I’m getting older. With that comes a lot of things. Wrinkles on my face that weren’t there a few years ago. Favorite music that my kids have no clue about. And, sadly, a quickening procession of good people who made me who I am that are now gone. That line lengthened this last weekend.
Her name was Margene and she was my nephew’s grandma and my first sister-in-law’s mama. I came to know her back in the eighties when my hair was big and my goal was simply to get out of my tiny town and away from my own mama. That’s just the truth. What can I say? I was young and dumb.
Anyway, I got my wish. I went to a college seven hours from home. I didn’t exactly have the best car and it wasn’t long before I knew what it was to miss home. I would call my Mom on the phone just to ask what they were having for dinner. I would push the phone into my ear trying to hear the house noises that meant home. Was the washer going? Could I hear the TV in the background? The rumble of my Dad’s voice? Many a night I cried myself to sleep hungry for what I had ran away from so willingly.
In many ways, it was my brother and his new family that rescued my heart during that time. They weren’t too far for my crappy car and I would go to see them on weekends. When I did, Sunday mornings meant church and a roast for dinner. We would sit through the sermon and then pile into a hot car and end up around Margene’s table. And, every time, the roast would be ready. Hot and fragrant and perfectly cooked. There would be steaming potatoes cooked in the rich juice from the roast and, if we were lucky, broccoli and rice casserole. It never failed. It was certain.
That’s a big word. Certain. Now that I am a mom, I realize how hard “certain” is. To create that feeling for other people is a commitment and a life choice. I wonder how many of those Sundays Margene would have liked to grab a burger on the way home, how many times she dreaded the sink full of dishes afterwards and the scramble to find dishes to save the leftovers? I think how many times I have bailed on the responsibility to be the “certain” for my own little family. Wonderful women like Margene know how to be selfless in a way I’m not sure I do. I try. But, let’s be honest, there haven’t been too many Sundays in my house where the roast was ready and waiting to be dished up as we came in from church. Maybe three? Yeah, probably not even that many.
I think, maybe, in our rush to make life quicker, and more fulfilling and easier we have lost something that people treasured not that long ago. A knowledge that some of the best sweetness of life comes from creating moments for other people and doing whatever it takes to make that happen. Even if it means setting your alarm for an hour earlier than everyone else so you can make sure the roast is ready right on time. Even if it means peeling extra potatoes when your new son-in-law’s sister shows up for Sunday dinner-again. Even if it means doing that for many faces, around many tables, for many years. It means being ok being second if it means someone else can be certain. Certain that they will find a smile, a kind word, a delicious meal.
So, thank you to all the ladies who cook roast every Sunday and thank you to one of my most treasured “fill-in” moms, Margene. I can never really say how much those Sundays around your table meant to me. I find myself pressing into my memories trying to hear us all there laughing and talking while our forks clinked on the plates. All of us loved and fed under your watch. I find myself homesick for a moment you built for us. I will miss you and I will work harder to be ok being second and to be certain. Thank you.