I am always excited when our daughter and son return home for the holidays. I think Stop and Shop is too, because in the days before their arrival, I log in miles at the grocery store and run up a hefty bill.
It might sound crazy, but as I anticipate each child’s arrival home, the aisles speak to me, and I cradle items from the shelf as if I’m holding their once little selves.
When our daughter was coming home the other week, after six months of working in Europe, my shopping cart looked like I was preparing to celebrate a Middle Eastern festival. My carriage was full of the foods she loves; hummus and taboulie, whole wheat pita bread and falafel, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and feta cheese. Picturing us sitting in the afternoon with a glass of wine eating cheese and crackers, I surveyed my options. Knowing how happy she has been working in The Netherlands, I chose a fancy Dutch Gouda. Each shelf I passed reminded me of what she loves, or what she used to love. That’s the thing; you don’t know how much their tastes have changed, so you buy the raspberry iced tea, because that’s what she always drank in high school.
That’s the quick solution to the overriding question that accompanies me throughout the grocery store; the question I have chosen to guess at and oversimplify by putting those foods in my cart:
HOW MUCH HAS SHE CHANGED? WHAT DOES SHE STILL HOLD DEAR, AND WHAT HAS SHE GROWN OUT AND AWAY FROM? WHAT CAN I OFFER HER WHEN SHE COMES HOME TO REMIND HER THAT I KNOW HER AND HONOR WHO SHE IS, WHILE STILL LEAVING ROOM FOR DISCOVERING WHO SHE IS BECOMING, AND WITH WHAT, METAPHORICALLY AND LITERALLY, IS SHE FILLING HER CART WITH?
A couple of weeks later, I was back in the grocery store in anticipation of our son’s return from college for the holidays. This time, my shopping cart was full of the things he loves and looks for when he returns home: Whole-wheat bagel thins, salami and muenster cheese, steak tips, strawberries, raspberries, kettle potato chips, peach iced tea, whip cream for his pancakes. I pass the bakery and can practically hear his voice saying, “Do we have any chocolate chip muffins,” after he has returned home from a run. I put a fresh package of a half a dozen muffins in my cart.
And I know, I am asking the same question:
HOW MUCH HAS HE CHANGED? WHAT DOES HE STILL HOLD DEAR, AND WHAT HAS HE GROWN OUT AND AWAY FROM? WHAT CAN I OFFER HIM WHEN HE COMES HOME TO REMIND HIM THAT I KNOW HIM AND HONOR WHO HE IS, WHILE STILL LEAVING ROOM FOR DISCOVERING WHO HE IS BECOMING, AND WITH WHAT, METAPHORICALLY AND LITERALLY, IS HE FILLING HIS CART WITH?
I bake brownies and cookies, pecan pie and pistachio cake; sweet treats that speak of warm, cozy moments, and warm, cozy memories.
The truth is, sometimes my kids tell me I can stop reminding them of what food is in the house, that they will find what they need or can go out themselves and get what they want. Sometimes, I know, I am driving them crazy reminding them of all their favorites that I bought in anticipation of their homecoming. But it’s my concrete way of telling them how happy I am that they’re home, and how much I want to take care of them.
But honestly, I understand that the best way I can be there for them isn’t by parading into the family room with the tomato basil feta spread with crostini, but by being present with them, for helping to create the space for us all to sit together – maybe over food, and maybe not – and to share ourselves with one another. To tell each other what is truly feeding our lives, and what we hunger for in our future.
I know, after our son returns to college, and our daughter flies back to The Hague to continue her work, I will open the refrigerator and there will be some wonderful block of cheese that we never ate, some organic salsa that we never opened. I’ll examine the date, and see that it needs to be thrown out and there will be a tug at my heart. When I throw out the item, which not so long ago I had picked off the shelf and put it in my cart with great anticipation, I’ll have to let go a little more.
Oh, the heartache and joy of being a parent and loving your children as they find their way into the world. Soon enough, the contents of our refrigerator will once again reflect the life of empty nesters and a dog. And that has its own deliciousness too.
But I know, when our kids return again, I’ll be back at Stop and Shop buying the old standards and the newly discovered delicacies as I fill my cart with symbols of love.
I know that some people love Curb Your Enthusiasm, and others simply can’t watch saying it makes them crazy. I am a proud member of the former group; Curb Your Enthusiasm is one of my favorite shows, and in last season’s episode, “Palestinian Chicken,” Larry David and company knock it out of the ballpark. I have watched it numerous times, sharing it with both family and friends. Kudos to Larry David for sending it on to Alan Dershowitz, and for Alan Dershowitz sending it on to Prime Minister Netanyahu. Wouldn’t it be something if Israeli and Palestinian leaders could laugh together over a most painful subject, and in that release find common ground? And over delicious chicken? Who could object except maybe a vegetarian? Anyway, if you haven’t seen this episode, you simply must see it ASAP (unless you are too busy ordering Syd Arthur on Amazon or too busy reading my novel :-).
Alan Dershowitz Sent 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' Episode To Israeli Prime Minister
First Posted: 11/30/11 09:14 AM ET Updated: 11/30/11 10:01 AM ET
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Larry David isn't generally known as a peace maker, but an episode of his show, "Curb Your Enthusiasm," could just help solve one of the most intractable issues in global politics.
"I recently sent a copy of 'Palestinian Chicken,' that Larry David gave me, to [Israeli] Prime Minister Netanyahu -- with the suggestion that he invite [Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas over to watch it together," famed law professor and Israel policy expert Alan Dershowitz recently told the Columbia Current. "And maybe if they both get a good laugh, they can begin a negotiating process."
In the episode, which aired last season, David and his friends begin to eat at a Palestinian chicken restaurant called Al-Abbas, despite a seeming conflict between their Judaism and the owners' allegiance to their home country, which is made clear by posters on the restaurant's walls. They soon find themselves divided with the rest of the local Jewish community, which is up in arms over the restaurant's plans to expand to a new location, next to a Jewish deli. David is unmoved -- especially once he starts sleeping with one of the restaurant's proprietors.
The episode in many ways took aim at the "Ground Zero Mosque" controversy in New York City, as well as poked fun at strife between the two groups in general.
"I know that Netanyahu has received the DVD, and he was looking forward to watching it," Dershowitz continued. "So it may be that Larry David will not only win Emmys, but he may even qualify for the Nobel Peace Prize, if his episode could bring together Netanyahu and Abbas, and bring Abbas to the negotiating table."
As Larry says in the show, if they sent the chicken to Israel, the Israelis would "take down all the settlements immediately," and find a peaceful solution to the conflict in the region.