a mission of importance. I learned this in the years I followed this same set of late-night tactics to feed my family under a set of ridiculous dietary restrictions. In the evenings, I often made snacks, planned the next night’s meal or the next morning’s breakfast. I tried to clean my kitchen every night too, so that even I could start fresh the next morning.
It didn’t change my daughter’s diagnosis if I stayed on top of meal planning and dishes, but it contributed in a different way. When I didn’t do these things, I woke to a set of daunting tasks that kept me from pursuing the bigger issues of my daughter’s health care. If the day started with me unprepared, I played catch-up and my family absorbed that energy, too. Giving my family some sense of normality in what seemed like totally abnormal circumstances meant more work for me, but the results were worth it. As we dealt with a new set of daily routines and limited access to our previous life, whatever I could do to lengthen the fuses of my family had value.
I had to feed my family through that crisis. And now, I’m trying to feed my larger family through what’s to come.
This is not a political blog. I’m not here to talk politics. I am, however, forced by the medical history of my daughter — so heavily documented on this blog — to come here and talk about the issues that face families who, like mine, have complicated medical histories. Between my youngest daughter’s congenital heart condition, her misdiagnosis with eosinophilic esophagitis, and all the things that got added to her chart because of those bigger issues, she will become effectively uninsurable when health care regulations change here. In fact, collectively, black marks against our insurability plague every member of my family — a life-threatening food allergy, asthma, a urinary tract malformation, shoulder issues, grief counseling — and it’s not just us. Lest readers think they are immune, here’s a list of pre-existing conditions for which insurance companies used to be able to deny coverage before the Affordable Care Act protected them.
For this and many other reasons, we marched last weekend. And because we didn’t know how daunting the march would be for us, and for the many children we were bringing, I got back to my kitchen and I got to work.
On Friday night, before I stood and surveyed my kitchen, my house was full of people making their signs. I made the lentil soup and the brownies, and friends brought pumpkin bread and hummus and vegetables. The next morning, the crowd would return.
I made fresh scones, vegan, some with blueberries and some with chocolate chips. I boiled water before I mixed the batter, poured it into the metal bowl to be sure no trace of nuts remained, in case children with nut allergies joined us. I defrosted the bag of zucchini muffins I’d made in the fall. I packed a backpack with granola bars and filled a water bottle. I left the scones to cool and washed the dishes, finished my tea, and went to bed.
In the morning, I prepped the coffeepot, cut apples and bell peppers and put them in baggies, and waited. Nearly forty people arrived at our door to join with us, and I fed them. I’ll keep feeding them. My friend Carrie wrote on her blog, “a women’s march is built on snacks, sisterhood and SHOWING UP.” Of course, she was right: all of us had added sustenance to backpacks, enough to share: pretzels and gummy bears, chocolate and clementines, individually-wrapped homemade burritos, crackers and bags of almonds. And all of us watched each other’s children and each other’s backs.
Midway through the rally, a group of our teenagers exuberantly shouted, “SHOW ME WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!” and the crowd responded, “THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE!” It was beautiful and powerful, and moments later, one of them turned to me and said, “Do you have any more of those scones?”
We’re feeding each other through this like we always have, communities together. The food carries calories and love and the promise that someone cares. As long as I have a pot for my lentils, I’ll be simmering them there for the morning, whatever the morning brings. I’ll talk to my representatives and I’ll read and I’ll vote, but also? I’ll make scones.
Stop by. You need to keep up your strength.