Yesterday, after having spent a substantial part of the morning and afternoon in the kitchen, my 24-year-old son walked in. “Are you making a pie?” he asked. “Well, yeah,” I replied. As if, of course I would be making a pie. This would be the fourth pie I had baked in our less than 6- week quarantine together.
Along with many households, we too have spent much more time cooking and cleaning than in springs past. And these quotidian tasks have helped to bring a sense of rhythm and calm in the midst of crisis. I began this “stay at home” order with the hope or naïve expectation that we would be back to some sort of normal in a matter of weeks. After that initial period there has been a strange distortion of time, in one moment compressed, other times elongated. It is hard to tell one day from another, hard to remember if that conversation or event was yesterday or last week. We have been in a state of perpetual waiting.
The Oxford dictionary defines waiting as:
Noun: the action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or until something else happens. Origin: Middle English: from Old Northern French waitier, of Germanic origin; related to wake. Early senses included ‘lie in wait (for’), ‘observe carefully’, and ‘be watchful’.
Like the rest of the world, our work and social lives have been curtailed. We have delayed most of our usual actions, cancelled trips and refrained from our typical spring hiking, biking and paddling—waiting for the “stay at home” order to be lifted. But we have also observed, watched more carefully—both the natural world unfurling in all its spring glory—and one another. I have observed and inquired how it is for my son to be living at home again after six years away. I have seen him not as my boy, but as an independent young man in all his strength, kindness, wisdom and grace. We have been together every day. And I have loved that part of this otherwise unsettling pandemic.
Emotions too have been both expanded and condensed—dismay, anger, fear, joy, loss, uncertainty, grief and delight. They will come suddenly and at times in a confusing mix; tears followed by joy, anger replaced by grief, the monotony of bad news met with the delight of simple pleasures shared. Without the distractions of the world’s busyness, my family has known one another in a fuller, deeper way. I have received help and containment in the frustrations of online teaching and unreliable internet connections. My son has taught me new computer skills and technology tricks. My husband has moved furniture and built me a standing desk for my makeshift classroom. I have been free to laugh and cry and worry with them. I have shared their burdens, and they have shouldered mine.
And I have baked pie. I enjoy cooking and baking, but experienced bakers will tell you—pies are a lot of work. The first night of my son’s homecoming, I had a pecan pie waiting for him. Then there was a key lime pie to celebrate the warm weather and completion of a huge yard project. Next came a deep-dish apple pie, because I had the apples in the fridge and it’s his favorite. And finally, on his last night home before starting his firefighting job—strawberry rhubarb—because the rhubarb in the garden was big enough and it seemed like the proper ending to a spring meal in the backyard. My son said, “I didn’t know we had rhubarb.” “Yup, growing behind the kale.” You see, I rarely make rhubarb pie—no wonder he wouldn’t know it grows in our garden. As we were talking, it occurred to me that through our pies, we had experienced a year’s worth of pie in our forty-something days together. In these weeks of quarantine—in this space of compressed and distorted time—we had covered all the seasons with our pies. Apple pie for fall, pecan for winter, strawberry rhubarb for spring, and key lime pie to represent summer.
In this season of waiting, observing and watching—we have tasted goodness. We have eaten from the natural world and partaken in its rhythms in a more mindful way. We have felt God’s presence as we wait for relief, redemption, and restoration of something we have lost. And we have been more mindful of each other. We have been there for one another, held each other in the uncertainty as we watch and wait for what is next. What’s next? For me, that will be a blackberry pie in July. I hope to share it with many, many people I love.