Sandwiches and Seasons

“Just slop some mustard and mayonnaise on it,” my mother-in-law directed.

Slop? Better Homes and Gardens never said a thing about slopping when preparing sandwiches!

I continued spreading my thin line of mustard to the very edge of the bread, carefully dabbing a tiny section I missed. A half-dozen construction workers swarmed into the kitchen, waiting hungrily and a bit impatiently in line. I tentatively set my one completed sandwich on top of the plateful my mother-in-law contributed. Not one of those workers cared to comment about its loveliness.

Yet, during my early twenties in my sincere  attempts to make our house a home, I had determined to never slop anything, day by day, season by season. For those next two decades with each holiday I discovered more corners of our house to decorate and more recipes to create from scratch. I now doubt that I fully hid my disdain whenever my mother opened a can of vegetables, adding a stick of butter for that special flavor, for her contribution to our meals. (Ironically Mother was a Home Economics major, but she was also from the South.)

Decades have passed and I have grown older and more weary. Standing for days on end in the kitchen cooking and cleaning has lost its sparkle. So with each year, I have now discovered easier ways to present our big meals, and I decorate just enough to dazzle the grandchildren.

However, I’ll always remember preparing for a large Thanksgiving gathering right after I had been in an accident. With my dominant arm still incapacitated, I struggled to just organize the menu and make a few desserts. Reluctantly I picked up the bulk of the meal already prepared, hoping it would suffice. When a young woman in her twenties noted nothing was homemade, I felt a stab of pain.

Hadn’t all those over-productive years counted for something? And now that I was older, couldn’t our time together be the most important thing? Only then did I see my younger self with all my dreams of elegant tables and memorable meals created from scratch. Had my goal to be Hostess Perfecto so blinded me? Had my internal scrutinization of my mother-in-law and mother’s disinterest when I was younger been heard aloud?

I’m afraid so. I’m sorry now for my imperceptive ways and how I might have somehow diminished their roles. I understand. Now that I’ve reached their age, I can’t do all that I want to do. I have to make choices at this stage in my life, choosing to be cheerful rather than exhausted, hoping to fully enjoy my family and friends.

Yes, there is a time and season for everything and everyone. If this is your season for decorating and creating like Martha, try to understand there are those who don’t have your vision, some who might have been there and done that, even some totally oblivious in what to do. I have also finally learned to ask for help when I’m feeling overwhelmed and alone in the kitchen. Sometimes it’s hard for some to offer when the bar is set too high.

Or for those like I was with limited sandwich making skills, we don’t realize when speed and quantity is more important than Martha perfection. (My dear mother-in-law never once indicated how useless I was in those situations.)

It all goes back to our juggling acts on the balance beam of life, learning not to add too many balls and risk taking down others with our fall. Let’s focus on what is most important–like the people before us, our time together and recognizing the ones who love to cook or decorate and the ones who don’t. Surely they can slop a little a mayo or mustard on a piece of bread!

The Art page shares my artistic attempt to capture one of da Vinci’s angels in oils. In this busy season, I’ve kept the stories brief. Praying you are encouraged  by His Wisdom and Grace to receive His abundant love .

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