My friend, Anna, had a tough day today, so I am making her a pan of brownies. It’s what you do, right? When Spencer died, Anna rang my doorbell with a pan of brownies and a hug. Come to think of it, I still haven’t returned that pan. BAD NEIGHBOR.
Feeding each other is what we do when no other comfort seems possible. You are upset–here, have a brownie and know that I love you. You are grieving–a little potato salad will make you feel something, if not better. You are exhausted–here is a casserole and a set of paper plates and let me even dish out a little of that for you and heat it up no no stay where you are baby you need to rest.
Feeding each other is what we do. When you have a baby, Barb makes blueberry pound cake that is better than the epidural. Erica delivers “Maternity Burritos,” these wonderful veggie burritos with lots of healthy stuff that freeze beautifully and can be eaten with one hand while you’re nursing a baby. When both of my babies were born, my mother took over the kitchen and turned out baked chicken, pot roast, squash, lima beans, fish tacos, new potatoes, biscuits, cornbread dressing, beef stew–whatever we wanted. Robin sends one meal a week after the mama has started back to work. Grandmama Irene never goes visiting without a cake in a white cardboard box. Grandmama Eunice could fry up a chicken before the funeral home picked up the dear departed.
My crotchety neighbor, Mrs. Namewithheld, makes a lemon meringue pie that is almost worth dying for. The neighbor on the other side brings pound cake still warm from the oven. When Richard was suffering the effects of chemo and could barely eat anything, my sister and her husband cooked anything he named that might interest him. They packed cassoulet, lamb stew, lentil soups, homemade gelato, in little freezer packs and drove it up to him in Baltimore. One night when I had slipped into the thousand yard stare at Johns Hopkins, she ran up a sampler plate from the Lebanese place in DC because I liked it. There was a market a few blocks from Johns Hopkins. Richard could barely stand the smells in there, but he went with me on my shopping trips to “keep me safe.” One stand offered homemade Korean food. We bought it several weeks in a row and the sweet grandmother who ran it, when she noticed that Richard was losing weight, started making him special soups and setting them aside for him. My father baked a batch of fruitcake cookies and sent them to Baltimore because he and Richard were the only ones in the family who liked them. To this day, Daddy can’t make fruitcake cookies without thinking of him.
The night Richard died, I called my Daddy and told him. Well, I sobbed out something and he knew. He asked if he should come that night and I said we would be OK until morning. He was there the next day, with a cooler full of pimiento cheese and barbecue pork. It’s what you do. After the memorial service, Richard’s parents had planned to have tea, coffee and sandwiches in the reception hall for those who had come. It was lovely–I don’t remember much from it. None of us, however, had planned for the 30 people who wandered back over to our house after the church doings were over. I was getting a little nervous about not having anything for the crowd. My brother walked out to his car and returned carrying a 15 lb ham, cooked to perfection and sparkling with glaze. My brother in law guffawed–“What? Do you just carry a ham around with you?”–and Joe answered, “Someone died. I made ham. It’s what you do.”
This reminds me of one of my favorite jokes: An elementary school teacher was teaching her class about world religions, so she asked each child to bring in something that represented their religion. The next day, the teacher called on a student, “Samuel? Show us what you have brought.” Samuel came to the front of the room and said, “I am Jewish and this is a yarmulke. Jewish men use it to cover their heads in synagogue to show respect.” The next little girl, Maria, came to the front of the class. She held up a crucifix and said, “My family is Catholic. We hang the crucifix in our home to remind us of Jesus suffering on the cross.” The teacher called, “Betty Lou? Would you like to show us what you brought?” Betty Lou walked up to the front of the class and said, “I’m a Baptist and THIS is a casserole dish!”
What’s your go-to dish in times of trouble? Do you carry a ham in the backseat of your car at all times?