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The Apparent Rules (of Snack, of Grief)

May 2, 2011

Yesterday was mostly a great day. We went to the “big zoo,” which is the one in the Bronx, and admired the animals we read about daily but never see in the wilds of Brooklyn, where we mostly have goats and one oft-petted cow, who miraculously still has some fur left. But up in the Bronx, peacocks so bright and layered that they gave me a revelation about the cuisine and mode of dress and design in India; proud zebra parents watching their baby tease a pile of pigeons; a tiger that gave me a shudder halfway between delight and primordial terror.

We had a very late Vietnamese lunch on the way home, and then picked up a few things in preparation to do “snack” for school this week.

We are doing a co-op preschool, which is a lovely way to introduce a child to organized activities and other similarly aged kids. We are lucky to live in a community that is alive with . . . community. Redundant, but the share of information, space and materials we’ve found in our part of Brooklyn has supported me as a parent in a way that I could never have anticipated. It’s a large and friendly group active with lots of moms and even stay at home dads, all waiting and willing to meet up.

Anyhow, it’s our week to be the parental assistant for the classroom, and our week to bring snack.

The rules of snack are that you bring 2 heathful options for kids to have mid-morning.

The rules of my life are that I want everyone to like me. On the one hand, that means bringing a snack so delicious as to make a toddler brain fizz to a new level of id. But it also means that I want all of the moms to like me, so I’ve been considering stuffing wheat germ into things in order to prove how, uh, wheat germy I can be. I believe in at least 5 servings of fresh veg. and fruit a day, and the rice that we eat is brown, but if we are going to eat a muffin, we are going to eat a muffin, and the odds that it will have stevia in it are low to nil.

In literature, this conflict falls under the heading of “man versus himself”: I’ve been giving *way* more thought to snack than a normal person would. First I was going to make corn muffins with cherry butter, but then I remembered how crumbly corn muffins are and how the parent assisting the teacher has to clean stuff up and how little I like to clean up after one crumbly toddler, let alone nine.

Finally I decided on apple slices and pumpkin muffins.

After our late lunch I was happy with the glow of the day and about to buy some apples when suddenly it hit me: the grief.

The rules of grief are still making themselves known. This might sound silly, but grief is like lightening in that it can strike without a lot of warning. You’re thinking about what fruit to buy, and wondering if the snack will go over well, and trying to settle on a flavor of muffin, and then remembering that while you cook, you never really bake, ever, but that Beth knows a lot about quickbreads, and then you are faced for the zillionth time that you can’t call her. And it’s not like you can’t call her because it’s too late at night, or she goes to a class on Tuesday, or she’s at work, or 30 Rock is right about to come on so as a matter of fact you’ll just call her tomorrow, it’s because she is 100% dead, and you are never allowed to call her again. Your very own sister, who knows everything about quickbreads, is totally inaccessible forever, not only this time when it’s your turn for snack, but every time, and for the rest of your *@#$*-ing life.

I know, I have written basically this same post before. But just like when you have a car accident and you can’t believe how bright the sky still looks, there wasn’t even a change in the mood of the world, something like this happens and I can’t believe that it’s still the same day and I’m still walking along playing 123 JUMP with Henry, entering the fruit stand, but suddenly my wound is fresh, and now I am crying.

I knew that this would be a tough week. I am acutely aware of the six month anniversary of Beth’s death on Thursday. And a year ago this week, I was in Austin, and she got the bout of pneumonia that we thought might be the end. She lived for another six months, but now she has been gone for six months.

So this is the week that I should be telling all of the fun stories about school, and I may get to do that, but it’s also a week when I’ll be honoring some feelings of guilt or loss or temporal hysteria. I almost need to take these emotions as they come, and savor them, because the rest of life can sometimes be so achingly normal, and grief is something that you actually have to welcome, because it’s not like you’re going to evade it forever, and I think that there is a sort of health in being good neighbors with grief. Grief is how you get to be with your person again, even as you are missing them most.

A few weeks ago I was about to get off of the subway when an orange tic-tac rolled down the central aisle of the car and landed not far from my foot. I surprised my husband by leaning down and placing it in my palm and looking it over. He thought I thought it was a pill, I think, but long ago, when I was just starting to try to process grief through writing, I wrote about food imagery and the things that will forever remind me of Beth. One thing I wrote about was a single orange tic tac on the ground. And so when I saw one, to me a pellet so visually evocative of childhood, I remembered what I wrote, and remembered that other phase of grief, and remembered my sister and I loving candy in the 70’s and how I always ate all of my candy immediately and she always put all of hers in her desk drawer, because she was so emotionally attached to THINGS that represented the feelings of PEOPLE — or even the Easter Bunny. To me, it was a giant waste of slowly blooming chocolate that could have been eaten by me, but to her, it was a whole way of life that never really ended. And this tic tac turned out to be a tiny visit from the past. It was dirty, and I put it down a moment later, but it was a conduit. I’ll take what I can get.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Trisha Margeson permalink
    May 2, 2011 8:55 pm

    Beautiful. Thanks, as always.

  2. kay permalink
    May 2, 2011 10:26 pm

    I believe every person’s grief is a journey & orange tic tacs or falling stars or
    green wooden tool boxes are just glimpses of those we carry within us.

  3. Sharon Gonzales permalink
    May 2, 2011 11:06 pm

    pumpkin muffins with apple slices = perfect snack!

    also, you should know that your blog posts are truly one of my favorite things.

  4. Michelle permalink
    May 2, 2011 11:38 pm

    Lovely. Thank you.

  5. Karen permalink
    May 3, 2011 10:13 am

    “Grief is how you get to be with your person again, even as you are missing them most.” I had not thought of it this way; it’s a lovely way to think about it. Wish it had occurred to me these last five years.

    Was also nice to read about the orange tic tac, as I was on maternity leave and had not yet moved to DP, encountered your blog, and so forth. My treat for today. Hope to see you soon.

  6. Tina Surman Scully permalink
    May 10, 2011 5:45 am

    Our mutual friend, Jaime Beth Schindler, posted this on her Facebook wall. She’s always got a lot of good recommendations, so I thought I’d take a look at your blog. Your writing is evocative and insightful. Thank you for sharing it.

    And you are absolutely right about grief; at least after awhile, when you’ve stopped crying every day. It’s the little memories that are the hardest to bear. I truly appreciate Kay’s comment too, that these reminders “are just glimpses of those we carry within us.”

    • May 19, 2011 1:10 pm

      Hi Tina, thanks for the comment — I really appreciate hearing from new readers! Welcome to the blog. Meredith

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